Best Gifts for Travelers: 2019 Edition

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Happy holidays, everyone — it’s time to unleash the best gifts for travelers in 2019 and beyond!

This year I am publishing a new version of my classic travel gift guide, keeping lots of favorites but adding in some new items in several categories.

This list was last updated in November 2019.

Why this guide? Because most bloggers’ gift guides are unrealistic, featuring items they don’t actually use, filled with high-ticket items that most people can’t afford. Sad but true. I love my blogger friends, but seriously — who has a thousand dollars to casually spend on a drone for someone?!

Guys, we are all privileged as hell, but at the same time, I don’t expect you to spend thousands of dollars on gifts. Or hundreds, for that matter. Your trust is important to me, so I’m not going to push things on you that I know are out of reach for most people.

But I will say this — I know great travel gear. I know what works, what doesn’t, and what’s a waste of money. (Most “travel clothing” is unnecessary and those scratch-off maps look much worse once you put them up, for example.)

So I decided to put together a list of things that I use, I love, and I think you would love, too.

Nothing on this list is ostentatiously expensive. All but a few items are under $100 and most are under $50.

Nothing on this list is ugly. Looking good is important to me, and you’ll never find me in an ugly “travel hat” or zip-off pants (unless hiking). Please kill me if you ever catch me wearing hiking gear in Paris.

Nothing on this list was thrown in for crap purposes. No filler here — I believe in every product on this list.

Here we go!

What are some good cheap gifts for travelers?

Some thoughtful cheap gifts for travelers are a “Point It!” visual dictionary, wifi extender, or a contoured sleep mask. Check out all the gifts under $25 here.

What are the best travel gifts for men?

Men can be hard to buy for, but some excellent gifts for male travelers are packing cubes, a portable travel safe, or a portable Bluetooth speaker.

What are the best travel gifts for women?

The best gift for women travelers this year is a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf. These gorgeous scarves have a secret pocket big enough to use instead of a purse. They are gorgeous, versatile, and handmade without using sweatshop labor! Also check out a lockable camera backpack and packing cubes.

What are the best eco-conscious gifts for travelers?

Consider a SteriPen water purifier and reusable aluminum water bottle — they’ll never have to buy a plastic water bottle again, even in countries where you can’t drink tap water!

Table of Contents

Kate wears a blue and white patterned scarf, available from Speakeasy.

Best Travel Gifts for 2019 (New Items)

Each year I choose several new gifts that either came out in the past year or I discovered in the past year. Here are my pics for new travel gifts for the 2019 holiday season:

Adventurous Kate Speakeasy Travel Scarfs — NEW Portugal Scarf

I’ve been a longtime fan of Speakeasy Travel Supply, the scarves with a secret pocket for your passport, and I always recommend them as one of the best gifts for travelers. For the past few years I’ve partnered with Speakeasy and chosen several scarves to be added to their collections.

We recently added a brand new Adventurous Kate signature scarf to the 2019 collection: the Portugal scarf! When I saw this blue and white pattern, it reminded me of the blue and white tiles of Portugal.

This soft pattern works equally well in warm or cold climates. I’m modeling it in Armenia in the photo above, and it was nice to have a scarf on hand to cover my head in monasteries in Armenia and Georgia!

Kate wears a black and white abstract patterned Manhattan scarf, available from Speakeasy.

Also available is the Adventurous Kate Manhattan Scarf, perhaps the most versatile style in the Speakeasy collection. It’s an abstract black and white in a stretchy, spongy bamboo fabric that is great in all seasons. I named it Manhattan because it’s as classic as the city itself! This is the perfect scarf if you’re not sure of someone’s style — black and white is perfect for everyone. It looks and feels expensive.

Best of all, the hidden pocket allows you to stash your valuables in a place where no thief will ever think to look.

Not a fan of these two styles? Fear not — the Speakeasy scarves come in tons of different colors and fabrics, perfect for everything from the tropics to the Arctic.

Most importantly: the Adventurous Kate signature scarves sell out QUICKLY. Three of my signature scarves have sold out permanently. If you’re interested in one of these scarves, I recommend buying them ASAP.

Available from Speakeasy Travel Supply here.

Scott’s Cheap Flights Membership

Ever hear about those super-cheap error fares, like Chicago to Paris round-trip for $179? I always hear about these deals long after they disappear.

But this year I began subscribing to Scott’s Cheap Flights, a daily newsletter where they comb the internet for unusually cheap fares. The regular newsletter is free and includes one flight per day, but if you upgrade to the paid premium version, they will send you ALL the deals.

I haven’t actually bought any flights I learned of from them yet, but my friends have. One traveled from the US to South Africa, normally topping out at $1,000 or more, for just a few hundred dollars!

Get it here from Scott’s Cheap Flights.

Kate wears a long black dress and sits on a bright red Vespa scooter on a street in Florence, Italy. Kate is looking down and smiling and there is a wooden door behind her.

Airbnb Experiences Photography Shoot

Have you ever wanted to have professional photos of yourself taken in a place you’re visiting? (This is especially for you, the women who take great photos of everyone else but barely have any good shots of you!)

When Airbnb introduced Experiences a few years ago, this gave a platform to locals who wanted to give tours. It also allowed photographers to do simple, affordable photo shoots for tourists. You just book an hourlong session and they shoot.

This is THE best way to get photos for your Instagram! And if you’re a blogger or content creator, even more so. This is one of the best gifts for travelers today.

This past year I did photo shoots in Florence (pictured above) and New York. Each of them cost less than $100 and netted me around 20-30 photos each, 15 of which were usable for the site, and five or so that I truly loved.

I recommend buying an Airbnb gift card. You can do so through Amazon.

Four photos of Kate in front of the same mountaintop with different kinds of skies behind her.

Quickshot Photo App Subsciption

The single best photo app I’ve discovered in the past year is Enlight Quickshot. It’s better than any other app I’ve found for changing the sky.

I’ve been on a lot of trips where a flat white sky ruined what would otherwise have been a great scenery shot. I’ve edited a nice blue sky into a few of them — not EVERY sky, that’s a bit excessive, but it’s a lifesaver when you need it!

