The winter holiday season is upon us, and with it comes the question I’ve always had a difficult time answering: “What do you want for Christmas?”
And this year I think it’s the hardest.
Nine months back, Ian and I put an extreme amount of time and effort into minimizing our belongings to begin a full-time traveling lifestyle. And the results have been really nice. Having less means better organization. It’s much easier to find things when you need them. And the words “cramming” and “stuffing” have pretty much exited our packing vocabulary. I now cringe at the idea of accumulation. But alas, it’s the holiday season, and there must be SOMETHING I can come up with for an answer. Right?
While I still can’t think of too many things I personally want this year, I’ve compiled this list of gift ideas for our readers out there seeking gifts for the travel lover in their life. Women AND men are covered here. Some are stocking stuffers, some are pricey, and the rest are somewhere in between. A few items are more practical or common than the others, and some are quite unique. This diversity was intentional so there would be a wide variety of options for all types of travelers. Absolutely none of the ideas here are the crappy generic gifts you find at department stores during the holidays and reluctantly buy due to a loss for creative ideas. The gift ideas here all have some thought behind them and are hand-selected for loved ones with a passion for travel. I’m not personally longing for all these items this year, but I do hope this list gets you one step closer to a decision on what to buy your travel-loving friend or family member this holiday season.
UPDATE November 2016: The list and links here have been updated for your 2016 holiday shopping!
Holiday Gift Ideas for Traveling Women & Men
Gift Idea #1: Scratch-Off Travel Map
You may have seen me share a photo recently on Facebook of a scratch-off travel map that was gifted to us a few weeks ago. Well, I thought it was such a nice, thoughtful gift that I simply had to include it on this list.
Gift Idea #2: Earbud Case
My earbuds are always getting tangled up in makeup, pens, and other small items in my purse. And loosely throwing them in a pocket or bag for travel causes organization problems galore. Both male and female travelers can benefit from a designated place to store their buds. Spruce up this gift by adding a nice pair of earbuds if your recipient is in need. (I have inexpensive Sony buds, which I love.)
For men, try searching Etsy for a simple leather earbud holder.
Gift Idea #3: Selfie Stick
I’m not sure how I feel about owning one of these myself, but since setting up a tripod is a pain, I’m actually starting to consider it.
Gift Idea #4: Packing Cubes
I have an obsession with organization, and it’s so easy to get disorganized when you’re living out of a suitcase that these are on my list of essentials.
Read more about packing containers in Intro to Packing Containers: Organize Your Carry-On in 4 Steps.
Gift Idea #5: E-Reader
Also a must, in my book. (Haha, see what I did there?) Our Kindle is so nice to travel with since it’s lightweight and multiple books in one package! Plus, Kindle books are pretty inexpensive AND eco-friendly. (Popular books like The Hunger Games and Catching Fire are both well under $10 on Kindle.)
Gift Idea #6: Selfie Camera
Ian recently tested 5 point-and-shoot cameras for Milky Way photography, and of course I had an opportunity to try them. I really latched onto the Sony Cyber-shot RX100 III. It’s small, light, and the fancy LCD flips completely up and forward-facing on this guy. It’s pricey since the combination of its large sensor and its built-in lens can get you pro-looking photos (that nifty blurred background look). Of course there are cheaper compact camera options, but at that point I’d opt for the selfie stick or just selfie mode on my phone. If I didn’t already have my Sony a6000, this is the camera I’d choose. Update: I bought and loved one of these for two years until I dropped it in the water in Milford Sound. Oops.
Gift Idea #7: Travel-Sized Toiletry Containers
Here’s a stocking stuffer any traveler can use. It’s a much better solution than purchasing travel-sized toiletries prior to each trip. These ones are well rated and have attached suction cups for easy in-shower access.
Gift Idea #8: Comfy Travel Shoes
If you’re brave enough to pick out clothing as a gift, shoes are the safest way to go. Just be sure you know what size to order. Plus, if you order from Zappos.com and a return is necessary, they have free return shipping as part of their ridiculously awesome return policy. For the warm-weather traveler, flip flops are an essential. Sanuks makes the COMFIEST flip flops for women, and they have several style options.
And for a general wear shoe, you might consider these custom-painted TOMS I stumbled across on Etsy. They’re not as returnable as a Zappos purchase, but you can feel good knowing that TOMS is distributing a pair of shoes to someone in need because of your purchase.
