Travelers can be notoriously difficult to shop for. After all, most of us like to travel light, and would rather have memories than more stuff. So when the holiday season nears, it’s natural to feel stumped.
To help you on your way, I’ve pulled together a list of 11 great gift ideas for travelers, so the nomads you care about are delighted, even if Santa eats all the cookies before Christmas morning. Bad Santa.
2018 Gift Ideas for Travelers
1. Luggage Tags
A couple of friends of mine have given me luggage tags over the years, and I absolutely love them. They’re creative and often personal, and they are useful. BackpackMr got me a high-end luggage tag which an airline sadly lost when they lost my luggage (I’m still fuming and haven’t checked a bag since). But you don’t have to spend a lot, and a luggage tag can be a thoughtful budget gift for a traveler, or a fab stocking stuffer.
2. Travel-sized tech solutions
Digital nomads and travelers alike know that traveling light requires tech solutions in miniature. So if you’ve got a big budget for your traveler, consider a lightweight laptop or notebook. You may even want to think about getting a personalized iPod Touch with a meaningful inscription, like a travel quote and their name. This has become an essential travel tool for me, a way to listen to music, take photos and video, easily access a translation tool (Google Translate) which can translate a conversation AS IT HAPPENS, find maps for wayfinding while wandering, access online needs via wifi, and call home with Skype or FaceTime. Crazy, right? All of that without worrying about paying exorbitant overseas cell phone rates or securing an unlocked phone and sim card every time to change countries.
If your budget is slightly leaner, think power banks, ear buds, packing gear for devices, chargers, power converters/adaptors and cord organizers. All of these are useful, all of them can get lost from time to time, and all will be appreciated by the traveler in your life. Best of all, many of these items can be personalized, taking them to a whole new level.
3. Travel toiletry kits
Travel-sized containers for toiletries and bags to organize them are awesome. If you can find products that are tailored to the traveler, even better. For example, I love natural, eco-friendly products, so having them in travel size would be incredible.
4. Reading that inspires wanderlust
Whether it’s a subscription to Afar, Conde Nast Traveler, or Budget Travel magazine, or a copy of a great travel book to inspire their wanderlust, most travelers really appreciate reading that scratches their itch. They’re perfect for long waits at the airport, downtime on transportation, or just before tucking into bed, wherever in the world your traveler is.
Travel guides to specific countries or regions they want to explore can help them firm up plans; I like Lonely Planet guidebooks, or sometimes guides to Europe from Rick Steves. Some of my favorite travel-related nonfiction books over the years–which could be great travel books for female travelers–include: Wild; Eat, Pray, Love; or Travels with Charlie. Maybe you want to give them a copy of Mexico, A Love Story? Just throwing that in there as it houses my humble 10 pages of infamy.
And if you’ve got deep pockets and a traveler who loves tech, an e-reader might be just the ticket. I prefer fewer screens, and books made of paper.
5. The right bags
If you’re thinking about getting the traveler in your life a useful, practical gift for the holidays, luggage might be a good way to go. But it’s important to keep in mind that there are many kinds of travelers, so you should think carefully about the kind of traveler your wanderer is before shopping. Is your traveler a rollerbag goddess, one who could use a great new roller board? There are loads of new styles, many eye catching and unique. (Take care with the techy roller bags out there–travelers may run into issues taking them on planes.)
Or is the traveler in your life a backpacker, who could maybe use an ultralight backpack? I will say I truly adore my Baggallini purse, which is versatile and useful, wherever I go. Developed by travel industry insiders, these bags have all the pockets and compartments a modern-day traveler needs. Packing cubes are also useful, and can help your traveler keep their things organized while jetting about the planet. Maybe a decade ago, my aunt and uncle gave me an Eagle Creek packing cube set. I still use it to this day and I think of them every single time I pack.
6. A donation to a cause they love
After seeing the world or select parts of it, many of us have gained a passion or two for particular causes. Find out what your traveler is passionate about, and donate to the cause they believe in, in their name. For most of us who don’t wish to take on more stuff, this can be incredibly meaningful. My friend Jane once donated in my name to a charity that builds wells in South America, a cause I’m truly passionate about since traveling to El Salvador and seeing in person the difference a well makes in the lives of the families who live near it.
I can’t tell you how much that meant to me, that someone knew the cause was important to me, and donated toward it. If that’s something you and your traveler are passionate about too, you can donate to potable water projects through GATE Charitable Giving. They also offer amazing cultural immersion programs.
When you donate in a traveler’s name…that’s what I call a doubly-good deed, one which touches double the people. That makes it a doubly good gift idea.
7. A travel journal
Most of us know we’re quick to forget these amazing experiences, unless we write them down. A journal can be an awesome gift for a traveler who likes taking notes, keeping small mementos, or even for exchanging or recording necessary travel information such as confirmation numbers, addresses, flight times and phone numbers.
Several people have given me journals over the year, including this one above from my sister, Nora. I always appreciate them. My favorites are Moleskine brand notebooks, as they come in some very packable, lightweight sizes.
8. A minimergency kit
My friend Annette once gave me a minimergency kit, and it kinda blew me away. You won’t believe all of the practical stuff that they cram into these cute, tiny compartments! From an emergency deodorant stash to a small sewing kit to nail care items, this thing is pretty amazing. It’s great for the traveler in your life who likes to be prepared on a girl’s weekend, or a weekend away with the squeeze. It won’t be as practical for the lightweight backpacker in your life. Check the contents–they differ.
True travelers value the experiential over the material. So while you may need to hit the stores on Black Friday for other people in your life, you may want to think differently when shopping for holiday gifts for travelers. Instead, give them an experience to unwrap: a day out doing something they love, an indulgence they rarely give themselves, a gift certificate toward travel (some airlines offer these), an overnight stay at a cool hotel or property near them, or a cool, local experience like a food tour. Or if you’re feeling really generous, book them their next trip.
BackpackMr once surprised me with a trip to visit my grandmother (The original O.G. RBG) on the other side of the country. He even got our waitress in on the surprise so she could tell me during a dinner out. And he got my Aunt Nora to go along with me (yes the one who bought me the packing cubes!) Conspire with your traveler’s significant other or family members to figure out dates that work. Even better if you can go along.
10. A compass
I’m stealing this one from RollerbagMom, who gave me a compass once. With it she said, “This is so you can always find your way home.” The compass, and those words, warm my heart to this day.
Feel free to steal the idea. I’m sure she’d be happy to know it made the rounds, plus it’s kind of an awesome gift idea. Particularly if your traveler is directionally-challenged, as I am. Hey – maybe you can even get the compass engraved or otherwise add some sort of personal touch.
11. Your time
For most travelers, seeing the world isn’t just about marking things off on a checklist. We want more than anything to connect with people on a meaningful level, and that includes our neighbors and friends. So set aside some time to spend with your traveler. Meet up with her for coffee or a glass of wine, or just a video chat online. It will be a gift she’ll treasure more than anything you could buy.
The holidays are coming fast–it’s time to shop for the traveler in your life!
So that’s it, my guide to some great gifts for travelers in 2018. I hope this helps you as you do your holiday shopping for the wanderers in your life.
Charish Badzinski is an explorer and award-winning travel and food writer. When she isn’t working to build her blog: Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World, she applies her worldview to her small business, providing strategic communications, media relations and writing support to her clients.
Find Charish on Twitter: @charishb
Rollerbag Goddess Rolls the World by Charish Badzinski is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.