It goes beyond — it also changes the light and colors of the landscape to fit. And more — you can add crazy side effects like the Northern Lights, lightning storms, blood-red sunsets, and more!

Kate and Cailin standing under a fake Northern Lights view in the Dolomites

We totally tried to fool our friends into thinking we saw the Northern Lights in the Italian Dolomites.

This app is so FUN. An app this good doesn’t come free — it’s subscription-based (or expensive for a one-time fee). But an annual plan will cost you just $19.99. It’s easiest to gift the app in the form of an iTunes gift card.

Six pairs of colorful Bombas ankle socks.

Bombas Socks

I received a pair of Bombas ankle socks in a swag bag at an event I attended recently and I have been OBSESSED with these socks ever since. Seriously. I throw them on as soon as they’re clean and I wish I had a ton of them.

Bombas socks are soft and snug but they also have extra support in the mid-foot, just where you want it. And they’re particularly good gifts for travelers because they’re made of breathable merino wool and cotton, keeping you dry and less smelly for longer. Also, for every pair they sell, they donate one to someone in need.

They aren’t cheap — which makes them a thoughtful holiday gift. I recommend buying during the holiday season because they have lots of sales.

Get them here from Bombas.

ExpressVPN VPN Subscription

I’ve used other VPN services over the years because they disguise your internet and protect you when online, but I started noticing that they wouldn’t always work when I wanted to watch Hulu. Over and over again, I’d get that message of, “We see you’re outside the United States.”

Enough. A less-than-stellar VPN wasn’t worth the subscription fee. The one I used might have cut it for online banking, but it wasn’t strong enough for streaming video.

I did some research and soon learned that ExpressVPN was one of the absolute best — and one that would ALWAYS work with Hulu.

I’ve signed up and it’s been perfect ever since. Because I absolutely need my new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, Saturday Night Live and This is Us! And, you know, the keeping your banking information private thing. This is one of my best purchases of the last year.

Get it here from ExpressVPN.


A Tinggly gift card reading "Merry Christmas" on the beach, next to the water.

Tinggly

This is a sponsored listing for the 2019 holiday season.

“Give stories, not stuff.” Tinggly is a company that creates gift boxes that your recipient can use around the world. You send them the gift box and your recipient chooses exactly what to use it on!

For example, the $119 Premium box could be used for a shotover jet boat experience in Queenstown, New Zealand; a 4×4 winery tour in Barcelona; a horseback riding experience on lava in Iceland; or a night tour with dumplings in Taipei. Those are just some of the options!

This is a great gift for someone who loves to travel, but you’re not sure where they’re going in the next year. There are so many options.

Tinggly ships to 110 countries, it’s valid forever with no expiration date, there’s an instant delivery option via email, and there’s a 30-day refund policy.


PacSafe CarrySafe 200 Camera Strap

While I’ve always had this product, my old camera strap wore out and I made the full-time switch to the PacSafe CarrySafe 200 this year — and I am absolutely LOVING it.

I always like having an extra layer of security by having a hard-to-slash camera strap, and PacSafe makes the best safety products. The PacSafe CarrySafe 200 is padded, comfortable, and lined with mesh, which keeps it from being slashable.

Get it here on Amazon.

Cheap Gifts for Travelers (Under $25)

You don’t have to spend a ton of cash to give someone a meaningful travel gift that will help him or her on her upcoming trip. Here are several great options.

Point It

Point It: Traveller’s Language Kit

Ever tried a wordless dictionary before? They can be extremely helpful if you’re in a region where English isn’t widely spoken. The Point It book is full of pictures that you can point to when you’re having a hard time communicating. (I really could have used this when searching for electrical tape in Saranda, Albania!)

Get it from Amazon here.

Hot Hands Hand Warmers

Know someone planning a trip somewhere cold? This the kind of travel gift you’d never pick out for yourself, but you use it, you’ll be in love with it!

In 2018, I planned some hardcore cold-weather trips to Hokkaido, Japan, and Antarctica. Even after growing up in New England, these destinations were a rugged kind of cold with no easy or obvious escape. These hand warmers kept me sane and warm. I would put one on my toes in between my sock liners and socks, and one in my hands between my mittens and glove liners. You shouldn’t put them on bare skin.

If you know anyone planning a winter trip, give them a big box of these — they’ll be eternally grateful. Just not having frozen toes immediately elevates your trip.

Get them from Amazon here.

Whistle

All-Weather Safety Whistle

I know you’re thinking of that scene in Titanic. And it’s the truth. Boat engines sometimes fail, and sometimes you’ll need to send a signal through darkness. A whistle is a cheap and useful gift for travelers. Above all, it attracts attention when you need it the most.

This one in particular is LOUD. AS. HELL. You can’t beat it for that price.

Get it from Amazon here.

Manatea

Manatea Silicone Tea Infuser

I love to try different kinds of tea while traveling — but the tea is almost always loose, not bagged. Most places don’t provide infusers, so you need to carry your own.

Enter the Manatea. Not only is it an easy way to get my tea fix, it’s an adorable conversation piece! This company makes a few different animals (I may also own the sloth), but the Manatea’s shape is easiest to fill and clean.

Get it from Amazon here.

Mini Power Strip with USB Slots

What happens when you have limited time and need to charge your phone, laptop, Kindle, and phone battery? With a mini power strip, you can charge them all at once.

You’ll also become everyone’s best friend when staying in a hostel dorm with only one outlet!

Note: NOT all mini power strips are created equal. This one is good because 1) Its plug is attached to a long cord, rather than part of a block (block-style power strips often don’t fit if an outlet is next to furniture or a wall), 2) it has three outlets, which is the minimum you should have 3) it has an on/off button 4) it has USB slots.

Get it on Amazon here.

Mini Portable Power Bank

I travel with two portable power banks: a mini and a big one. I’m putting the mini in this section because it’s cheaper.

A mini power bank is essential for travelers — it fits into my purse for a night out (and if you don’t carry a purse, it fits easily in your pocket). I also consider it a safety device, as my phone lets me summon an Uber or call a cab if I’m in an uncomfortable situation.

