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!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Let’s 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
This 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
I 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.
Such 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
Another 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
I 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 Luggage & Backpacks
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
Two 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! The newest version of this bag had a really cool pull out water bottle holder too. I think I need a new one.
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
My son had the Skip Hop rolling bag for 4 years and still refuses to let it go. Now that he’s 8 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!
Osprey Ace 38 Backpack
Now that my son is older, I decided it would be helpful for him to have a backpack to allow him to carry more stuff. After months of research and even purchasing several bags, we finally settled on the Osprey Ace 38 Backpack for him. It is a little tall for his small frame now, but it will grow with him through the years. The fit is great and even though we could overstuff it, we have been good about keeping it to no more than 12 lbs for him to carry easily.
This bag is perfect for camping trips, backpacking trips and travel backpacking!
REI Tarn 18 Day Pack
If you aren’t looking to backpack, but would rather get a great sized daypack for your kids, we love our REI Tarn 18 Daypack. It holds so much stuff, has a waist belt and plenty of bells and whistles (literally a whistle for emergencies!) for kids to enjoy. My son particularly loves the little pockets on the waist belt where he can hide his collection of rocks he picks up on the way!
AmazonBasics Backpack for Laptops
I told you I love gear! The AmazonBasics Backpack is a laptop bag really, but it is perfect for a family travler who needs to keep a ton of things organized! It fits my my laptop, external drives, camera gear (camera, 3 lenses, Gopro, etc) as well as my son’s homeschool packet with ease.
There are several zipper pockets making storage and organization super easy. There is also a small hidden pocket that I keep some money in with my extra sunglasses. The bag does get a bit heavy with no waist band support, but so far I love it as a great addition to my eBags carry-on.
PNW Daypack Backpack
The best thing you can do for travel is have a lightweight, easy to pack backpack to use for your day hikes and wanderings around towns. The PNW Sea to Sky is just that – super lightweight and folds up to fit in my pocket. With super deep water bottle pockets my water bottle doesn’t fall out anymore. The backpack is also waterproof meaning one less thing to travel with since you can be sure your camera won’t get wet inside of it even in the water.
Items for the Eco-Conscious Traveler
Seriously if you are still buying plastic bottles, you need the HydroFlask. There is no reason to buy plastic bottles anymore except in rare occasions! I love to have cold water to drink and this bottle keeps my ice frozen for up to 2 days. I’m not joking. It is so good. Mine has been beaten up like crazy, but it still is holding strong. This is a must have for travel or just day to day life at home. I promise you will drink so much more water when you have it with you all the time. It doesn’t spill, it doesn’t have condensation on the outside. It is just perfect. This is a great gift item for frequent travelers or even anyone!
If you have been following our adventures this past year you will know that we are Eco-Warriors in training. After our visit to the South China Sea this summer my son has been dead set on reducing our plastic consumption to zero. One of the ways we attempt this goal is by taking our own straws with us. We have both the curved and the straight, but prefer the straight straws for ease of cleaning. This set includes some of both with a cleaning brush that is easy to travel with. While at home we keep some in the car as well!
Another eco friendly item that is great to travel with is the Sea to Summit Cutlery set. This makes a great stocking stuffer! My son hangs his from his backpack so we always remember to use it when we are eating on the road. So far (about 5 countries) we have had no problems getting these through security in our carry on bags either. Definitely worth getting at least one set, although we now have one set for each of us!
Now 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. Trust me, we have used these bowls all over the world so far. They definitely come in handy and it helps that they are small and light.
Technology Must Haves for Traveling Families
Anker Battery Pack
This Anker Battery Pack is a bit bulky and heavy but it has been a lifesaver! It has three USB connections so you can charge several items at once. It also holds a ton of charge. I have used this to power my phone, Skyroam and two cameras on an overnight trip to the top of a volcano and I still had plenty of charge let to keep on going. I love this charger so much that it comes with me on every single trip and day trip! Definitely invest in one of these before you go away.
