Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families

November 28, 2017

Gift Guide

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families

Travelers can be tough to buy for – they either don’t want anything because they are on the go or what they do want is too expensive or unattainable (flights, cameras, more vacation time!). Personally I love travel experiences, but every traveling expert also needs an arsenal of products to make their journeys smoother. Even though what we all really want is the time and money to travel more, there are still some great gift ideas most every traveling family will appreciate!

Stocking Stuffers

Lets start with the little things, stocking stuffers! Let me warn you right off the bat that I am all about the practical. I love practical travel items that can be used for stuffing the stocking. Below are some of my favorite little items that every traveler should have! Want even more ideas? Head over to my stocking stuffers gift guide for more practical, silly and affordable ideas.

ChicoBag Bottle Sling

chicobag-slingThis is sort of a random item, but I found this ChicoBag Water Bottle Sling last year and have fallen in love with it. This little, very light water bottle sling has been great for hiking and even cruising through London! I tend to not carry a real purse anymore, just a small bag for my phone, money and credit cards, which means I am left holding my water bottle in my hand all day. That is not conducive to taking lots of photos as you can imagine. So in comes this little sling. It hangs super low, but not too low to interfere with walking, is light and even has a little pouch for money, keys or chapstick! This is a great gift for those who love hiking in nature or urban settings!

World Laundry Bag

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - World Laundry BagI have two of these World laundry bags that we use when traveling. Clothes that aren’t going to be washed in route and one for clothes that need to be cleaned before returning home. I love these bags! Since they fold up so small, they are great for the stockings! And for the first time ever I actually saw these for sale at a local shop.. the trend is catching on folks, grab them while you can! They also have a 3 pack set with different sizes that is now on my wishlist! Check out the adorable airplane print bags too! I’m pretty sure my son will find that in his stocking this year.

Laundry Line

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Laundry LineSuch a simple little thing, this laundry line (or this one that I now am in love with – Lewis n Clark) is something I have used since my first trip to Europe in 2000. It is small and super light and can be used anywhere. I have hung it from balconies in Berlin, attached it to my hostel bed in Switzerland and even used it at home in the backyard. Combined with the Scrubba wash system above you will have everything you need to do laundry quickly and cheaply on the road. I know, sort of a silly stocking stuffer, but it’s obvious I now follow in my mom’s footsteps of giving very practical weird items in stockings!

Cord Tacos & Ties

Cord Tacos - Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesAnother totally practical item. Can you tell I like the practical things for Christmas rather than clutter? For men, the headphone holder and leather cord tacos make great stocking stuffers, while for kids and for other family members I prefer the Bobino cord wrap that comes in 3 different sizes. I can almost guarantee I will see some of those in my stocking this year!

Lewis N Clark Clip Stash

RFID Wallet - Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesI am all about traveling light which means I carry very little with me out on the go. I have a sling phone purse (see below) that holds my credit cards, ID and phone, but when I’m in countries that have a lot of coinage as currency I like to carry a small wallet. For that I love the Lewis N Clark RFID Blocking Clip Stash Wallet. It’s small enough to easily clip onto my leggings or stuff into my pocket of my cardigan (see below!). And I know that I am safe and secure. I tend to split up my credit cards when I’m traveling so that if one thing gets lost or stolen I am not totally moneyless!

Travel Gear

I will admit I am a gear addict. I LOVE checking out suitcases and random gear for travel. But at the end of the day, there is only room for so much in our traveling life. And these are my favorites!

eBags TLS Mother Lode Mini Carry-on Suitcase

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - eBags Mother Lode MiniTwo years ago I was gifted an eBags Mother Lode Mini suitcase for my birthday. It has been my go to travel case ever since. I love that it can fit so much stuff, but still be carried on, avoiding pesky domestic baggage charges.  One of the reviews I had initially read about this bag said that two weeks worth of clothes fit in this bag for a trip to Europe. I can’t quite manage that with shoes and toiletries, but I have fit our entire family’s belongings in it for a weekend getaway! If you plan to ever check this bag, get this great cable TSA approved travel lock that allows you lock all of the compartments easily. Also, I will add that their customer service is amazing. I had an issue with my bag and within 2 weeks I had a new one at my door. A company to love!

