Finding travel gifts for your friends and family who like to hit the road can be a daunting task. Not only do you need to find a gift that they’ll like, but something they’ll actually use. What do you give someone who lives out of a backpack? What can you buy your friend who’s hitting the road for a year? Definitely not a piece of furniture or artwork!
As travellers ourselves who have been on the road for 10 years now, we’ve got the inside scoop on useful and fun items for travel that would make great presents. Whether it’s a birthday, Christmas or a going away gift you’re after, you’ll find some ideas in this article.
In this post, I’ll list 11 unique, fun and practical travel gifts for your special someone.
What better gift for someone who loves to travel than giving an experience. When it comes to travel gifts, this unique idea from Tinggly is a good bet. Visit their website and choose a category that’s relevant to the recipient of the gift – “Key to Europe”, “Perfect For Him”, “Perfect For Her”, “Merry Christmas”, “Ultimate Collection”, “Bucketlist”, etc.
In each category are numerous tours and experiences for your travel loving friend to choose from (in some cases, there are over 700 options). Once they’ve chosen the event that interests them, they have 5 years to redeem it. Experiences and tours are available worldwide, so just ensure that the gift you choose is offered in the country the recipient is going to.
When it comes to travel gifts, you really can’t go wrong with a wine tasting in Tuscany, a helicopter flight over Las Vegas, a day at the spa in Bali or volcano exploration in Hawaii! As travellers ourselves, we can say we definitely prefer memorable moments over possessions.
You can opt to send a physical box to the gift recipient, or send a voucher by email. Click here to learn more about this fun gift idea.
2. JBL Portable Speakers
We’ve tried numerous bluetooth portable speakers over the years, and as far as affordable electronic travel gifts go, these speakers are the best. Everyone has a smartphone these days and connecting to these JBL speakers is easy. Plus, it weighs in at just over 1lb, making it practical for travellers.
Many people like to listen to music while they’re at the beach, chilling out by the pool, or having a relaxing night playing cards with new friends. Bluetooth speakers are a must.
We have the JBL Flip 3 and love the crisp sound this compact speaker gives off, and it’s actually quite loud. However, there’s a new model out now – the JBL Flip 4 and it’s waterproof! Click here to read reviews and compare prices on Amazon.
*Update: December, 2019 – we just purchased the latest model, which is the JBL Flip 5. It’s a little bit bigger, but the sound is great and it’s waterproof! Great for taking to the beach or pool.
3. Handpresso Portable Espresso
Not only is this travel gift great for those who love to wander, but it’s an excellent idea for coffee addicts.
If you’ve gone on a long-term trip before, or if you travel on a budget, you’ll know that the coffee available at hostels and guest houses is usually sub-par filter coffee. To get that real latte or americano espresso coffee, you would need to purchase one from a cafe – and to a traveller, that’s an addition on the budget each day that not many want to spend.
Luckily, there’s the Handpresso!
This portable espresso machine can be taken on the go. It’s small, compact and all you need is some hot water (which is found in basically every accommodation), and some espresso grounds (which you can pick up at the grocery store).
You simply add the grounds to a little pod, add some hot water, pump up the machine to build up some pressure, press the release button and voila, a shot of espresso appears. You can then add more hot water to your cup to make it less strong, or, add milk like we do to have a latte.
The only thing is that you do need to be fairly strong in order to pump up the machine (men will have no issue, and women with good upper body strength will be fine!)
4. Lush Body Care
Whether it’s a man or a woman you’re trying to buy a travel gift for, with products for both sexes, and unisex items, Lush has you covered. During our recent trip to Chicago, we discovered this brand and I’ve been hooked ever since.
Lush products are vegetarian, handmade and nothing is tested on animals. Not only that, but the ingredients are practically all natural (with some safe synthetics), and for the responsible traveller in your life, they’ll be happy to know that many of the items don’t have any packaging.
When you’re thinking about travel gifts, consider the shampoo, conditioner and soap (all of which are solids and have zero packaging). Lush has shampoo and conditioner “bars”, which have no wrapping. They come in a reusable tin can (which you purchase separately) and are perfect for travellers for many reasons.