One of my favorite travel must haves these days is my Skyroam Solis. I was given one last year by the company, but I have continued to use it (and pay for it on my own) from Borneo to Brazil to Iceland and Guatemala to get internet on the go from the moment I land until the moment I take off. I love the monthly subscription service when I am traveling so that I never am without internet (unless I am somewhere without phone coverage!). The Skyroam connects up to 5 users at a time making it perfect for families who need access all the time.
The Skyroam itself is a great purchase for the traveler on your list that you want to stay in touch with while they are on the road. For 10% off use my link above and put NOBACKHOME in the code box. They often have specials as well, so check it out near the holidays for sure.
Moment Lens for iPhone
Everyone 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
This 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 a few summers ago, 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!
With my new iPhone X I have tried a few different covers and like the Ordtby.
Belkin Headphone Splitter
For 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!
These days with so many Bluetooth options you might not need this anymore, but we have found it still useful for my son’s iPad mini.
Now 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 sweat proof 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!).
If you have a little more money to spend, then definitely splash out on the Apple Airpods. I bought these for my husband and he doesn’t go anywhere without them. They are so light, have amazing sound and keep a long charge. Perfect for travel – except you can’t use them on the in-flight consoles, so don’t forget your old school headphones too!
Sony Mirrorless Camera
It was tough to give up my Nikon DSLR, but it has only come out on my travels once in the last 6 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). The benefit of these lenses are excellent low light photography and they are super small and light which means your camera can fit in your tiny little purse!
That said, for the last year I have been using a zoom lens which has almost replaced my other two favorite fixed lenses. The 16-70mm is expensive, but is an all around great lens for travel photography. I now only switch to my fixed lenses when I am shooting at night and need a lower F stop for clear night photos.
My 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 waterproof, drop proof and kid proof. A must have in any adventure traveling families camera bag.
If your traveler already has a GoPro, consider purchasing some of these amazing accessories. We love our GoPro Dome that allows you to take photos both underwater and over the water at the same time.
DJI Mavik Drone
I do not have one of these yet, but it’s on my wishlist! For travelers, this is a fun piece of equipment to enjoy on the road. You need to research in advance where you are going to make sure you are allowed to have one in each of the countries visiting, but overall I think this is a great addition to the technology arsenal!
After testing out my friend’s different drones and seeing them in action on the road, I really want the DJI Mavik Drone. Even though the set comes with all these bits and bobs, it actually folds up quite small and is pretty travel friendly.
Travel Clothes & Accessories
Last year I discovered 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! This is the only long sleeve I travel with when I am in warmer climates but need a little something to cover up with.
Ex-Officio BugsAway Clothing
I 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 jacquard leggings 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!). They are not as thin as my first pair of ExOfficio leggings, so I also end up wearing them a lot in colder climates!
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
Love 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
I 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
I 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
Last year I did away with my big old heavy purse. I have an 8 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.
Patagonia Hip Pack Mini
Ok, I have been noticing the trend of fanny packs, but have been trying to avoid getting caught up in it. Until, I spotted this little bugger at REI a few months ago. I have been using my Patagonia Hip Pack exclusively on our Gap Year for my credit cards, Passports and my phone when I want things to be a little hidden, but still easily accessible.
Miscellaneous Must Have Travel Items
Eagle Creek Packing Cubes
There 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
I 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
Back 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 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 is the beautiful travel and lifestyle magazine Twist. I was even a contributor to their Fall magazine which makes it even more of a reason you should buy it!
Twist Travel Magazine
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.
My son was gifted this book for his birthday in anticipation of our trip around the world and I 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 armchair traveler in your life.
Lonely Planet’s Wild World
I 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.
Humans of New York
If 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
With no shortage of scratch off travel maps to choose from, we are currently loving this US scratch off map by a local California Mom. This map comes with cute informative cards with information on the different locations as well as a super cool guitar pick to do your scratching. I can’t wait to see if they come out with an international edition as well.
Until they do, if you need something for the international family, this Travel Scratch Off Map by Landmass is another 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
Airportag 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!
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!
Tinggly 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.
CityPass 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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