Skip Hop Little Kid Luggage

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Skip Hop Rolling LuggageMy son has had the Skip Hop rolling bag for 4 years and still LOVES it. Now that he’s 7 he’s old enough to roll it on his own all the time, but even before that it was easy to put over our shoulder with the attached strap. For short trips, my son will pack all of his clothes and his toys in this bag. For longer international trips, this bag holds his entertainment for the plane, snacks, headphones and a change of clothes in case of a spills. He is slowly realizing it’s time to upgrade, but he doesn’t want to let go of his monkey. This little bag has seen at least 10 countries and countless national parks in the past 4 years!

Eagle Creek Packing Cubes

Travel Gear - Gift Guide for FamiliesThere are so many different packing cubes out there and I have tried a ton of them. But I always go back to my favorite brand – Eagle Creek. I still have my very first set of packing cubes that I bought on the advice of Rick Steves in 2000! These babies hold up! Now I use either the compression cubes or the newest light weight cubes.

BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Bubble Bum Booster seatI have written about this previously, but it continues to be one of our most used travel accessories. The BubbleBum Inflatable Booster Seat is a lifesaver for traveling families! We have used it in the US for rides in Uber, in our car when a friend needs a ride home, on the road in India, in Fiji, in Mexico and it will keep going with us wherever we go. Once deflated it fits perfectly in the front pocket of my Ebags carry-on suitcase! It’s sort of fun to look around to all my son’s classmates who now also have the Bubble Bum.

Scrubba Travel Wash System

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Scrubba washing systemBack in my backpacker days this would have been so useful. Now traveling with a small child (and messy husband) this is a necessity, especially for those who like to travel light. The Scrubba Travel Wash System is basically like having your own little washing machine out on the road. It is perfect for kids clothes as you don’t have to use a ton of muscle to get them clean. A touch expensive, but you will save money not sending clothes to the laundry and in being able to pack lighter thereby avoiding excessive baggage charges.

Travel Tupperware

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - TupperwareNow I know you think I am totally off my rocker! This seems weird I know, but as a traveling family, we always need food on the road. For road trips I always take a regular size bowl for my son’s oatmeal or cereal, but while traveling internationally I don’t like to take up the space. These collapsable bowls are perfect for oatmeal or cereal in the room as well as for taking a few leftovers from meals to eat later.

Travel Technology

Moment Lens for iPhone

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Moment LensEveryone travels with their phones these days, and often the phone ends up being the main source of photos taken, especially when you are a traveling family lugging around kids and baggage as it is. The Moment Lens (for iPhone) is a great camera travel accessory that can in many ways replace your regular camera. To make life easier, they have also released an awesome phone case that makes it even easier to attach the lens. We love the wide angle and telephoto lenses. These make already beautiful camera phone (iPhone) photos even more amazing.

LifeProof iPhone Cover

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Iphone Lifeproof caseThis doesn’t necessarily go well with the above, but it has been a lifesaver for us. The LifeProof iPhone case is waterproof and shockproof to protect your phone no matter where you go. It would have been useful to have this before we hiked the Narrows last summer, but I did learn a very important lesson and use it always now! We use one phone in the family for the Moment lens above and one fully protected under the Lifeproof case!

Belkin Headphone Splitter

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Belkin Headphone splitterFor families with multiple children and limited electronic devices, this awesome and cheap Belkin Headphone Splitter is a must have. The question is, is it a gift for the kids or for the parents? A perfect stocking stuffer if I ever saw one!

Bluetooth Headphones

Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesNow that phones are moving into the sphere of no AV jack, it’s imperative to get with the program. I recently purchased these SoundPEATS Bluetooth Headphones and I love them! There are a ton of different colors and styles to suit everyone. They are sweatproof which makes exercising with them a breeze. And, so far the battery life seems to last forever too. Included in the box are several different types of ear pieces to ensure a great fit for almost everyone. For less than $30 these are a great buy (considering I had wanted the $100 Bose headphones!).

