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Are you looking for a useful travel gift for someone who travels a lot? Maybe for the favourite traveller in your life? Or perhaps you’re looking to treat yourself?
Travellers can be a tricky group of people for whom to buy presents.
They are not a homogenous bunch. Also, by necessity, most of them travel light and are very discerning about what is included in their packing list. Items are largely chosen because they are useful and will make their journey easier or more comfortable, as opposed to being objects of desire (although the two can overlap).
Having travelled to over 60 countries over three decades, I have a fairly good idea of what travellers need and have pulled together a list of presents for someone who travels a lot.
So put a smile on someone’s face by choosing from this list of super useful travel gifts to accommodate all budgets. Unless otherwise stated, I personally use all of these products.
Credit cards at the ready …
Useful travel gifts under £20
Let’s start with some easy wins. These super useful travel gifts all come in under £20 – some a lot less than that – making them ideal Christmas stocking fillers.
1. Packing cubes
Packing cubes are an essential tool to help to keep your gear organised when you travel. It doesn’t matter if you are backpacking on a budget or staying in five-star hotels, this is the perfect low-cost gift for someone who travels a lot.
These come in various sizes – I usually take away three different sizes with me – accommodating different sizes of items. Although they can be more expensive, I prefer packing cubes with a mesh front.
2. Travel padlock
A travel padlock is a must-have item for frequent fliers, particularly for backpackers who may have to store their stuff in a locker, for which they have to provide or rent a padlock.
For maximum versatility, choose one that is TSA approved.
3. Quick-drying towel
Again, this is a gift which is of most use to those travelling on a budget who need to pack their own towel.
Towels are bulky and occupy valuable backpack real estate. They take a long time to dry and I’m sure that there’s many a traveller out there who remembers being on the move with a damp, slightly whiffy towel in their backpack (I know I do!).
The solution is one of these compact, quick-drying towels.
4. Travel laundry bag
Are you searching for a useful travel gift with a sly wink?
All travellers need to pack a laundry bag. I have gathered quite a collection over the years but I love this inexpensive bag emblazoned with a vintage-style world map to inspire future trips. It folds up super small into a built-in pouch.
Much better than a manky old carrier bag don’t you think?
5. Travel power adaptor
An essential part of any traveller’s packing list, this is the all-in-one universal power adaptor that I use. Compact and lightweight, it comes with its own case, has adjustable voltage and can charge multiple USB devices at the same time.
6. Portable power bank
You’ll recognise this creeping anxiety. You are on a long journey, many hours from your final destination and the battery life on your phone is already down to 40%. Or you’re out and about for the day, taking lots of photos and videos on your smartphone and realise that you’ve caned the battery and it’s barely lunchtime.
A portable charger is a godsend of any traveller
7. Moleskin Notebook
Moleskin notebooks are proof that a thing of utility can also be a thing of beauty.
I’m a firm advocate of journaling my travel experiences, as evidenced by my collection of notebooks in various shapes and sizes gong back three decades. As well as capturing those precious travel memories, journaling can help travellers process that day’s experiences. This is a particularly important tool in combatting solo travel loneliness.
Of course, there are many other brands of notebooks out there, but Moleskin notebooks really are something special.
8. RFID-blocking passport wallet
I confess that I don’t yet have an RFID-blocking passport wallet but it’s on my shopping list.
An ideal present for the security-conscious travel addict in your life, a decent RFID-blocking passport wallet will prevent any thief armed with an RFID-reader from swiping personal information. There is a lot of choice out there but, bearing in mind the wear and tear a travel wallet endures, I would opt for one made in a tough fabric like leather or durable nylon. If the material is water-resistant, all the better.
Here are a few that I have my beady eye on:
Available in a range of colours, and made with water-resistant tough rip-stop nylon, this nifty little organiser features credit cards slots, a useful outside pocket and a removable strap.
This super stylish travel gift is crafted from 100% leather, features internal pockets and is presented in a gift box.
If you are looking for a low-cost stocking-filler, check out these RFID-blocking passport sleeves
9. Travel books
Give your favourite travel addict the gift of reading.
Few things can stoke your wanderlust like a good travel book. And when you are not able to travel – 2020 for example! – they can transport you to new places from the comfort of your armchair.
If you need inspiration, check out this list of the best travel books of all time.
10 Eye Mask
Who wants to wake every morning at sunrise? Not me, that’s for sure.