There’s no plastic waste and since it’s not a liquid, it can be easily brought on board a flight – great for those who fly carry-on. Plus, it takes up less space in luggage than a shampoo or conditioner bottle.
Nick and I both use the “Honey I Washed My Hair” Shampoo Bar and the “Big” Conditioner Bar, and I use the Ultrabland Facial Cleanser as well. I love all 3 products. Click here to learn more about Lush and to purchase items online.
5. Travel Hammock
Travel hammocks are great for those are looking to sleep under the stars, or on remote beaches. It’s also great for campers or for those who like to do some multi-day trekking (provided there are trees around to hang the hammock from!).
A travel hammock is also an excellent travel gift for those who just plan to backpack around. Setting up a hammock on the balcony of your beachfront hut, or bringing it to the beach for a day of chilling out between two palm trees is the ultimate in relaxation.
There are numerous travel hammocks to choose from, just make sure you get one that is lightweight and rolls up into a small package. Travellers like small items! The ENO Eagles Nest Outfitters and Arbor Creek hammocks have great reviews on Amazon. But, you can click here to compare prices and reviews on numerous travel hammocks.
6. Bluffworks Clothing for Men
If you’re looking for travel gifts for men, Bluffworks brand of clothing is a good option. Why? Because they are quick dry and don’t wrinkle, which is a huge issue for travellers. For business travellers, or those who jet-set, having a nice set of clothing in your luggage is essential. Even if the guy you’re buying a gift for plans on budget backpacking around the world, it’s always a good idea to have 1 nice dress shirt and 1 nice pair of pants.
You never know what can happen on the road. We’ve been randomly invited to weddings, found ourselves in the area when a new bar was opening up, and were invited to enjoy a 7 course fine dining meal. Shorts and a t-shirt simply wouldn’t meet the dress code.
Nick has owned the “Original” pants in charcoal for about 6 years now, and he wears them whenever there’s a “fancy” event happening – and they never wrinkle. Click here to learn more about Bluffworks clothes.
7. Headphones / Earbuds
Having a set of bluetooth speakers is great, but having your own set of headphones is a must when on the road – they’re incredibly useful. Listening to music and podcasts while bumping along on a bus, chatting to a friend on video calling, or for those flight days when you want to watch a movie, headphones are a must-have and make great travel gifts.
Look for earbuds or headphones that offer noise cancellation and a mic, and also make sure that the earbuds you’re purchasing are compatible with your travel friend’s smartphone or tablet. For example, with the iPhone X, the headphones actually connect via a lightning cord, so regular headphones wouldn’t work.
We have Meze earbuds which give off a unique and incredible sound, and actually, they offer different sized silicone buds, which is great for those with small ears (me), or big ears (Nick). There are numerous option available when it comes to earbuds. Click here to check out Meze and click here to compare other brands and prices.
*Update December, 2019: We now both have Bluetooth Apple AirPods and although we can’t use them when connecting to the TV screens on airplanes, we watch our shows on our smartphones or tablet using them. Plus, when walking and working out, it’s nice to not have cords in the way. Click here to compare the different styles of AirPods.
8. Carry Case for Earbuds and Cords
There’s nothing worse than getting a new pair of earbuds or a new smartphone charge cord and have it start to fall apart. Sadly, this happens quite often to us and it’s most likely because we just toss our cords into our bags, or into a drawer and don’t really take care of them. Regardless of whether or not you’ve purchased earbuds as a travel gift, consider getting a carry case for charging cords.
I’ve just found out about this product called the “Nest” which is a silicone carry case. This practical item is extremely affordable and incredibly useful! Click here to learn more about the Nest. *Update December, 2019: While most people have AirPods these days, this “nest” is still a great idea for lightening cords which always get tangled in purses and backpacks.
9. prAna Clothes
Another clothing company that is an excellent travel gift. This time, however, it’s for both men and women. The travel, adventure and yoga clothes that prAna makes are practical, stylish and ethical. This brand cares about fair trade and sustainability.
I personally wear the Halle pant on about 95% of our flight days and I’ve always worn them when trekking – they’re stretchy and comfy. I also own a sporty tank top, a cotton t-shirt and a hooded sweater, while Nick has a polo shirt, a dress polo and some loose cotton yoga pants. The clothes have lasted us for 6 years so far and are still going strong!