Sony Mirrorless Camera

sonynexIt was tough to give up my Nikon DSLR, but it has only come out on my travels once in the last 4 years since I bought a Sony Mirrorless Camera. It is just too bulky to lug around, especially when you have children to tow around too! I LOVE my Sony and recommend it to everyone. My recommendation is to buy only the base (whatever one you can afford – I have the 6300) and add on your own lenses. My two go to lenses are the 20mm and the 35mm (which is in effect a 50mm). You don’t get the zoom with these as they are both fixed lenses, but the benefit of no zoom is excellent low light photography and they are super small and light which means your camera can fit in your tiny little purse!

GoPro Hero 5 (or 6)

Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesMy three must have cameras are my iPhone, my Sony Mirrorless and my GoPro. I do not travel anywhere without the three! Our GoPro has seen the icy cold lake water of Ireland, the thermal waters of Iceland, the cool blue waters in the South Pacific and the clear waters of our Palm Springs hotel pool to mention a few! It has also been dropped and run over while riding a bicycle! It has been wagged here and there and is still in perfect working order. It’s water proof, drop proof and kid proof. A must have in any adventure traveling families camera bag.

Travel Clothes & Accessories


Gift Guide for Traveling Families

Photo via SCOTTeVest

I have recently come across this company, SCOTTeVEST which makes clothes with secret pockets. I LOVE this. I like to travel very minimally – without a bag if I can get away with it. All of their products look cool, but I’m particularly in love with the Madeline Cardigan. It is long enough to cover my bum in leggings, lightweight, but thick enough to keep me warm on flights and has secret pockets for my phone, passport and small wallet. I am now putting the other cardigans on my wishlist as well so I have options, you know!

Ex-Officio BugsAway Clothing

exofficioI am constantly worried about mosquitos biting me through my regular leggings when I travel to buggy places. In my eternal search for ‘regular’ clothes that would help protect me from the little critters, I came across Ex Officio’s line of Bugsaway clothing. I bought a pair of leggings, these sweatpants and a light jacket. I love the leggings because they have a great little zipper pocket on the leg. I literally wear them every week (which I probably shouldn’t!) still. They are all super light and thin making them great for hot and humid climates. And the most amazing thing is, is that they are made with mosquito and tick repellent in them which means no more worrying about getting eaten alive while wearing black leggings!  Love them all! They also have socks and underwear for even more protection from those pesky mosquitos!

Packable & Crushable Hat

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Sun hatLove love love my packable and crushable hat. Not only does it fare well in the back of my car, it does great in my suitcase! I was devastated to forget it on our recent trip to Fiji. This is the perfect travel accessory for women, especially ones with fare skin who need to keep covered.

Kantha Travel Wrap

Ultimate Holiday gift guide for traveling families - kantha travel wrapI have recently written about my love of the Kantha Travel Wrap – it is the best gift for a traveling family/lady. It came in use so many times on our trip to Fiji and has been used in the cooler weather of LA as well.

Le Cou: A Revolutionary Little Shirt

Ultimate Holiday gift guide for traveling families - le cou dickeyI am not known to be the snazziest dresser when I’m traveling (or even when I am home), but the resurgence of these ultra hip and modern dickeys by Le Cou have me very excited to jazz up my look. The African Wax print is prefect for my almost always black outfits. But mostly I’m eyeing the Olympia Gingham version that can be worn in so many different ways. These dickey’s are so light, that they truly are fabulous travel accessories that can be worn no matter where you live. Le Cou is one of the few companies I have supported in a Kickstarter, so you know I must love it!