This BAITER Power Bank is tiny yet powerful — it can charge the average smartphone twice (which is a LOT for a mini power bank)

Get it here on Amazon.

Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards

My friend Jodi of Legal Nomads writes about eating her way around the world as a celiac, and she has created excellent gluten-free dining cards that let celiacs eat safely in different countries. Why are these cards different from others? I’ll use Jodi’s words here:

You may have seen other gluten free restaurant cards, and many are great for those following a GF diet. As a celiac who is extremely sensitive, I got sick using them. I very much appreciate the work and effort that went into the freely available cards — but sadly they were not enough.

In contrast, the Legal Nomads cards are:

  • Researched by a celiac who loves to eat.
  • Written with the traveler in mind.
  • Use local dish names, based on what’s eaten in that country not just a translation.
  • Clear mention of cross-contamination and contaminated oil.
  • Double checked for accuracy with two translators familiar with food, who speak the local language.

The cards are available in the local language for France, Greece, Morocco, Japan, Mexico, Vietnam, Italy, Portugal, Germany, and for Spain there are both Spanish and Catalan versions. This is a very thoughtful gift for a traveler with food allergies.

Get them from Legal Nomads here.

Headphone Splitter

Headphone Splitter

If you’re traveling with a friend or partner, you must bring a headphone splitter! But even if you’re traveling solo, you never know when you might meet a cool friend and want to watch a movie or listen to a podcast together while in transit.

Headphone splitters are simple — you simply plug the end into your device and you suddenly have two headphone jacks.

Get it here on Amazon.

Wifi Extender

Wifi Extender

If you work while traveling, one of the most annoying things is to find a good place to work in a new city. Very often, the place with the best coffee and environment and plugs has terrible wifi. (Hell, I struggle with this in my own neighborhood in New York!)

For that reason, a wifi extender helps you access wifi from further away. So maybe you can sit in the funky coffeeshop while accessing the much faster wifi from McDonald’s a few doors down. This Netis extender plugs right into your USB slot and is one of the better models on the market.

This is one of the best gifts for travelers who work from the road.

Get it here on Amazon.

Travel Towel

Travel Towel Set

What makes a good travel towel? It’s small, it’s light, it dries very quickly. I highly recommend getting one large enough to wrap around yourself; it will make your life a million times easier!

This one is large enough to wrap, comes in a million colors, and is anti-bacterial. BONUS: It comes with a separate hand towel, which is great for taking along with you on sweaty or athletic days.

Get it here on Amazon.

Airportag LHR London Mug

Quirky Airport-Themed Mugs from Airportag

Airportag has a variety of airport-themed accessories for your home, as well as t-shirts. My personal favorites are the mugs and refrigerator magnets. I think these accessories work best when they’re a casual touch rather than the primary focus of the room. Good things come in small packages!

Get them here on Airportag.

Burt's Bees Wipes

Facial Cleansing Towelettes

Did you know that a Thai guesthouse once charged me extra because I got mascara on a pillowcase and they couldn’t get it out? Make sure this doesn’t happen to you! Believe me, the last thing you want to do when coming back to your hotel after a fun night out is a complicated skin routine — but sleeping in your makeup is bad for your skin.

Facial cleansing towelettes are the way to go, and I love these ones from Burt’s Bees. They are good at getting mascara off and the white tea scent is delicious.

Get them here on Amazon.

Contour Eye Mask

Contoured Sleep Mask

If you can sleep with the cheapie eye masks that airlines give you, good for you! I find that I need something a little extra, however.

This contoured sleep mask is much better — it’s soft, blocks more light, and isn’t as tight on your eyelids. This is a thoughtful travel gift for your friend who needs blackout curtains.

Get it here on Amazon.

Padlocks

Pair of Padlocks

Small padlocks are essential — they lock hostel lockers and your own bags.

I recommend getting 1) a combination lock where you can choose the combination, 2) a pair of locks, 3) TSA-approved locks.

(Are they impenetrable? No lock is 100% impenetrable. But the vast majority of thieves are opportunists who grab whatever’s easy to snatch quickly. A lock dissuades opportunistic thieves.)

Get them here on Amazon.

Safety Gifts for Travelers

Being a blogger who specializes in solo female travel, I get a lot of questions about staying safe while traveling.

One of my top tips is to invest in quality gear that protects your belongings. This is something you shouldn’t scrimp on. At the same time, every travel gift on this list is under $80.

Pacsafe Travelsafe

Pacsafe TravelSafe Portable Safe

This is the #1 item that I recommend travelers buy. One of my proudest moments was when I was leading my first tour in Central America and I walked into the bathroom and saw three of these locked around the base of the sink! “You guys listened to me!” I said through tears.

You fill this safe with your belongings, pull it shut, and lock it to the sturdiest thing in your room. Sometimes that’s the base of a sink; sometimes it’s a large, heavy piece of furniture. This way you don’t have to carry your valuables with you everywhere you go, which also puts you at risk.

This is one of the best gifts for travelers you love and want to keep safe.

Get it here on Amazon.

Drybag

Earth Pak Waterproof Dry Bags

Dry bags are the other item that I recommend every traveler pack. When I was shipwrecked in Indonesia, I was able to rescue my phone, debit card, and point-and-shoot camera because I had a dry bag with me. Dry bags also protect my electronics when on crazy boat rides, like the panga ride to Little Corn Island that sprayed water everywhere.

You need these. Even if you don’t plan on traveling by boat.

These days I travel with two at all times: a small one (10 liters) and a large one that can fit my day bag (30 liters). And they come with a smartphone protector as well!

Get them here on Amazon.

LifeProof Case

LifeProof Phone Case

Let me be honest: if it weren’t for my LifeProof, I would have destroyed my phone when I accidentally dropped it in a toilet in a remote part of South Africa.

No, it’s not the sexiest looking case out there, but it is the absolute best phone case out there — one that will protect your phone as best as possible. You can even go swimming with it (but I wouldn’t recommend that). I don’t know what I would do without it (wait, I do know — I would pay constantly for screen repairs).

LifeProof also has excellent customer service and they will often replace your case for free if something goes wrong.