I wholeheartedly recommend this brand as a gift for the traveller in your life. Click here to see prAna products on Amazon. Or, click here to head to their website. *Pro-tip, prices are cheaper on Amazon.
*Update December, 2019: I fell off my bike and got a hole in my Halle Pants that I’m wearing in the photo above. So, after around 6 years I finally had to purchase a new pair, this time I went with black but in the same style. And, they are still built just as well as when I purchased my first pair 6 years ago. Also, for those women who are tall like I am (5’10”), these pants come in a “tall” length!
10. Water Purification Products
When it comes to travel gifts, this might not sound like the coolest idea out there, but it can be a lifesaver and is something that travellers need to have in their bags.
When travelling to more offbeat destinations where the drinking water is questionable, it’s imperative that water from the tap is purified before being consumed. Similarly, when you’re camping, cycling or trekking in the wilderness and the water source isn’t safe, it’ll need to be purified. We used a SteriPen when trekking in remote locations in Kyrgyzstan and it worked very well.
Not only do products like SteriPen or Lifestraw remove harmful bacteria and microbes from water, but travellers don’t need to purchase bottled water, which helps to save cash and the environment. There are a few brands out there, but SteriPen and Lifestraw are at the top.
With SteriPen, you simply fill a (reusable) bottle with 1 liter of water and “stir” the pen around for 89 seconds. As you stir, it gives off UV rays that kill harmful bacteria. Once you see a smiley face on the device, the water is safe to drink. There are different models of SteriPen, some charge via USB, others with batteries.
The Lifestraw is only good for one person as it is a personal straw, which has a filter inside of it. It’s small and lightweight and is a good option for drinking straight from streams or puddles in emergency backcountry situations – it also filters out debris. I think of it as more of a survival tool, which could be a cool travel gift if someone is going on an expedition. Click here to learn more about the SteriPens available and click here to learn more about Lifestraw.
11. Games (fun travel gifts!)
If you’re looking for fun travel gifts, then obviously purchasing a game (or 2) is a good idea! If the person is travelling solo, then games for 1 or more are preferable but consider games that can be played with a group over a few beers.
We always have games in our backpacks and play when we’re waiting for flights, for our meals to show up, or when we’re in our accommodation. Keep in mind that travel games need to be somewhat small and lightweight.
Our latest purchase is Bananagrams which is kind of like Scrabble but without the board, and it’s more fun. Other hilarious adult games include Cards Against Humanity (a great way to get to know people – and their sick humour), and The Game Of Nasty Things (travellers would just bring the cards and not the actual box, obviously). We recently purchased Skip Bo and played it a lot together during our trip to Ecuador and Peru.
Bonus #12: Mini Projector Screen
We recently picked up a cool Aaxa mini-projector and we’ve been using it a lot. At 400 lumens, it’s bright enough to display with a little bit of ambient light and with a resolution of 720p it’s surprisingly crisp, even when displayed at 75″ on a wall.
The best part? It literally fits in the palm of your hand! This little thing would be an ideal holiday gift for that person who travels on a budget and loves watching Netflix. It’s affordable, sleek, useful and very portable.
Bonus #13 A Ukulele
When we were traveling in Mozambique, a friend of ours, Henrik, was travelling with a Ukulele and I have to say it’s a pretty great travel companion.
Everywhere we went he would strum a tune and the locals would come out from their homes and sing and dance with us. It really added to our travels there.
There are a few cool travel ukuleles on Amazon that you can pick up for under $60.
A ukelele would make a great travel gift, and you could even learn to play while on the road. Musician Authority has some great posts on some easy songs for beginners and beginner’s guides to playing the ukulele.
Happy Gift Giving!
There you have it, 12 fun, unique and (more importantly) practical travel gifts. In reality, no matter what you give your travelling friend, I’m sure they will love it. But hopefully this article gave you some good ideas for products that can actually be taken on the road. Every time your friend uses your gift while they’re away, they’ll think of you. Happy gift giving!
Are there some cool travel gifts that I missed? Leave a comment below!
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