Amanda’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

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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!)

Let's go!

In the bag

Packing cubes

Packing cubes

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

Allett travel 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.)

Dry bag

Dry bag

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!

Travel towel

Travel towel

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

Pacsafe Travelsafe

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:

(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.

ExOfficio undies

Exofficio undies

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!)

Travel tech

A kick-ass travel camera

Olympus OM-D E-M5 II

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

Instax camera

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.

Stocking stuffers

Scratch-off map


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!)

Coloring books

Coloring books

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!

Skross adapter

Skross adapter

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

Belkin 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

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

Travel Blog Success

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.

TBS also sells separate add-on courses on partnerships, freelance writing, Facebook marketing, and videography.

What's at the top of YOUR holiday wish list this year?


Gift guide for travelers and travel-lovers



"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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169 Comments on “Amanda’s 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

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  1. Absolutely love the scarf! Anything that’s cute AND functional while traveling is always a bonus!

      Right?? I totally agree! And their scarves are great – I already have two and am getting a third soon!

      Love the scarf and might have solved some gift giving problems for me.

    After taking my first ever solo trip this year (Iceland!), I’ve not only gotten the solo travel bug, but also the photo bug! I’ve been trying to convince my family they want to buy me a real camera for the holidays. ; ) I don’t think they’ll go for it, but that scarf? That is the coolest thing! I mean, a camera would be pretty amazing, but seriously? That scarf is still pretty awesome… I hadn’t seen anything like that before!

      As someone who commonly refers to her camera as “my baby,” I totally get it! I hope you get your dream camera! (Though, if not, one of those Speakeasy scarves wouldn’t be bad either. 😉 )

    Several of these items were already on my wishlist, include a different (not as awesome) version of a hidden pocket scarf. Love the blog and seeing your photos. Keep up the good work!

      Thanks, Hope! The Speakeasy folks are going to love reading all these awesome comments about their scarves!

    I always love seeing what gift ideas people have!

      Me too! I don’t even want to guess at the number of gift guide links I will click on in the coming weeks… (It will be a lot!)

    That lens pen and the scratch off map are now on my wishlist! I really wish I had had that pen when we were in Iceland, it was nearly impossible to keep the lens clean!

      Oh man, all the ash and sand in Iceland being blown around? Yes, I totally understand! I DID have my LensPen there, and it was super useful!

    I would like to receive a travel camera.

    All of these are awesome ideas for the holidays! The travel camera bag is on the top of my list this year, I’ve heard some great things about the one you have listed (larger). That scarf is genius! Thanks for sharing 🙂

      Those Pacsafe camera bags are the BEST (I actually own them both)!

    the scarf! definitely the scarf! and TBS would be an awesome gift as well! 🙂

      I have a feeling lots of people may be getting Speakeasy scarves this Christmas! 😉

    I would love to get one of those power strips — and is it weird to say I’d love the underwear, too?! Splurge-y underwear makes a great gift, and I am always looking for some that are comfortable and wear well for traveling.

      Haha, not weird at all! They are great travel underwear – and I also use them at home when I go to the gym for their wicking properties!

    Love the packing cubes! My suitcase is always a jumbled mess that gets worse every day I travel. These would take the stress out of finding things and also what outfits to wear.

      Sounds like you definitely need some packing cubes! I don’t think I could ever go back to traveling without them.

    I have one of the scarves and love it! Really handy when shopping is busy markets. Would love some of the coloring books and just added the Lenmar case to my basket. 🙂

      Those scarves are great in so many situations! (And, you know, are just really cute in general!)

    Love this! Have had my eye on ths scarf for a while!

    I love the scarf (I’ve been eyeing it online but haven’t bought one yet) and my ExOfficio undies are always in my bag. However, the PacSafe portable safe looks really cool and helpful–it would help provide another layer of security in those flimsy hostel lockers. Great list!

      If you’re traveling somewhere where you know you’re going to worry about the safety of your valuables, the portable safe is AWESOME. It’s great for someone like me, who always travels like a laptop.

    My husband and I are adventurous, so a dry sack would be super helpful.

      I never travel without one. They don’t take up much room, but really can come in handy!

    Great gift guide – some I want for myself, too!

    I love the scarves! Had no idea travel blog success would be on sale! Thats great news!

      Yup, Black Friday weekend is always TBS’ biggest sale weekend!

    Definitely need to try out parking cubes, I hear so much about them!

    the gift card would be great!

    We love our scratch off map and our instax camera. I think I might add those packing cubes to my xmas list 🙂

      Great to hear! I realize the Instax isn’t as practical as some of the other things on this list… But we all need to own a couple impractical things, right?? 😉 (Packing cubes, though – those are totally practical.)