It’s a good idea to pick up a three-pack of headphone adapters if you use plug-in headphones because it only comes with one. You don’t need them if you use wireless headphones.

Get it here on Amazon. 

Personal Alarm

Personal Alarm

I have not needed to use this yet, but I’m glad it’s there. Using a personal alarm has the same use as a whistle: it attracts attention when you need it. Maybe it’s when you’re lost or stranded; maybe it’s when you’re threatened by another person. Maybe a stray dog is scaring you. Either way, there is no way this alarm won’t get you attention. This is a gift for travelers that will give you peace of mind.

Get it here on Amazon.

RFID Wallet

RFID-Blocking Wallet

When traveling with a wallet, I always bring one that is RFID-blocking to protect against thieves. Your credit cards can be scanned remotely through your wallet, but RFID-blocking fabrics prevent this from being able to be done.

I suspect that my credit cards were scanned in Portugal back in 2012 and traveling without them was a nightmare, so I truly hope it never happens to me again — or any of you! (Be sure to hide an extra debit card in a different place.)

I hate most “women’s wallets” and it took a while to find one I like: this one is sleek, it’s made of leather, it comes in lots of colors, and it folds up small.

Get it here on Amazon.

Pacsafe Camera Bag

Pacsafe Camera Bag

Before I went to Central America in 2015, I was concerned about theft and knew I needed to get a day bag that locked. My day bag is what holds my photography gear, tech gear, and valuables, and it always stays with me, unless I’ve got the valuables locked up in my portable safe at home.

This is my bag and it’s perfect: it has a laptop slot (easily fits a 13″ MacBook Pro), room for three lenses, and everything is lockable. All that and it fits underneath the seat in front of me when I fly.

That said, some people might prefer a larger bag, especially if you’re carrying several lenses (the giant lens I rented for safari was pushing it). You can find a slightly larger model here. These bags are one of the best gifts for travelers heading to a region known for pickpocketing.

Get it here on Amazon.

World Nomads

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance could save your life or your financial future. I use and recommend World Nomads, and never go on a trip without it.

Get a quote from World Nomads here.

Note what is not on this list: a money belt. I don’t use one and have no desire to. They’re uncomfortable and thieves are well aware that they exist. Get a Speakeasy Travel Supply scarf instead — they’re comfier, more practical, and much prettier.

Insanely Useful Gifts for Travelers

If you want to get someone a travel gift that he or she will use every day while on the road, here are some great options!

PowerBank

EasyAcc Monster Portable Charger

If there is one item that people should travel with but they don’t, it’s a portable charger. I know this because people are always asking me to borrow mine, even my full-time traveler friends!

I recommend traveling with two portable chargers: a large one that is perfect for long flights, long days out, or days when you’re away from electricity; and a small one, which I throw in my purse for a night out (and mentioned above).

This charger is just as much of a Monster as its name claims. You can charge an iPhone SEVEN times with this thing! It was invaluable when I spent a few days in Guyana without electricity earlier this year.

Get it here on Amazon.

Quip Toothbrush

Quip Toothbrush

If you listen to podcasts, you may have heard of Quip — they advertise on tons of them and I found out about them thanks to Pod Save America. I ordered one last year, just thinking it would be a cool toothbrush, but honestly, this is the best possible electric toothbrush for travelers!

Do you want to travel with an electric toothbrush, but don’t want to lug all the gear? The Quip is a battery-operated toothbrush that is the size of a normal toothbrush and has no charging station. It pulses every 30 seconds for 2 minutes so you brush each quadrant of your mouth sufficiently. Every three months they sent you a new brush head and batteries. No excuses!

I love that I can actually travel with an electric toothbrush without using a ton of extra space and weight.

Get it from Quip here.

Kindle Paperwhite

Kindle Paperwhite

If you’re a regular reader, you know that I devour at least one book per week. The truth? The only reason why I’m able to read this much is because I have a Kindle. I take it everywhere with me.

Getting my first Kindle in 2011 reignited my love of reading, which had faded off in years. It’s rare that you can credit an inanimate object to making you a better person, but every book I read makes me a better person.

I’ve used multiple Kindles, but the Paperwhite is a million times better than the basic — it has a touchscreen, it’s illuminated from within (perfect for reading in a hostel bed, while your partner is sleeping, or while breastfeeding at night), and it feels amazing in your hands.

Get it here on Amazon. 

Diva Cup

DivaCup

Travelers who menstruate, if you haven’t made the switch to a menstrual cup yet, now is the time. It’s better for your wallet, better for the environment, gives you more space in your luggage, and it saves you from the hassle of trying to find tampons in Sri Lanka (which is…not easy). It changed my life for the better in so many ways.

Don’t be intimidated — it’s actually a lot easier to use than most people think. It just takes a few practice tries and you’re golden. See my full review here for more information.

Get it here on Amazon.

TaoTronics Wireless Earbuds

After going through several kinds of earbuds, I finally found my holy grail — a pair that lasts a long time and stays in your ears while at the gym, even if you sweat like crazy. It takes a bit of an adjustment to get used to charging your earbuds regularly, but you get used to it. I love not being connected to my phone.

Get them here on Amazon.

LifeTek Umbrella

LifeTek Travel Umbrella

Rather than buying cheap umbrellas that break apart in the first storm, invest in a small, quality umbrella and you’ll be a million times happier. LifeTek makes awesome, wind-resistant umbrellas that fold up tiny and have a two-year replacement guarantee.

Get it here on Amazon.

S’well Water Bottle

Probably the best way to reduce your waste is to bring a reusable water bottle on your travels. It eliminates you from buying single-use plastic bottles and most countries are not good about recycling. Even with recycling, we should reduce anyway.

S’well water bottles are beautiful, well-crafted, and slim enough to fit into a bag. Mine is bright metallic blue but I love their wooden patterned bottles. This is one of the best gifts for travelers that also makes a positive impact on the places they visit.

Cost: $35 on Amazon.

SteriPen

So a water bottle is good, but what happens if you go to a country where you can’t drink the tap water? Enter the SteriPen. All you do is put it in a water bottle or cup, turn it on for less than a minute, and thanks to the UV light, the water is purified and safe to drink.