Gift Idea #9: Travel Sewing Kit
This gift is handy for the long-term or the be-ready-for-anything type of traveler. A small one should suffice, since packing space is precious. No need to go overboard with anything bigger than this one here.
Gift Idea #10: Camera Strap
Most travelers are photographers by default. Who goes places and doesn’t take photos? If the traveler you know uses a traditional camera (i.e. not just their cell phone) to take photos on a trip, then a camera strap is a great gift idea since there are so many customizable options available to make your gift unique. Handmade scarf straps are nice for the female traveler. Find them on Etsy, along with plenty of options for men.
Gift Idea #11: Unique Travel Posters
There are lots of options when it comes to travel posters. Search Etsy and pick one that fits the person you’re buying for, whether it’s a location they’re passionate about or a poster with a look that fits their home decor, you should be able to find something that suits your needs.
Gift Idea #12: Space Pen
Countless times I’ve needed a pen while traveling and wasn’t prepared. I now carry one of these in my purse. It’s half the length of a regular pen and the cap never falls off! These are great for guys, too — especially the ones who perpetually carry a pen in their front pocket. Oh, and it writes in ALL conditions. That’s the selling point here. It even writes in space! (Ooooo, fancy!)
Gift Idea #13: Movie Streaming Subscription
I’m addicted to Netflix. Others like Amazon Prime because they get movie streaming and free two-day shipping on Amazon purchases. Either way, this is a good gift for travelers — especially those traveling abroad — because there is always down time while traveling, and it’s nice to watch movies and TV shows in your native language. Plus, the Netflix movie selection is better in some other countries, so you the traveler in your life can watch even better movies.
Gift Idea #14: A Trip or Travel Activity
This may seem obvious, but if you’re looking for a nice gift for someone who likes to travel, why not give the gift of travel itself? It could be an activity at a destination they’ve already planned or a weekend getaway.
New in 2016: Airbnb Experiences was just officially launched in November 2016. It’s going to be big! These Experiences will offer a chance to learn something new or have a unique experience with a local host while traveling. Browse Airbnb’s new Experiences here. (New Airbnb users: Get $25-$35 in travel credit on Airbnb by signing up with this link!)
Gift Idea #15: Pocket-Sized Translation Dictionary
No matter how handy your translation app is when you have full WiFi, when you’re in a country that speaks a foreign language, a printed pocket translator will come in handy at some point. The pocket-sized part is key, though, because a traveler is unlikely to carry it with them at all if it’s large or bulky.
Gift Idea #16: Almost Anything Lightweight or Packable
Insulation jackets, rain pants, duffel bags, day bags… all of these things come in extremely lightweight, high quality options. The handiest ones can be stored in a compact size, usually stuffing into one of their own pockets, like this duffel from REI. (We personally own and love the ultra lightweight and packable Sea to Summit Ultrasil Daypack.)
Gift Idea #17: Travel Jewelry Case
I’m so over the ziplock-bag method of organizing my jewelry while traveling. I’m asking Ian for one of these for Christmas. Another option is the handmade fabric roll-up organizer. Again, lots of options to choose from on Etsy. I’m opting for the one below from Zappos (i.e. returnable if I don’t like it) since it’s got a zipper closure.
Gift Idea #18: Travel Organizer
This is handy for keeping your ID and boarding pass together, with space for a credit card or two. It can replace a wallet while traveling. Shopping for a male traveler? Here’s a manly option.
Gift Idea #19: Personalized Leather Luggage Tag
Here’s a nice personalized gift well-suited for the male traveler, with a style that women may like, too. There are plenty of cutesy luggage tags out there for women, too. View some of those options on my fashionable women’s travel blog here.
Gift Idea #20: Pushpin Travel Map
If a scratch-off map won’t suit the person you’re gifting, a pushpin travel map makes a great gift for all travelers. It’s an artistic way to track journeys, near and far.
Pssst! If you’re SUPER artistic yourself and enjoy big projects, look into trying this wooden wall art DIY, a more robust method of travel-tracking.
Want more ideas? View our list of Travel Essentials for the items we never travel without!
Have you found a fantastic gift perfect for a travel lover? Please share it with us in the comments below!
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.