It seems infinitely appropriate that I'm starting to write this post on the day where we are seeing the first snowflakes here in Ohio! Nothing gets me into the holiday spirit quite like the first snowfall of the season.
So go ahead and put on your snuggly onsie and cozy up with a mug of cocoa for this year's edition of Amanda's Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers (and Travel-Lovers)!
This list is full of items that I personally use and love, and that I think other travelers will enjoy, too. (And most of them won't break the bank, either!)
In the bag
I’m a huge fan of packing cubes; in fact, they appear in just about every post I write about my favorite travel gear – because yes, I swear by them that much! I use packing cubes to organize whatever bag I’m taking, be it a carry-on-sized backpack, or a larger suitcase. I usually use about 3 cubes: one for tops, one for bottoms, and one for miscellaneous things like sweaters or dresses. This makes picking out an outfit SO much easier, since you don’t have to dig through every article of clothing in your bag.
Allett slim wallet
For the past couple of years (yes, YEARS!), I've been using a little thin red leather wallet both at home and when traveling. The wallet is made by Allett, and is touted as an “ulta slim” wallet – and it is! I can fit all the necessary cards inside, cash (and the double cash pocket makes separating different currencies easy), and some coins in the zippered coin pocket, and it still stays ridiculously thin. If you're looking for a good travel wallet that is also attractive, I'd go for this one! (And they make a men's version, too.)
You’d be surprised how handy a dry bag can be on your travels. I’ve used mind for kayaking trips, rainy hikes, and even a boat trip where we had to swim to a beach (I was the only one able to bring a real camera with me!). I never go on a trip without my dry bag – because when you spend thousands of dollars on camera equipment, you want to make sure you can keep it dry!
Traveling with a quick-dry towel is a must for most travelers (me included). And these microfiber ones from EcoDept are my favorites out of all the travel towels I’ve tried. You can get them in full-towel sizes, too, and yet they take up much less room in your bag than a regular towel would. I've used mine everywhere from Iceland to Namibia, and I can attest that they’re soft and just as quick-drying as they promise to be.
Pacsafe portable safe
Sure, you can usually count on hotel safes and hostel lockers to keep your valuables safe. However, a laptop or DSLR camera won’t always fit into those tiny hotel safes. And what happens when you stay in a room that doesn’t HAVE a safe? I highly recommend the Pacsafe portable safe – it’s basically a sturdy, slash-proof bag that you can secure around a sink or something else in your room that can’t be removed.
And when it comes to the bags themselves, here are my top picks:
- For a rolling check-in bag: The Osprey Sojourn 60L (which also has removable, optional backpack straps)
- For a carry-on-friendly backpack: The Osprey Farpoint 40
- For a camera-friendly bag: Either the Pacsafe Camsafe V25 (bigger) or the Pacsafe Camsafe V17 (smaller)
(Also, don't forget to pack your travel insurance for any trip you might be planning!)
Speakeasy Hidden Pocket Travel Scarf
I never go anywhere without a scarf (seriously – one is ALWAYS in my bag, no matter where I'm going), and if you're a big fan of both form AND function, then Speakeasy's hidden pocket travel scarves are for you. These infinity scarves not only come in soft fabrics and cute patterns, but also come complete with a hidden zippered pocket that's the perfect size for a passport, credit card(s), and some cash. These are perfect for travel days – just put everything important in your scarf, wear it like normal, and skip the part where you worry about your essentials getting stolen in-transit.
Speakeasy has some great holiday deals, too. For example, you can save $20 when you order 4 scarves! Perfect gifts for the travel-lovers in your life.
It might seem a bit weird to talk about underwear in a gift guide, but hear me out. ExOfficio makes great underwear that are both breathable and quick-drying, making them perfect for traveling. And, since they're a little pricier than regular undies, they are great to receive as gifts. I love these Give-n-Go bikini briefs so much, in fact, that I wear them all the time at home, too. (And they make them for men, as well!)
A kick-ass travel camera
People always want to know what camera I use to take all the photos you see on this site (because yes, 99.9% of the photos are mine!). My go-to camera these days is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II with a 12-40mm Pro lens. I love this camera for a lot of reasons (it takes amazing photos and good-quality video, too), but mostly because it’s small enough to fit into my travel purse or day bag. It’s also weatherproofed and comes with built-in wifi, which are both huge bonuses for a traveler like me.