Between a SteriPen and a reusable water bottle, you’ve massively reduced the number of plastic water bottles that are going to waste in the world.

Get it here on Amazon.

Packing Cubes

Flight 001 Packing Cubes

Packing cubes make packing a million times easier. You throw your clothes in there and then pack the cubes themselves. There are a lot of brands out there, but I happen to love Flight 001’s Spacepaks because they’re high quality, incredibly durable, and you can unzip the other side and fill them with your dirty laundry!

Trust me — these are one of the best gifts for travelers because as soon as you use them, you’ll fall in love. I personally use just two of them: the blue clothes bag and the lavender lingerie bag.

Get the pack of three here on Amazon, or just the blue clothes bag, or just the small lavender bag.

Travel T-Shirts from Adventurous Merch

Last year, Cailin and I created our first travel t-shirt line! Adventurous Merch features travel t-shirts that we would actually want to wear (and do enjoy wearing while out and about!). These are currently available to ship to the US, UK, and Germany.

The two that are the bestsellers so far? The one pictured above (Passport & Camera & Suitcase & Tickets & Phone), and the one that says Wanderer, Adventurer, Explorer, Nomad, Vagabond. And we’ve got plenty more!

Get them on Amazon here.

Rent the Runway Membership (Update or Unlimited)

Most people know about Rent the Runway for renting nice dresses for weddings. But now that I have a RTR Update membership — four items per month — I wear more casual items and FEEL LIKE A MILLION BUCKS. Seriously. I can’t tell you how good this makes me feel. I love that I’m not contributing to the “fast fashion” industry. And my Instagram account always looks fresh as a result!

Do you know someone who likes to look good in travel for photos on Instagram? This is one of the best gifts for travellers like her.

From left to right, that’s a Derek Lam 10 Crosby dress in Vienna; a Jason Wu dress in San Francisco, and a Milly dress in Williamsburg. Each of them cost upwards of $300. It also saves me money when I have to order something fancy for a formal event, which happens about once a month.

RTR Update is four items per month. There is also RTR Unlimited, where you get unlimited items. However, they almost always have discounted rates for the first month.

Get RTR Update here.

Travel Pillow

Memory Foam Travel Pillow

Traveling with a pillow is nothing short of life-changing. Suddenly sleeping on planes becomes possible — and that alone is a valuable gift for travelers.

This is another case where you get what you pay for — no matter what, a travel pillow should be about strong neck support more than anything else. This model from I’celus Comfort is ergonomic, made of memory foam, and comes with a free sleep mask as well.

Get it here on Amazon.

UE Mini Boom

Portable Bluetooth Speaker

I didn’t realize how useful a portable speaker was until my friend sold me on them. They are the best for playing music while sitting around a pool with friends (this brings me back to lazy pool afternoons at Papaya Lodge in El Tunco, El Salvador!).

They’re also good for impromptu dance parties, picnics or outdoor gatherings, or even just listening to podcasts while in the shower.

My UE Mini Boom is Bluetooth-enabled, the battery lasts for so long, and it’s durable as hell.

Get it here on Amazon.

External Hard Drive

Durable External Hard Drive

When traveling, you should back up your photos in two places: online and on an external hard drive. And because slow upload speeds can be an issue while traveling, it makes it all the more important to use a high quality external hard drive.

The Transcend 2 TB StoreJet drive has 2 TB of storage and claims to be military drop-tested. I wouldn’t go for a swim with it, but it’s badass all the same.

Get it here on Amazon.

Best Luggage Gifts for Travelers

A good piece of luggage is worth its weight in gold. Luggage can be expensive, but if you have someone special in your life and can afford to spend a larger chunk of change, it’s one of the most appreciated and best gifts for travelers. For that reason, I thought I’d share with you the three bags I like very much.

One thing to keep in mind — a backpack should be measured to a person for the best fit. If you buy a backpack for someone, make sure it’s returnable in case it isn’t a good fit.

Secondly, I recommend not buying bags in black if you can help it (even though I wear all black, all the time). I’ve got a few black bags and it drives me crazy trying to pick it out of a carousel full of black bags.

Best Carry-On Luggage for Travelers: The Carry-On from Away

I received a complimentary “The Carry-On” Away luggage as part of the campaign I did with RXBAR in 2017, with no obligation to write about it, but I fell in love with it and it’s still my go-to luggage. This is my essential carry-on bag and I highly recommend it.

What makes this different? It’s designed beautifully and efficiently — it’s how I imagine the Japanese would design a carry-on bag. One side is designed for clothes, one for shoes and hard objects. It comes with a mini laundry bag so strong, it can hold a wet bathing suit without getting the rest of your clothes wet. It’s got a compression belt that lets you pack more into less space. The wheels rotate 360 degrees and it’s such a smooth ride.

All that and it has a battery in it so you can charge your phone with your bag! Very helpful when you’re unexpectedly delayed. Do know that some airlines may ask you to remove the battery before boarding. It’s easy to do in the later models.

And if you buy more than one Away bag, they stack into each other so neatly that it won’t take up too much space, which is especially important if you live in an apartment.

Get it from Away.com, with $20 off your purchase with this link.

Pacsafe Backpack

Backpack Gift for Holidays: Pacsafe VentureSafe 45L

Once again, Pacsafe makes the best safety-conscious travel products, and I love my VentureSafe when I choose to use a backpack. It’s smart to have a soft-sided bag in your collection because you might need it if you fly on tiny planes — like I did in Kenya last year. I also prefer to use a backpack in less-developed regions like Central America and Southeast Asia because dragging a rolling suitcase over broken pavement gets old very quickly.

My favorite thing about this backpack is that every compartment locks onto the same bar, which you can lock onto another object. That’s the ideal way to protect your luggage on an overnight train.

Get it here on Amazon.

Pacsafe Luggage

Best Suitcase: Pacsafe TourSafe AT29

One more PacSafe bag to round them out! This is what I travel with most often. It’s a soft rolling checked suitcase and it has survived a lot of crazy trips.