 Crossbody iPhone Purse

purseLast year I did away with my big old heavy purse. I have a 7 year old who can carry his own belongings so I do not need to have a big bag with everything under the sun in it. For everyday errands, running around town and travel, I have transitioned to this little bitty purse. I love it! It’s super cheap (and not the most amazing quality either I must admit) which means when I’m ready for a change my pocket book won’t get too mad.

Travel Books & Magazines

For those who just can’t get enough travel in real life, there are some amazing ways to armchair travel. My favorite addition to the scene this year is the beautiful travel and lifestyle magazine Twist.

Twist Travel MagazineTwist Winter - Gift Guide for Traveling Families

Twist Travel Magazine is a beautiful online and in-print publication that aims to help its family travel readers lead a travel inspired life with help on where to go and how to look your best getting there! The first published issue just hit the stands and it’s gorgeous! For those who are hard to buy for, a year subscription is a wonderful gift. It’s on my wish list! And if you are a traveler yourself, with a minimal budget, make sure to at least check it out online.

Travel Listography

Gift guide for family travelersI just saw this book in the bookstore today and remembered how much I loved it and thought I definitely should recommend it to you all again! Travel Listography is the perfect present for the traveler who also loves to make lists (me!!). This journal/ list making book provides 70 prompts for travel adventures near and far. Topics like quintessential cities and countries visited to food you want to try around the world, this is perfect for the blogger, traveler or arm-chair traveler in your life.

Lonely Planet’s Wild World

Gift Guide for Traveling FamiliesI am a sucker for coffee table books. I have so many that I have them scattered around my bookshelves in large piles! But even with the ubiquitous of the internet and Instagram, nothing beats inspiration from a photo you can look at closely in your hands. And that is exactly what I get from Lonely Planet’s Wild World book. This follow up to Lonely Planet’s Beautiful World is a fabulous conversation starter and is great for sitting around the fire family trip planning.

If that one doesn’t float your boat, there are a ton of other options this year focusing on things like epic drives, epic bike rides and the one I have on my wish list – National Parks of America.

Humans of New York

ultimate holiday gift guide for traveling families - HoNYIf you want less inspiration and more personal stories, check out the second book, Humans of New York, Stories which is brilliant. If you don’t know anything about Humans of New York, then get on Facebook and follow Brandon. It’s an amazing collection of photos and stories of people from around the world. What started as a peek into the world of New Yorker’s lives has transformed into a global phenomenon. This book will be a welcome addition to any household, not just the travelers homes. Grab some tissues, a drink and snuggle up for a journey through some amazing lives.

Travel Related Miscellany

Sometimes you just don’t know what to get your world traveler friends, in that situation, here are several perfect travel themed items anyone will go gaga over!

Travel Scratch-Off Map

Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families - Scratch off MapWith no shortage of scratch off travel maps to choose from, this Travel Scratch Off Map by Landmass is my favorite. It allows you to scratch off individual US states as well as individual countries which makes it tops in my book. In addition, it also has a scratch off flag for each country at the bottom. Perfect! We actually have two of them – one for my office and one for my son’s room! For the long term travelers, check out this awesome scratch off journal.

Travel Themed Homewares

Ultimate holiday gift guide for traveling families - airportag pillowsAirportag offers some really unique options for personalized travel accessories. The personalized throw pillow is a great option for someone who had a special trip or date that would be fun to remember. For me, my pillow would say BOM and the date of my son’s birth in Mumbai! There are a variety of cool travel related products ranging from throw pillows to tote bags, canvas prints as well as t-shirts. Great ideas for the person who has it all!

Travel Experiences

As I  mentioned earlier, many travelers often prefer experiences over things. This can be local memberships to the science museum, the zoo or awesome experiences while traveling. This wasn’t always so easy to do in years past, but with the internet and gift cards it can be done quite easily now. The following are my two favorite experiences that are easy and practical gifts!


Ultimate holiday gift guide for traveling families - tinggly experiencesTinggly is the ultimate in an experience gift. You pick the price point, the recipient picks the excursion in over 100 countries around the world and enjoys life! I have seen this type of giving for wedding gifts when they couple knows where they will be and what they want to do, but Tinggly takes it to a whole new level of awesomeness. My problem is I wouldn’t be able to decide which experience to choose! From a spa experience to bungee jumping to a guided hike, there are so many amazing things to do almost every where in the world.