A compact camera
Not quite ready to drop a couple grand on a camera and have to worry about lugging around extra lenses and the like? My pick for a compact camera is the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 IV. They just came out with a newer model of this same camera, but I like this one especially because the back screen flips up and back so that you can easily capture a selfie. (It also takes great photos, yet takes up virtually no room in your bag.)
Fujifilm Instax Mini
Looking for a camera that's just pure fun? Check out this instant camera that's super cute yet also functional. The Fujifilm Instax Mini is my pick because it's quite affordable and yet still produces quality instant photographs. I think it would be fun to go on an old school road trip with one of these and leave the “real” camera at home.
Battery charger phone case
When I'm on the go a lot, my phone battery drains at an alarming rate thanks me constantly using things like Google Maps, Snapchat, and Facebook. I used to carry around a charger block and extra charging cord so I could power up anywhere, but I found this a bit clunky – and I often would forget the cord. Then I discovered the battery charger phone case: essentially a phone case with an extra battery built in. I used to have a Mophie Juice Pack for this purpose, but I recently bought a Lenmar Undead Power case that's essentially the same thing except a fraction of the price.
These are almost becoming cliche to find on these gift guides, but I really don't care – I love maps, and I like being able to plot my own travels on them. And a scratch-off map is infinitely less destructive than my old method of taping a paper map to the wall and then covering it with push pins! I like this scartch-off map especially because it shows the states in the US, and also has all the country flags at the bottom for extra scratching fun.
(If you want an alternative to the scratch-off map, I also love these magnetic globes!)
Adult coloring books have been all the rage for a while, and these from Wandertooth Media are perfect for travel-lovers. Katie and Geoff (fellow travel bloggers) are creating coloring books based on actual travel photos from destinations. Their original book features images from all over the world, and they've also published destination-specific coloring books for Mexico and Rome. These are especially great for long plane journeys!
When you’re traveling to multiple countries/continents in the same trip, keeping all those outlet adapters organized can be a pain. Enter this awesome little adapter from Skross. It will work in all corners of the world, AND comes with built-in USB ports. It also just feels like a sturdy, well-made piece of gear – I've had mine for years and it's still going strong!
Belkin power strip
With 3 regular (US) outlets and 2 USB outlets, I never travel with out this Belkin surge protector. It doesn’t take up a ton of room in my bag, but really comes in handy when I find myself in a hotel room or hostel with too few wall outlets. This is also one of the most affordable items on this list, so there’s really no reason not to have one!
Whether you have a fancy DSLR camera or a small point and shoot, keeping the lens clean is something every camera owner should be concerned with. I never travel without my LensPen for this exact reason. It's perfect for removing dirt, dust, sand, and those annoying fingerprints while leaving your lens scratch-free. It's also the size of a marker, meaning you don't have to worry about it taking up extra room in your bag.
For the learner
Because not all gifts need to be something you can wrap up in paper!
Rosetta Stone is probably the most well-known language learning software out there, offering more than 30 languages, from Spanish to Swahili. This would be a great gift for anyone you know who would like to learn a new language. (And, even better – it's on sale right now for the holidays!)
Travel photography course
Do you know someone who enjoys both traveling AND dabbling in photography? Then this intro travel photography course might be perfect! Written by my friend (and kick-ass photographer) Laurence Norah, this course covers all the basic about travel photography – and then some. From explaining things like ISO and aperture to walking you through night/star photography, Laurence does a great job providing material that should leave you feeling much more confident in your travel photography skills.
Travel Blog Success membership
Lastly, if you've ever thought of starting a travel blog (or feel like you'll make a New Year's resolution to really ramp up the blog you already have), then you want to check out Travel Blog Success. TBS has recently changed to a membership model, and base membership gets you three separate courses – one on the basics (The Fundamentals of Travel Blogging), one for more intermediate bloggers (Advanced Travel Blogging: Monetization and Beyond), and one on travel writing. You also get access to a secret Facebook group, and perks that include discounts on resources and conferences.
What's at the top of YOUR holiday wish list this year?