Get it here on Amazon.

The Travel Hack Pro Carry-on Suitcase

I love when my friends design their own products — and this year my friend Monica from The Travel Hack now has a custom suitcase! She designed it to have all the things that we want while traveling, while still looking good.

It fits as a standard carry-on bag, it has a padded laptop pocket, and it’s a light-yet-durable collection of faux black leather and 600D PU material (plus rosé gold zippers and a hot pink interior!). Best of all, there is a compartment on top designed for your purse when the airline makes you consolidate your carry-ons into one! (They force me to consolidate my bags EVERY time I fly through JFK or on a budget airline in Europe, which is frustrating, so it’s great that Monica came up with this solution!)

Get it from Amazon here.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Digital Gifts for Travelers

Take it from me — travelers like to carry as little stuff as possible. Digital gifts for travelers allow you to give a travel gift without taking up any luggage space.

Travel Ebooks or Kindle Books

If your recipient has a Kindle, a book makes an awesome gift. And if not, Kindle books can be read on a smartphone as well!

Here are some of my other favorite travel and destination reads:

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt — Perhaps the best book about a destination I’ve ever read, this nonfiction novel is about the weird and twisted city of Savannah and its many characters.

The Ridiculous Race by Steve Hely and Vali Chandrasekaran — Two comedy writers (who went on to write for 30 Rock!) race around the world without airplanes. Definitely the funniest travel book I’ve ever read.

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman — The French raise their children differently. This American expat living in Paris tries to figure out what makes French parenting so different. Absolutely fascinating.

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway — My favorite book of all time. A novel about the Lost Generation of the 1930s drinking and wiling their days away in Paris and Pamplona.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed — A woman struggling with a divorce and addiction decides to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, alone, with absolutely no preparation.

Into Thin Air by John Krakauer — The riveting account of the 1996 expedition to Mount Everest that killed several people.

Love With a Chance of Drowning by Torre DeRoche — Another memoir written by my friend Torre, who decided to sail across the South Pacific with her boyfriend despite a crushing fear of drowning.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell — The Danes are often listed as the happiest people in the world. A British expat living in rural Denmark tries to figure out why.

The Neapolitan Novels: My Brilliant FriendThe Story of a New NameThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child, by Elena Ferrante — This is one of the most epic series I have ever read, and one of the best things about it is its depiction of a rough neighborhood in Naples, Italy.

Without You, There Is No Us by Suki Kim — A fascinating and heartbreaking account of an undercover Korean-American journalist posing as a teacher at a university in Pyongyang.

Euphoria by Lily King — One of the best romances I’ve ever read, based on the life of Margaret Mead and taking place in Papua New Guinea.

The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World by Torre DeRoche — A sweet memoir and a study of traveling for healing, through heartbreak, grief, and anxiety, my friend Torre decided to walk her way across Italy and India on pilgrimages. This book inspired me to do a pilgrimage of my own someday!

Lagom: The Swedish Secret of Living Well by Lola A. Åkerström — Do the Swedes do everything better than we do? After reading my friend Lola’s book, you’ll think so! Lagom is the Swedish ethos of “not too little, not too much” and this book lays out how the Swedes choose to live in blissful moderation.

Moonlight in Odessa by Janet Skeslien Charles — A novel depicting Odessa, Ukraine, in the 1990s, as everything was controlled by the Mafia and the only way out was to become a mail-order bride. This book was the reason why I went to Odessa in 2017 and I fell in love with the city. Out of print but you can buy it for Kindle.

This Is My South by Caroline Eubanks — A book by my friend Caroline, published in 2018, about traveling the Southern United States — a region on which she is an expert! Perfect for your South-loving friend.

New York Times

Subscriptions to Online Publications

Good journalism will only exist if it’s funded, and the traveler in your life will appreciate being kept in the loop on what’s going on at home.

For newspapers, check out the New York Times (I love it because it has the best comment management on the web) and the Washington Post (which regularly breaks major stories). Keep in mind that the Washington Post is free for several months to Amazon Prime subscribers, then cheap thereafter.

For magazines, check out Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and The Economist.

Crashplan

Crashplan, Dropbox, SmugMug, Private Internet Access, or Adobe Creative Cloud Subscription

These are all web services that can help travelers.

Crashplan is a system for backing up your computer and external hard drives to the cloud. It works automatically in the background. If your computer is stolen, you can virtually recreate your old computer on your new machine.

Dropbox is cloud storage. You get a small amount for free; Dropbox Pro gets you a lot more storage.

SmugMug is backup photo storage. You can also use it to sell your photography.

ExpressVPN is a VPN service, meaning a place that lets you mask your location when using the internet. Not only does it protect your safety (and you should when doing things like banking online), but it allows you to access sites like Netflix and Hulu when outside the US. I’ve tried several VPN providers and now only use ExpressVPN — it’s the best, it has an app on your phone, and it’s the only one that works reliably for Hulu.

Adobe’s Creative Cloud gives you access to programs like Lightroom and Photoshop, which most amateurs and pros use to edit your photos. There are lots of plans, but the basic should be what most people need. I do this for a living

Spotify

Gift cards to Spotify, iTunes, or Apple Music.

Extra music is always appreciated. Find one which one your gift recipient prefers first — I’m definitely a Spotify girl. I swear those algorithms know me better than I know myself.

Gifts for Travelers Who Have Come Home

Maybe you know a traveler who has come home after a long-term trip away. Maybe you know a traveler who balances her home life with travel. Even if you have a home somewhere, it’s nice to bring your love of travel into your cozy home.

Framed Travel Photos from Framebridge

If you have a photo from your trip you’d like to display, Framebridge does absolutely gorgeous framing. And the whole process is easy — you put in your info, find a frame and mat you like (they can also choose for you), they send you either a tube or a flat mailer to send the print in (unless it’s a digital photo you send), and they frame it and send it back complete with the mounting supplies and instructions.

It’s definitely on the pricey end, but your best photos deserve to be framed beautifully, not in a cheap generic frame.