Eye masks are a useful travel gift as they can come in handy in all sorts of situations from long-haul flights to hotel rooms without blackout blinds. One of the most lightweight gifts for someone who travels, they’re easy to pack, taking up close to zero room and weight.
There is no shortage of choice, from pretty silk sleep masks to functional fabric ones.
Whether it’s to snooze on that long-haul flight of to muffle the noise of barking dogs in the wee small hours of the morning, I never travel without earplugs. And they’re perfect Christmas stocking filler for the frequent traveller.
I prefer these disposable foam earplugs which are super soft and block noises up to 38dB.
12. Dry shampoo
Dry shampoo is not only eco-friendly, but is also a convenient liquid-free alternative to regular shampoo. Absorbing dirt and grease, dry shampoos are good for all hair types and lengths.
There are many different brands out there but I stick with Batiste, which is the world #1 with good reason.
13. Scarf with a hidden pocket
Are you looking for a stylish but useful gift for a female traveller?
Combining style with security, this innovative infinity scarf features a hidden zipper pocket to stash your valuables.
As it’s lightweight and folds down into virtually nothing when not in use, it is easy to pack.
14. Scratch off world map
If anyone would like to buy me a present, I so want one of these!
A unique gift for world travellers, this scratch-off world map allows travel addicts to scratch off countries visited. The ultimate country-bagging recording tool.
Useful gift? Probably not. Fun gift? Absolutely!
Useful travel gifts under £100
Pushing the budget up a notch, here are further gift ideas for that travel addict in your life.
15. Joby Gorillapod
Have you ever wanted to capture a city at night but the image comes out all blurry because of camera shake? Or do you know a solo traveller who struggles to capture photos of herself when travelling?
The answer to both of these problems is a super flexible, super lightweight Joby Gorillapod.
I always take mine away with me. Although it is compact and lightweight, it can mount both my smartphone and mirrorless camera, and its bendy legs wrap around most surfaces.
16. Budget in-ear headphones
When hunting for the perfect gift for someone who travels a lot, you can’t go far wrong with a pair of in-ear headphones.
A decent pair of headphones is essential for anyone who is travelling on public transport or hanging around airports or train stations. For me, this is an essential item on my travel packing list, allowing me to listen to my music library, plug into my favourite podcast or watch a movie on my tablet.
And the good news is that you don’t have to spend a fortune to pick up a good pair of in-ear headphones.
Based on glowing reviews, I bought the SoundMagic E11C. Whilst they aren’t wireless or noise-cancelling, they offer cracking sound quality for their price.
17. Portable Bluetooth speaker
Another useful gift for the music-loving traveller in your life is a portable Bluetooth speaker.
On more than one occasion I have been relaxing in a hotel room or apartment and longing to play music through something other than a tinny smartphone or tablet (I’ve jumped for joy when there has been a docking station with speakers in the room!).
Sometime very soon I am going to treat myself to the Bose Sound Link Micro. On a recent trip to Walberswick, Suffolk, one of the friends I went away with had brought along one of these bad boys and I was blown away by its sound quality. Rugged and waterproof, and weighing in at just under 300g, this speaker really packs a punch for its size.
18. Travel Pillow
To be better able to catch forty winks on the go without neck cramps, a travel pillow is an unbeatable gift for someone who travels a lot.
Bring a touch of luxury and comfort to your travel addict’s life by gifting them with this Travelrest NEST pillow. Yes. It is an ever so slightly naff C-shaped pillow, but it is super soft and the memory foam padding supports and compresses in all the right places.
Better still, it packs down to the size of a coffee cup.
19. Versatile travel shawl
Keep your favourite traveller warm with this highly versatile travel blanket/shawl/scarf.
An unbeatably useful travel gift, the Happyluxe wrap is also tasteful and stylish. Available in a range of colours, and made from lightweight and breathable machine-washable fabric, it is perfect for snuggling into on a draughty airplane or elegantly layered with other clothing.
20. Teva sports sandals
One of the biggest dilemmas I have when packing is selecting footwear. Which type? How many pairs are enough? How many pairs are too much?
Doubling as a sports shoe and sandal, Teva sandals have been a godsend over the years. Available in an array of styles and colours, there’s something for everyone, both men and women.
22. Travel headlamp
You don’t have to be camping in the wilderness for a headlamp to be a useful travel gift.
Whether you are navigating your way to your bed in a pitch-black hostel room, or out walking in an unlit area at night, it’s smart to have packed a headlamp.
Although cheaper headlamps are available, the Petzl Actik Core headlamp is lighter, brighter and has a rechargeable battery.