    I never knew such a scarf existed! Definitely adding that to my Christmas wish list this year. I’ve also been on the lookout for a good portable phone charger or battery so thanks for the recommendation! I know it’ll come in handy for my upcoming Finland and Norway trip in a few months. Currently added to my Amazon wish list 🙂

      There are lots of phone charger cases out there, but I haven’t find one as nice as the Lenmar one at that price point! I’ve been using mine for a few months and have no complaints!

    I keep meaning to get a pac safe and some packing cubes, but I keep forgetting! I have to say though I really, really want a scratch off map! I’ve been trying to find just the right map to hang in my room and think that would be such a unique and perfect fit!

      The scratch-off map is definitely unique – and kind of fun, too, since you get to reveal a new country after every trip!

    I would love to receive the packing cubes. I’m a messy packer so these would be a huge help!

      They’re the best way to keep your luggage organized for sure!

    That’s a nice looking dry bag and the lens pen looks really useful.

      Yup, both very useful gifts! I almost always travel with both of them.

    I’ve been using packing cubes for ages but I have to check out those scarves.

    Lots of great ideas! I totally need that Belkin Power Strip-too few outlets is the bane of my travel existence ?

      Ugh, I know, right?? I don’t usually stay in hostels anymore, but I stayed in a few in Scotland in September. And most of the dorm rooms I was in had like ONE outlet for the entire room! That’s just silly!

    I’d love to try the scarf. I just bought the underwear a couple weeks ago at your suggestion. Thanks!

      Nice! Hope the undies work for you – I love mine!

    i like the scarf be nice if someone gave me that

    I’d love the travel scarf, I’m always worrying about losing stuff and if it was safely tucked away around my neck I’d feel a lot safer!

      These scarves are great. And because they just look like normal scarves, nobody would ever assume you were hiding things inside!

    Ohh, I love the scarf. It looks so soft and cozy. I just popped over to their website and found so many lovely colours and designs to choose from. Hmm, I might have to put more than one on my Christmas wish list!

      Remember that they offer discounts if you buy more than one! 😉 And yes, they offer so many cute designs!

    Feeling that scarf! Need to look into getting one myself!

    I like the LensPen. They are all practical items, which I like.

      I don’t really see a point in recommending lots of things that are either impractical or too expensive. (Plus, with lots of things under $50, you could easily ask for more than one! 😉 )

    Completely agree with the packing cubes – I have them too and they’ve been so incredibly useful in all my travels! I need the lens pen out of everything you posted… I’m thinking of adding it to my Christmas wishlist 🙂

      Luckily the LensPen is ridiculously affordable – makes a great stocking stuffer!

    I Loooove the speakeasy scarf! I hate hate hate money belts and this is a fantastic way to look good and to keep your important things safe! I would love to have one!

      I totally agree – I HATE money belts (and hate even more those passport holder necklace things). The Speakeasy scarves are a great alternative!

    I’ve wanted one of those scarves for years! I’m not really even sure why I’ve never taken the plunge for one

      Well now is the perfect time to get one! 🙂

    I’d love to get a dry bag – it would be a great option for scuba diving.

    the gift card would be great to win!

    The Belkin Power Strip would be so useful! I’d love one of those.

    I’d like to receive the LensPen.

    The colouring books look so cool! I always flick through others in shops and yet I’ve yet to find one with images I want to colour!

      I love that these coloring books are based off real photos of the places – definitely great if you love to travel!

    Great list! I have so many of these already, but a few new things to add to my list. Love the lens pen. I need this!!

    Great list! I used to do ziplock bags for organising but need to get those cubes! The charging case looks great. I would really enjoy not worrying about my battery dying.

      Not worrying about your battery dying is definitely a huge plus, especially when you’re on the road!

    Great list Amanda! 🙂

    I have the same camera as you and I LOVE IT! I’ve been leaving my other half loads of hints about the scratch map so hopefully I’ll have one of those under the tree this year! 😀

      Fingers crossed! And glad to hear you love your camera, too!

    I am always on the lookout for a new camera – and that Olympus looks interesting! I have been using a Contax and then switched to digital Canons and a Panasonic Lumix. Which got lost in Shanghai. 🙁 I replaced it, but I like the old one better.

    Thanks for the list!

      I LOVE my Olympus so much. And I especially love that you can buy both Olympus and Panasonic lenses for it!

    That dry bag would be perfect for after snorkeling! Great gift ideas!

      Yes, it’s great for that! I always take mine onto boats. It’s also great for hikes and kayaking!

    That wallet seems all-around great, traveling or not!