And it doesn’t necessarily have to be a photo. I’ve got a map framed by Framebridge in every room of my apartment! A Harlem map in the living room, an antique Northern Italy map in the bedroom, and a Bangkok map in the bathroom, a hand-drawn Savannah coffeeshop map on the way to the kitchen.

(In the photo above is a Holding On To Love print by artist Chelsea Victoria that I found on Society6, framed by Framebridge in their rose gold Rosemont frame. I find that rosy shades of gold warm up my white-and-gray rainy day-inspired bedroom!)

Get a quote here on Framebridge. Get $20 off your first order with this link.

Ugg Slippers

Ugg Suede Slippers

It’s nice to have something you can only enjoy while at home. For me, it’s the Ugg Ainslay Women’s Suede Slippers. They are completely impractical for the road but one of my favorite indulgences whenever I come home from a long trip.

Mine are in bright purple (to the surprise of absolutely no one); they also come in several different colors!

Get them here on Amazon (women) or here for men.

Yucatan Cookbook

Cookbooks From Destinations Your Traveler Loves

A lot of my foodie friends miss having a decent place to cook when they travel. Even if you book a rental rather than a hotel, chances are the knives are terrible. Let your friends revel in their cooking with these books.

Here are some of the best regional cookbooks available:

If they love Italian food: Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking is the holy grail. (And her butter tomato sauce is one of the best things that I made this year.)

If they love Thai food: Pailin Chongchitnant’s Hot Thai Kitchen is one of the best and most comprehensive.

If they love Mexican food: David Sterling’s Yucatán: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition got a lot of praise.

If they love New York or the South: Marcus Samuelsson’s The Red Rooster Cookbook. Red Rooster is the restaurant that convinced me to move to Harlem!

If they love unusual or emerging cuisines: Naomi Duguid’s Taste of Persia, Fran Osseo-Asare and Barbara Baeta’s The Ghana Cookbook, Gunnar Karl Gíslason’s North: The New Nordic Cuisine of Iceland, and Gastón Acurio’s Peru: The Cookbook are all splendid choices.

I also want to throw in a shout-out to Chrissy Teigan’s Cravings — seriously, everything in this cookbook is amazing. Her jok moo (Thai pork rice porridge) is rhapsodic, and her Thai pork-stuffed cucumber soup is as healthy and yummy as it is hilarious.

Italy Food Map

Legal Nomads Food Map Prints and Accessories

My friend Jodi who created the gluten-free travel cards has also created beautiful maps featuring food from Italy, Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico, Japan, and Portugal. They are perfect to have in your kitchen as prints; you can also get them on tote bags and t-shirts.

Jodi has been ill for the last few years and unable to work, so if you’re looking to buy a beautiful travel gift while also supporting someone who could use a helping hand, the Legal Nomads shop is a great place to spend your money.

Get them here on Legal Nomads.

Poolside with Slim Aarons

Travel Coffee Table Books

Coffee table books really pull a room together and give you a chance to show your personality. And because coffee table books are on display, this is one case where you should judge a book by its cover.

My dear friend Kash Bhattacharya published The Grand Hostels, a guide to the coolest design hostels in Europe. This has been his passion project for years, one I’ve been involved with, and I’m thrilled that he finally has a gorgeous book.

My friends Mike and Anne Howard published Ultimate Journeys for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent. It makes a great coffee table book but it’s also chock full of information on unusual travel destinations, many of which I hadn’t heard of (and for me to say that, that’s a BIG deal). It’s great even if you’re not part of a couple.

Some other coffee table books I recommend are Eighty Four Rooms (gorgeous boutique hotels), Poolside with Slim Aarons (or anything Slim Aarons — amazing luxury travel photography from the 1950s-1970s), NY Through the Lens (beautiful New York photography), Living in Style: Scandinavia (Nordic design), Havana, the New York Times’ 36 Hours In US and Canada or New York Times’ 36 Hours in Europe, and Steve McCurry: The Unguarded Moment.


What do you think are the best gifts for travelers? Have a happy holiday season, everyone!

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59 thoughts on “Best Gifts for Travelers: 2019 Edition”

  1. I discovered your blog a few days ago and have been going through ALL your posts. I love the way you write! Thank you for sharing this guide… I actually want some of those gifts for myself. 😉
    – Charmaine

  2. Love this. As a traveler I already own and use versions of many of these things. I always look at gift guides and am stumped by the uselessness and prices of things. I would never buy someone a tiny candle for $30. And I love my friends, but don’t spend >$100 on gifts. Are there normal people who actually do?

  3. Such a fantastic list. I just added a bunch of your suggestions to my own Christmas wishlist including that infinity scarf.

    And I have to vouch for all the PacSafe stuff too. They make fantastic gear and it’s nice knowing my possessions are just a little bit safer. I even bought a few things for my mom last year too!

  4. Hi Kate, if you are really keen on a drone, DJI have just released the Mavic Pro. It has all of the benefits and features the Phantom 4 has but it is smaller, lighter and folds down! Made specifically for travellers, I actually think it is cheaper. There are lots of YouTube comparisons from seasoned drone users that would now actually recommend this over the Phantom 4! The footage is amazing too.

  5. This is a great list – there are so many useful gift ideas! Glad to hear you’ve finally jumped on the neck pillow bandwagon.. I don’t know how you’ve lasted this long without one! And that eye mask is great – I use it every night 😉

  6. I am obsessed with this gift guide! Like, it would be a bit of a stretch to call myself a traveler in the ‘travel blogger/global backpacker’ sort of way, although I’m currently at my 10th international destination for the year (for work, as 8/10 of my trips are). But everything on this list is BRILLIANT and stuff I have been thinking about, or using in some ways but of lesser quality and such, for a long time. Digital storage, portable chargers, neck pillows… and omg I am THE WORST at not washing off my makeup after a night out (I was peeling off my fake lashes at noon today….), so those wipes are really resonating with me 🙂

    1. Anna, it’s currently 1:12 AM and I have a full face of makeup on, it’s time for bed, and I am OUT of wipes! My faucet only dispenses cool water…what am I going to doooooo? 😉

  7. Hey Kate!

    Thank you for sharing the gift guide. It was eye opening on a lot of levels for me. I am also concerned for the amount of crap people put out there. I am waiting for BF time to shop. Going to get some from that list.

