We have traveled, in economy class, to 13 countries this year giving us the unintended opportunity to develop a list of personally tested gifts for travelers. A gift list at this time of year isn’t uncommon. However, we see many with $900 carry-on bags, $1,300 cashmere throws to use as airplane blankets and $450 folding sunglasses. We thought we would offer you more reality-based options. Our selection ranges in price from $1 to $500 so we’re hopeful that your favorite traveler and your budget can both benefit.
And just so you know we (rather stupidly) won’t make a cent if you buy any of these gifts for travelers. Many of the gifts come in other brands and other price points; these are the ones we like.
Gifts for travelers #1 Plastic clothespins Price: $1.00
If you’re going on a sailing vacation or other watery adventure where you will be hanging things outside to dry you could suddenly see one of your favorite garments blow away. A few strategically placed plastic clothespins can keep your bikini from becoming a topless suit.
If you’re on a lengthy voyage on a cruise ship it can become socially necessary to wash your knickers in the sink. Most showers have a drying line you can use. But if you drape what you’re drying over the line it takes longer to dry than if you pin it on with some plastic (so you won’t get rust on anything) clothespins. (If your travel companion doesn’t keep his or her laundry up to date you can always put one of the clothespins on your nose.)
Gifts for travelers #2 Travel journal Price: $7.00
Regardless of whether or not you normally keep a journal or, for that matter, ever write a word by hand, a travel journal is a great way to help you relive your journey long after you have returned home. Some people might use it to keep track of costs, others to write down memorable meals or people like us who write fairly detailed notes of each days’ goings on so we can have something to tell you later.
Gifts for travelers #3 Plug Adaptors Price: $13.50
This is an item you can order from REI, or for that matter from many other places. Most people recommend buying a universal adaptor which you can take and configure for any type of outlet in the world. We have had bad luck with those working and they’re often so heavy that you have to improvise something to hold them up so they don’t fall out of the socket. If you only take the adaptor(s) for where you’re going it’s less to pack and they’re easier to use. Important point: these do not convert voltage so be careful to keep that in mind.
Gifts for travelers #4 Quick dry undies Price: $15 (on sale now)
We think the Ex-Officio line of quick dry underwear (they aren’t sexy enough to call lingerie) are the best bet for trips where you know you’re going to be doing some laundry in the sink. They dry overnight, are comfortable and are decent enough in appearance that if, as your grandmother always worried, you get hit by a bus you won’t need to be embarrassed. There is also a men’s line.
Gifts for travelers #5 Super absorbent towels Price: $22
This isn’t a brand specific recommendation as we have used various brands (and don’t know the names of them and are too lazy to go look for them). But if you’re in the water a lot, especially if you’re taking your own gear to a beach these towels are small, absorb a lot of water quickly and dry fast (with those plastic clothespins).
They’re also good for really getting the excessive water out of just washed hair so you can dry it faster with those often wimpy wall-mounted hair dryers that can otherwise take forever.
Basically, anyone except a bald person who hates the water can get good use out of one of these and they use very little precious packing space or weight.
Gifts for travelers #6 Fleece sleep mask Price: $30
Blonde once went to Iceland in June when it was light 24 hours a day. As someone who sleeps in total darkness she searched the market for a mask that provided 100% light blocking. This was the winner and it has been used successfully in many locations. Unlike some masks, it curves to fit your face and if you happen to be sleeping on a flight and wearing eye makeup it won’t mess up your makeup. See – we include selling points for vain travelers – we aren’t all practicality.
Gifts for travelers #7 Compression socks Price: $35
Long flights when you sit for 4 or more hours and have limited opportunities to move about can increase your risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) a serious, potentially fatal, medical condition. Unless you have more than one risk factor you aren’t likely to die (don’t ever take medical advice from travel bloggers). Aside from DVT long flights can make legs feel heavy and swelling can result in the vanity-tragedy of cankles. This company makes a wide variety of good quality fabrics and styles in compression socks for both men and women.
Gifts for travelers #8 Travel slippers Price: $35
OK, we don’t wear men’s slippers but these look representative of the type of thing we do wear. Lightweight, stretchy, comfortable slippers are great to wear on flights and in hotel rooms. These particular slippers have a water-resistant sole so could even be worn (briefly) outside. Another nice feature is that these fold up in a travel pouch that could be easily stuffed into a carry-on.
Gifts for travelers #9 Travel pillow Price: $60
After having had probably a dozen travel pillows over the years and finding something she didn’t like about every one of them Blonde finally got this one and really likes it. Other ones felt too bulky and resulted in a sweaty neck (a little oversharing here) and couldn’t be adjusted. With the Cabeau pillow you can pull the strings to adjust it to where you want and the whole thing rolls up and can be clipped to your carry-on. That way you won’t be one of those people lurching about an airport with a giant piece of foam around your neck because you don’t know what else to do with it.
Gifts for travelers #10 Extra battery for your phone Price: $100
We take so many pictures with our phones when we’re traveling that we inevitably end up with a drained battery just when the perfect photo opp becomes available. We’re iPhone users but these products exist for Androids too. There are all kinds of extra batteries you can buy – most of them ones that are separate from the phone. We like this one by Mophie because it just fastens onto the camera and becomes the case. It will recharge your phone a couple times (although it only claims it will do so once).
Gifts for travelers #11 Noise cancellation headphones Price: $300
We definitely took a price jump with this recommendation – it’s more suitable for a primary gift that a stocking stuffer. But if you do give one to a traveler who you think merits the price tag that person will be very grateful (if not, take the headphones back).Flight noise, both the kind the plane makes and the kinds travelers make, can worsen jet lag and leave you feeling very drained.
These Bose wireless headphones (they use Bluetooth) allow you to set the degree of noise cancellation you want. They are also great for listening to in-flight entertainment or just for listening to tunes or books in everyday life for that matter. The lack of wires and lightweight neck ring are top of the line for comfort.
Gifts for travelers #12 UnCruise gift certificates Price: $500+
We had the pleasure of going on an UnCruise Adventure on the Colombia and Snake Rivers in Oregon and Washington this year. They do an excellent job with every detail and have an array of compelling itineraries. We are currently drooling over their trip to the Sea of Cortes but wouldn’t turn up our noses at any of their offerings.
This is a gift that can double as a heavy “Take Me Along” hint. UnCruise gift certificates can be used on any of their itineraries so the recipient has lots of flexibility (but that doesn’t mean you can’t highlight the trip that interests you the most). This is also a gift that a family can go in on together and help fund a deserved getaway.
These – in large denominations – would make a great gift for your favorite travel bloggers! (Mailing address provided on proof of purchase.)
Travelers love gifts that acknowledge their travel obsession. Frequent travelers generally want things that are useful and packable. There are all kinds of goofy things that look good but don’t really address a need.
We hope this list will help you find a gift for the travelers(s) in your life so you can earn gratitude and perhaps some interesting invitations.