Shopping for gifts is hard. Shopping for gifts for someone who may or may not be moving abroad is harder. And if both of these hold true, coming up with gift ideas for travelers that are perpetually living life out of a backpack is hardest. So what can you possibly come up with that they’ll love?
Not socks, not home decor, and definitely not a handbag because I’ve never met a traveler who is not also an aspiring minimalist. Just ask my parents… I’m annoying as hell to buy for. But when they find me something useful, multi-purpose, and compact, they have just gifted me with my next favorite thing.
We probably already have a passport wallet and a hefty supply of products we’d never leave home without, but there’s usually still a little room in every traveler’s backpack for something awesome. Looking for a great gift for the traveler in your life? Here’s 21.
Unique Gift Ideas for Travelers
1. Scratch Map: Replacing the thumb tacks on the world map, scratch maps bring all the fun of a scratch ticket and all the function of a world map. When they scratch off the gold, they can reveal flags of the countries visited, and keep an eye on those that they’ve still yet to see. ($31.95)
2. Kelty Redwing 50: Having a great backpack is the foundation of any great trip. If your traveler is lugging their gear in a less-than-optimal pack, upgrade them to the Kelty Redwing. It’s comfortable, low-profile, and the perfect size for short or long-term travel.($124.95) | Read More: How to Choose a Travel Backpack that’s All That
3. Pocket Games: The very tiny Pocket Games series is a perfect solution for long bus rides. The set includes 3 feet of paper activities and coloring in a portable a box. Themes range from Magic, to Cosmos, to Cities. ($9.50 each)
4. Try the World: Let them enjoy faraway flavors from home. Try the World is a bi-monthly subscription box that delivers regionally-themed gourmet foods. You get to choose from a variety of plans and send a country’s culinary highlights right to their doorstep. Click the link above for $15 off your first box! ($39 and up)
5. GlobeIn: Another awesome subscription box to consider is GlobeIn, offering up “highly curated, artisan-made products from around the world”. Inside each basket, they’ll find international fair-trade handicrafts, foods, and products along with their origin story. ($35 and up)
6. Global Entry: Global Entry may just be the most underrated gift you could give an international traveler. While everyone else is panicking about getting through US customs to their connecting flight, with a swipe of a fingers and an on-screen customs declaration, they’ll be skipping to the front of the line and onto better things. While Global Entry works for re-entry into the US, the very best part of a Global Entry membership is that it also makes them eligible for TSA Pre-Check — Global Entry’s domestic counterpart — meaning no lines, anywhere, for 5 lovely years. ($100)
7. A gift from Heifer International: A cow is one of our favorite gift ideas for travelers! While this certainly doesn’t fall into the compact category, we say you should still give a cow this Christmas — or at least a part of one. Heifer International is a charitable organization that allows donors to fund livestock and other useful gifts for families in developing countries. Rather than a one-off donation, these productive gifts provide a source of income and food for a family. Make a donation in their name, and let them know they gave a cow this Christmas. ($10 and up)
8. 4-in-1 Adaptor: My current adaptor set is an idiot combination of mismatched adaptors that I bought before various trips and haven’t bothered replacing. Gift a traveler with a compact, self-contained adaptor set, and they’ll thank you every time they plug in. ($25)
9. Urban Adventures: Operating in cities around the world, Urban Adventures offers some pretty amazing day trips. From street food tours to kayaking excursions, you’ll be giving them the gift of experience on their next trip!
10. America the Beautiful Annual Pass: If they don’t have too many international trips on their radar, give them a gift that will add some exploration into their day to day life. The America the Beautiful pass grants them access to over 2,000 recreation areas across the US. ($80)
11. Mobile Foodie Kit: Once upon a time, I made the worst pasta salad in India. What I wouldn’t have given for some thyme and basil! Many travelers love to cook on the road, especially when they spend long times away. This little kit will give them the tools to make their meals taste a bit more like home.
12. The Scrubba: The Scrubba is a portable laundry system that can bail a traveler out from even the smelliest of situations. Self-described as “a modern take on the old fashioned washboard” the Scrubba is the perfect laundry option for long-term travelers and backpackers alike. ($55)
13. Cocoon GRID-IT!: At first glance, the GRID-IT appears to be something better DIY-ed than purchased, but once you start loading it up with cords, devices, and other travel essentials, you’ll realize this is a piece better left to the pros. Gone are the days of tangles and lost iPhone cords, and they’ll have you to thank. ($14.99 and up)
14. Lonely Planet’s “The World’s Best Street Food: Where to Buy It & How to Make It”: Every travelers has a favorite street food memory, whether it’s Nepalese momos or Peruvian ceviche. This Lonely Planet book brings together all of the favorites with tips on where to find the very best, and how to make it at home in the most authentic way possible. ($15)
15. Platypus SoftBottle: We’ll never go anywhere without a water bottle, but it can be kind of heartbreaking to see all the extra space it takes up when it’s empty anyways. The Platypus SoftBottle is a reusable water bottle that can be filled up to 1L and rolled away when not in use. ($8.95)
16. EatWith: Located in over 150 cities around the globe, EatWith offers a home dining experience where they can experiencing amazing food while also interacting with a local family. Track down an event in their next destination and give them a cultural and culinary experience rolled into one. Get $10 off when you use the link above! (Prices vary by location)
17. Meshu jewelry: Well, if this isn’t one of the best damn gift ideas for travelers ever, we don’t know what is. Meshu allows you to map out a journey using facet or orbital points to create a custom design. Once your route is ready, you can print it out in bamboo, acrylic, silver, or brass for a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry with significance. (Prices vary by material)
18. Cork Globe: Another exception to the home decor ban is the cork globe. Much like the scratch map, a cork globe is a tasteful way for a traveler to track their journey. ($129)
19. Speakeasy Travel Scarf: We all know that travel belts are pretty dopey, so Speakeasy Travel decided to make traveling smart a whole lot more fashionable. Created by the altogether awesome couple blogging at Beers & Beans, the travel scarf is an infinity scarf with a built in pocket where you can stash all the importants in an unsuspecting place for pickpockets. Check out our full review on Speakeasy Travel Scarf. Now why didn’t we think of that? ($55 and up)
20. The Storymatic: The Storymatic is like imagination in a box and is a perfect option for wireless entertainment, whether in transit, camping out, or waiting in line. They can play by themselves or with others by pulling a few cards with prompts on them, and letting their imagination dream up ridiculous stories and scenarios. ($29.95)
21. Lonely Planet’s “The Best Places to Be Today: 365 Things to Do & the Perfect Day to Do Them”: When they’ve seen the Angkor Wats and Macchu Picchus of the world, travelers will appreciate any source of inspiration. If they’re fitting vacations into breaks from work, this book is a perfect source of ideas for where they might go at any point in the year. ($19.99)