  8. Very timely! I am getting ready for my next adventure, a year long, round-the-world without an airplane. Been traveling nearly full time for last 4 years, so I am pretty well stocked, but you have some great items. I immediately clicked and ordered several of your suggestions. Presents to me from me!

  9. These ideas are actually useful! I agree that a lot of blogs have outrageously priced gifts that the average person would never buy! Thank you for the ideas… will defiantly check them out on cyber Monday!

  10. Hi Kate – for the PacSafe portable safe, do you recommend 12L or 5L?

    Do you mostly use this in hostels or in coffee shops when you need to run to the bathroom quickly?

    thx!

    ~Meg

    1. 12L and 15L are pretty similar — you could go with either. I haven’t used one in a coffee shop yet; I ask people nearby to watch my things or I leave my laptop with them on their table and take my purse with me to the bathroom.

  11. Kate,

    A great gift guide I would certainly agree. All too often you see people promoting something that will make a large commission for the promoter when that’s not what matters. We don’t want to hear you pitch the highest priced item on amazon, we want to know what you actually use and personally recommend. Thank you for your honest input and it is a great gift guide.

    On a side note, have you seen the new DJI Mavic Pro drones? They are roughly the same price and they collapse much easier.

    I would think that would be great gift for video editors, a lower cost but certainly great alternative would be the DJI Gimbal for steady shooting and selfie videos.

  12. In regards to the dress, check out Rent the Runway for fun pretty dresses for events! I’ve used it for weddings, and I absolutely adore it! (Designer dresses that you can rent for a weekend, YES!)

  13. This is a fabulous list! I’d like to echo the comments that say, “Hey, wow, these items are actually useful and come at acceptable price points!” So, thank you for sharing the things that you legitimately use (what a concept!) And super hard high five for including book recommendations because YES. Travel reads are a thing.

    PS I’m in serious need of new headphones, so I plan to give the ones you listed a try! Earbuds fall right out of my ears, and stores these days carry the over-the-top or these-don’t-work-even-out-of-the-package earphones, but these look great. So thanks again!

  14. Those packing cubes are brilliant and probably my favorite thing on this list, but if someone wanted to buy me the Alexander McQueen mini dress, I wouldn’t stop them.

  15. Thanks for the list, been trying to figure out what to get my girlfriend, I think the contoured sleep mask will be perfect for trying to sleep on a plane.

  16. I loved your list, mostly for its honesty and practicality! A lot of your items are very similar to, or the same as, the ones we wrote about in our “Travel Essentials” post, which makes me feel pretty validated 🙂
    I may have to buy the Kindle Paperwhite, as I’d love to rekindle my love for reading too.

  17. Such a great post and very definitive! Thanks so much, I have reposted on my facebook so i can come back again and again!

  18. The mother of two young 20-something girls just told me she bought a door alarm for her daughters when they went on vacation to the Caribbean. It will sound if someone tries to break into your room at night. I’m definitely getting one of these before my next trip! Looking forward to completely eliminating that split second of panic when you wake up to a weird noise in your guesthouse, hotel, or wherever you’re staying.

  19. Best post I’ve read about gifts for travelers. I literally want everything on this list. Too bad Christmas is over…guess I’ll just have to start making my list now! Thank you for this!

  20. I came here looking for a gift for my niece (who is hopefully going to visit me in Rome next Spring). So many possibilities. She’s not (yet) a traveler, so I’m hoping I”ll find something perfect for that first timer 🙂

    I was happy to see your friend Torre’s book here. I read that, based on your recommendation a couple of months ago, in about a day and a half and immediately decided I’m walking the Via Francigena in April (Italian section only, sans niece). Such a great read!

  21. Great list! I love gift guides for travelers during the holidays, but those that are made up of products the blogger has personally used & likes are the best! I just posted my “top 5” for this year. Short and sweet, because it’s my all time favorites for any type of travel I’m doing! I also think it’s important to keep the items in a reasonable price range for a gift

  22. That’s a great list, Kate. My wife just started a new job that will include lots of travel, so the timing is very good!
    Have a happy Thanksgiving!

  23. I’ve been eyeing the Away carry-on for for months. Adding it to your list might have just made me pull out my credit card.

  24. What happened to your website 🙁 used to visit it a lot, but now is overloaded with ads, everywhere. It’s okay to have ads, Kate, I have them too and make money from it – but this amount is, to be honest, disturbing and slowing down. Bad experience here. Do u think, you could reduce it a bit?

  25. Hi Kate
    Great list. Very comprehensive. Love the idea of cook books for returning travellers. And the eBook suggestions. Always on the look out for good book recommendations as we travel.

    Thanks!

    Julie | 2checkingout

  26. Great list–though I think I added more thinks to my amazon cart for me than for gifts;) A question that perhaps you or someone reading this could answer. That wallet is perfect, exactly what I’ve been looking for for ages. But it’s leather & I’m vegan. Have you seen a similar one that’s not leather? I’ve looked high & low. Thanks!

  27. Hey Kate!

    I know I’m late to the game here, but do you have recommendations for cute walking shoes for all the different seasons? I love your honesty and logic and would appreciate your expert suggestions. Thank you so much!

  28. Nice list of travel accessories!You’ve given me some lovely gift ideas. Awesome Pictures! Keep it up! Great post! I’m definitely going to bookmark this. Thanks for sharing.

  29. I was going to ask the same thing Casi did above. I see those cute black shoes you put with a lot of your dresses and it seems to be the perfect combination of fashion and comfort if you’re walking around Rome or Amalfi area trying to “blend in”. Could you tell me what brand they are because I want some! Going to Italy in May for 2 weeks and want to consolidate how many shoes I’m bringing! 🙂

      1. Thanks so much for replying! I don’t know why they aren’t showing up..it links right to the the walking company website with search criteria pre-selected but don’t see you’re super cute sandals in the mix. The closest ones I found were the ABEO B.I.O.system Grace Metatarsal but I know those aren’t it. Sorry for being a pain.

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