Ultimate holiday gift guide for family travelers - CityPassCityPass is one of my favorite gifts to give, even to friends who live locally. It is a good motivator to get people out and exploring even in their own city! CityPass has passes in many major cities in the US including Chicago, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia and so many more. CityPass offers visitors (and locals) access to a variety of the city’s most famous attractions at an unbeatable price. Give the CityPass VIP treatment to someone this year!

For more travel gift ideas, read my gift guide for outdoor kids, my post on Stocking Stuffers under $20, my post on top 7 travel essentials every traveler should have and an old post on travel activities for kids.

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Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families

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34 Responses to “Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide for Traveling Families”

  1. Katharina Says:

    Love the World Laundry Bag and I have the Scrubba Travel Wash System on my on Christmas Gift Guide.The Citypass is a really great idea too!


  2. Julie @ Girl on the Move Says:

    The travel scratch off maps are quite popular this year! And I love the headphone splitter…perfect for any traveling family!
    Julie @ Girl on the Move recently posted…Gift Guide: Travel GiftsMy Profile


  3. Rob Taylor Says:

    Great suggestions. CityPASS and the Scratch Off Map are my favorites, and they’re great for almost everyone, not just big travelers.
    Rob Taylor recently posted…The Casa Marina Penthouse: tips for dining with kids in an adult restaurantMy Profile


  4. Small Town Washington Says:

    These are all great ideas. Love that you included laundry line. Sometimes you just need to wash your undies and socks. 🙂
    Small Town Washington recently posted…Six Reasons to Visit Double Bluff Beach on Whidbey IslandMy Profile


  5. Lisa Says:

    Thank you for a great list! We loved the scratch off travel map, first time we’ve seen this. Such a clever idea! Added some of these goodies to our wishlist.


  6. Marta Says:

    The inflatable booster seats are such a space saver! I recently made a similar list, for other travellers but as a hint to friends and family on what I’d like to receive, but hadn’t thought to those 😉 #weekendwanderlust
    Marta recently posted…Christmas in Dublin with children: for festive spirit lovers onlyMy Profile


  7. XX, Will Travel Says:

    Seriously want everything on this list!!!
    XX, Will Travel recently posted…I Tried Being Sporty in Guatemala. I Failed.My Profile


  8. Marcia Says:

    What a great list! I love Le Cou and the Scrubba, will have to check them out. Thanks!!
    Marcia recently posted…Oxford, City of Dreaming SpiresMy Profile


  9. Ruth - Tanama Tales Says:

    I need several things from this list. The headphone splitter would be great. During my last long flight, my husband’s video system was broken and I let him take my seat. That meant I was bored to death during the entire flight. And, I can use one of those city experiences or city passes.
    Ruth – Tanama Tales recently posted…Valencia: Old TownMy Profile


    • kkowen Says:

      You are so nice!! I would have never given up my entertainment system.. Well maybe to my son but that’s only for my own piece of mind! Haha


  10. jen Says:

    I use the mother lode carry on too – love it! I would be pretty happy to get a trip as a gift too – great idea for a wedding present.
    jen recently posted…Thailand This Winter: Get Three Vacations in OneMy Profile


  11. Brenda Tolentino Says:

    A great list! I’m very picky about clothing these days because we travel so much but that legging by Betabrand looks great. I love Airportag’s kitschy travel products. That scrubba laundry system would be great too. Thanks for all the suggestions. Happy Holiday!
    Brenda Tolentino recently posted…Berjaya Langkawi Resort, One with NatureMy Profile


  12. Meg Jerrard Says:

    I just got the Scrubba Wash bag and it’s AMAZING. Love the fact that I’ll never have to hand wash again, I think this is one of those gifts which you don’t think you need until you’ve got it, and then you’ll never go back again!!