22. Reusable water bottle
A reusable water bottle is a travel gift that keeps on giving, even when the recipient isn’t in distant lands.
The most eco-friendly way to stay hydrated when you’re travelling, a decent reusable water bottle is a practical gift. The cost of bottled water adds up if you are travelling for a while, and nowadays many airports have water fountains where travellers can fill up their water bottles prior to boarding their flights.
For a space-saving solution, buy the favourite traveller in your life a lightweight Que bottle that collapses to half of its size. These are made of 100% BPA-free food-grade silicone, are 100% plastic-free and available in all the colours of the rainbow.
23. GetYourGuide gift card
I know. Gift vouchers are a little dull but when it comes to a useful travel gift, you can’t go far wrong with money towards a day trip or excursion.
GetYourGuide is a global online marketplace for tour guides and excursions that I have used on more than one occasion. What I like is that it is a one-stop-shop to compare and book things to do, and that it offers free cancellation on all its activities.
GetYourGuide gift cards are available in any amount and are available to send or print straight after purchase. The gift card is valid up to 3 years from the date of purchase.
24. Travel magazine subscription
Fuel a loved one’s wanderlust by giving them the gift of armchair travel.
A subscription to National Geographic Traveller was one of the most useful travel gifts that I have received, and one of the most appreciated. Available as print only, digital or both versions.
Alternatively, check out subscriptions to Wanderlust magazine.
25. Pacsafe daypack
Safety and security are essential for any traveller and part of this is keeping your precious belongings safe.
I am a very satisfied owner of the Pacsafe Women’s Citysafe Cx Anti Theft Convertible Backpack, which I use at home in London as well as when I away
Pacsafe daypacks feature security hooks and security clips, anti-theft zippers and zipper pullers that will deter pickpockets, RFID blocking pockets and are made with slashguard fabric. Not only are they packed with these awesome anti-theft features, they also look good (the Citysafe one doubles as a handbag and messenger bag).
A stylish and useful travel gift.
26. Kathmandu Pocket Pack
I was delighted when a very kind friend bought me one of these as a Christmas present a few years ago.
The Kathmandu Pocket Pack is one of the most useful travel gifts that I have been lucky enough to receive. An ultra-lightweight yet durable daypack, this ingenious product packs down into its own pocket to save space when travelling and is comfortable enough to wear all day.
Useful travel gifts over £100
Now we’re really going to bend that credit card with this final selection of useful travel gifts that are guaranteed to put a smile on the face of someone who travels a lot.
27. Osprey backpack on wheels
Providing the comfort and benefits of a travel backpack combined with the ease of wheeled luggage, the Osprey Ozone 75 is a perfect size for trips of two weeks or more.
A clever feature is a stowaway backpack harness to allow you to carry your luggage on your back. Handy for uneven surfaces and for jumping on and off transport.
Its smaller cousin, the Fairview Wheels 36, is the perfect travelling companion for shorter trips. Sturdy yet ultra-lightweight, it is carry-on size for most airlines.
Osprey backpacks aren’t the cheapest on the market but are so worth it. If you aren’t sure which of these will be the best gift for the frequent flier in your life, check out this review of Osprey wheeled backpacks.
I made the leap from paper books to e-books some years ago and have never looked back. I’m now on my second model, the Kindle Paperwhite.
Forget lugging around paperbacks and trying to gauge how much reading material you are likely to need for your trip. You can’t beat having your library on a small, slim super lightweight device, which you can add to whilst you are on the road. You can even buy guidebooks as e-books.
The battery life is pretty impressive too.
29. Wireless noise-cancelling headphones
Do you want to see your favourite traveller’s face light up like a Christmas tree when they open their present?
If so, a set of wireless, noise-cancelling headphones ought to do the trick. In 2020, the headphones that consistently come out top in reviews is the Sony WH-1000XM4. A close runner-up, which is less expensive, is the Bose QuietComfort 35.
30. Mirrorless camera
If you really want to push the boat out when buying a useful travel gift, turn your attention to photography.
Every traveller needs a camera. There is no such thing as THE best travel camera – many factors and preferences come into play – but it does need to be one that will produce great images without giving the traveller a hernia because of its cumbersome size and weight. Like any of these travel gifts, it needs to justify its place in their luggage.
I’m a long-time DSLR user and have lugged my battered, but much loved, Canon around on many a trip. But seduced by its size and weight and stellar reviews, I treated myself to the mirrorless beauty that is the Fuji X-T30 and have never looked back.
Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Totally!