    And the laundry line is a fab idea too, especially for those who backpack and camp a lot. I’ve found that the scrubba works well as a laundry bag too so you can double up on those purposes 🙂
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…Winter Breaks With Warmer Weather: The Best Winter Sun EscapesMy Profile


  13. Economical Excursionists Says:

    When traveling with a partner, having a pair of headphone splitters is great! It seems small and trivial, but my husband and I enjoy being able to watch a movie together or a tv show we watch at home together while traveling. Great while on a plane, train, etc
    Economical Excursionists recently posted…How to Make Christmas Special No Matter Your LocationMy Profile


  14. Claudia Says:

    I really don’t need any gadgets, even less so any travel related gadget. I actually told everyone that if they do intend to get me a present for Christmas, the only thing I want is actually money that I can spend on travel!
    Claudia recently posted…Things to do in Bali in one weekMy Profile


  15. Traveling Rockhopper Says:

    I love all travel gears! Sometimes they’re a bit too pricey to buying them just like that, but as a gift they are perfect! 🙂
    p.s. World Laundry Bag is so beautiful!!!
    Traveling Rockhopper recently posted…New Zealand – HobbitonMy Profile


  16. Sue @NoFixedAbodeForSue Says:

    What a fun post,and some new ideas for me. I had recently heard about the scratch off map and think that is a brilliant idea. I always travel with my laundry bag (as smelly gym kit is nasty) but I love the idea of the travel wash system. I also think the collapsable bowls are fantastic, I can think of many times when they would have come in handy.


    • kkowen Says:

      Thanks for the comment Sue! You would love the scrubba although in India it’s usually pretty easy to get clothes washed for pennies 🙂


  17. Jen Joslin Says:

    It can be hard shopping for travelers, but this is a great list! We would love that laundry line and a Scrubba! May need to send this to our families for inspiration 🙂


  18. Lesley Says:

    I’ve been thinking about getting my daughter a Skip Hop Little Kid Luggage piece but I’m hesitant because I’ll end up carrying an extra bag everywhere. 😉

    I just sent my husband to Airportag for ideas. Great spot for gifts for me.
    Lesley recently posted…Me Day at Outrigger Laguna Phuket Beach ResortMy Profile


    • kkowen Says:

      Yeah if you can manage without the extra bag it’s probably best to go without. My son has been rolling his for severs years now so he’s used to it. The only time we get stuck with it is when we are running between fights!!


  19. Holly Says:

    The laundry bag is something I would like.


  20. Michele {Malaysian Meanders} Says:

    I got my daughter a scratch off map last year, but it doesn’t have individual states. That’s a nice touch with this one. We’ve also been trying to figure out if we’re “allowed” to scratch off Russia (so huge!) if we never left the airport. I want those iPhone camera lenses that you suggested. Nice.
    Michele {Malaysian Meanders} recently posted…Saks Fifth Avenue’s Enchanting Holiday WindowsMy Profile


  21. Jacquie Says:

    Hi Karilyn, I am a fellow traveller with my own brand of collapsible kitchenware specifically designed for travellers. I am biased but the benefit of mine over the ones you have listed here, is that they lock lids which makes them perfect for putting in your daypack without the lids falling off! They also come as a set – one large and one small (great for the little one) 🙂 If its ok to mention here, you can buy them on Amazon: http://amzn.to/1HTg2Fl Thank you I am a hard-working one man show at the moment just trying to get the brand name out there, so any support is greatly appreciated. Thankyou 🙂


  22. Juhi Says:

    Love this list, and thanks for the shoutout on the kantha wrap!
    I know I’d be happy if any of these things showed up in my Christmas stocking 🙂


  23. Patti Says:

    Great list! I would love that map for my apartment but I definitely need a lens and waterproof case for my smartphone.
    Patti recently posted…The 11 Best Gifts for Travelers This YearMy Profile


  24. Winsant Says:

    This is a really amazing list. Awesome products, some very useful and some for fun and excitement.


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