Here's a fun fact about me: I LOVE Christmas, and especially love picking out the perfect gifts for all the people in my life. I shop year-round for the people I love, and usually have a stash of “oh, this would be perfect for [insert family member name here]” gifts come Christmas time. (Tell me I'm not alone here?)
If you've got a picky traveler or travel-lover in your life (or if you're like me and never seem to need or want anything specific around the holidays), this gift guide may help you find the perfect present.
This list is full of items that I personally use and love, and that I think other travelers and travel-lovers will enjoy, too. Most of them are things I've purchased with my own money – nobody has paid me to include an item here, so you can trust that the recommendations are real!
And there are some non-material gift ideas, too, in case that's more your speed.
So, without further ado, I give you the 2022 edition of Amanda's Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers (and Travel-Lovers)!
USEFUL TRAVEL GIFTS
Here are some of my favorite things that are useful both at home and on the road:
1. Speakeasy hidden pocket travel scarf
It's true: I'm a liiiiiittle bit obsessed with these hidden pocket infinity scarves from Speakeasy Travel Supply. Not only do they come in soft fabrics and cute patterns, but they 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.
And when you're not traveling? Well, these scarves are still incredibly cute and comfy! I have 4 or 5 in different patterns, and wear them from fall into early spring.
**And there's a Black Friday sale on, too!
2. Convertible Pacsafe backpack
For the past several years, I've been traveling with this convertible backpack/purse from Pacsafe – and I never fail to get compliments on it from other travelers! The bag is made with Pacsafe's signature slash-proof material, has lockable zippers to make it fairly theft-proof, and I love that it can easily transform from this cute daypack to an over-the-shoulder purse.
I have an embarrassingly large amount of bags in my closet, but this one has become my go-to when I'm traveling. (I also love this convertible cross-body purse of theirs.)
3. Packing cubes
No gift guide or packing list of mine would be complete without a mention of packing cubes. I use packing cubes to organize whatever bag I’m traveling with, 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.
I also sometimes use my cubes to help keep my clean and dirty clothes separate on a trip, and they can even double as small laundry bags in a pinch!
4. Personalized passport cover
A little personal touch can go a long way. And an easy gift to get a travel-lover that is guaranteed to be the right fit is a personalized passport cover. These hand-made leather passport covers can be stamped with a travel quote, and your loved one's name or initials. They come in regular or wallet versions, and can be paired with matching luggage tags.
This certainly isn't something every traveler would purchase for themselves, but that's why it would make a great gift! (For the record, I love my own passport holder; it holds my passport, vaccination cards, extra passport photos, and my travel insurance info for every trip!)
5. Belt bag / hip pack
The fanny pack/bum bag is back in style, folks! (Except now they're being marketed as “belt bags,” “hip packs,” and “sling bags” to make them sound slightly cooler. Regardless, I've gotta say that I'm a fan!
The Lululemon Belt Bag may be all the rage, but my favorite is actually the Pacsafe Go Anti-Theft Sling Pack, which is slightly larger and can fit everything I need on travel days (phone, wallet, power bank, sunglasses, hand sanitizer, maybe a granola bar, etc.).
It's got all of Pacsafe's safety features like a lockable zipper and slashproof material (and RFIDsafe™ blocking pockets, too), and you can wear it either as a hip/belt bag or as a sling pack. And it even comes in several nice colors.
WEARABLES FOR TRAVEL OR HOME
A few things I love packing when I travel – and then also love wearing at home!
1. Merino layers
Merino clothing has become a travel packing essential for both my husband Elliot and I in the last couple years. Merino is a lightweight type of wool that's super soft, extremely breathable, and resistant to both wrinkles AND odors. Meaning it's perfect for travel!
Unbound Merino is a newer brand in the merino travel clothing space. They make all the basics to use either as base layers, or just regular clothes. Their merino is light and breathable, and has no logos or other markings on it. And these clothes really CAN be worn for days on end without needing washed!
I have a few tops tops and a pair of women's leggings, and Elliot loves their t-shirts and henley-style tops. They sell gift bundles, too!
And note: They're running an incredible sale right now of up to 40% off everything! This is the time to invest in some merino pieces.
2. SUAVS shoes
I'm always on the lookout for my next perfect travel shoe. I've found flats that I love, and also have go-to walking sandals. And now I FINALLY have a pair of sneakers that I adore. (So much so that I currently have 4 different pairs of SUAVS in my closet…)
SUAVS makes shoes that feel and fit more like socks. My SUAVS shoes are soft, breathable, and flexible. I can throw them in the washing machine if they get dirty or smelly, and they take up basically no room in a suitcase.
I also love that the company is based in the US and run by women, which is an added bonus in my book! (They also offer these same shoes in men's sizes – my husband has two pairs of his own!)
SUAVS is running a Black Friday sale, but I also have a discount you can use year-round! Use code DB15 to save 15% off.
3. Cozy slipper socks
I'm a big fan of cozy socks and slippers – and not just at home! I often pack slipper socks when I travel, too. They're great on planes and in hotel rooms (I'm not the only one who hates walking on hotel carpet barefoot, am I?), and generally don't take up a whole lot of space in a suitcase or carry-on.
I like my slipper socks to have a semi-solid bottom, and discovered these knit slipper socks from Azerbaijani Socks and fell in love! They're called jorab, and have been a part of Azerbaijani culture for centuries. These are knitted with Azerbaijani patterns by women in rural Azerbaijan, meaning your purchase is helping keep a unique tradition alive.
4. Coordinates bracelet or rings
Jewelry is always a great gift idea, and why not make it custom? You can order a pretty bracelet or set of rings with custom map coordinates on them; perfect for a travel-lover, or anyone who has moved around a lot.
I have a set of coordinate rings with the coordinates of where I grew up, and of Wellington, New Zealand, where I lived for a while during college. They're great for stacking!
Here are some Etsy listings that I love:
GIFTS FOR THE ECO-CONSCIOUS TRAVELER
Looking for ways to use less plastic at home AND while you travel? Here are my favorite eco-friendly items that also make great gifts.
1. Camelbak MultiBev bottle
I'm a big fan of CamelBak, and own several different styles of their water bottles that I use for everything from traveling to working out. They released a new bottle last year that I myself got as a Christmas gift: the MultiBev, which can serve as both a to-go coffee cup AND a water bottle.
This insulated bottle/mug combo comes in two different sizes and a few different color combos. This would make a great gift this year, too. (Mine traveled with me on a few different trips in the last year!)
2. Reusable straws
While many restaurants around the world are switching over to biodegradable straw options, you still find a LOT of plastic straws out there. I find plastic straws to be one of the most unnecessary kinds of single-use plastic, simply because there are plenty of better options out there!
But this fold-up drinking straw would make an even better gift! It comes with a little carrying case and a brush for cleaning. Great for a stocking stuffer.
3. Solid shampoo/conditioner
For various reasons (including wanting to waste less plastic and keep my luggage lighter), I've started traveling with solid shampoo and conditioner on some of my longer trips. Shampoo/conditioner bars take up far less space in a suitcase, and aren't subject to the liquid rules that regular bottles of the stuff are.
The ones made by Ethique are my current favorites and get the job done – I like this shampoo bar and this solid conditioner. They also sell sampler packs of shampoo, conditioner, and body soaps like this one that would make great gifts!
4. Soap bar bag
This one might initially seem a bit odd, but as someone who now usually travels with at least 2-3 bars of stuff (soap, shampoo, and conditioner), I cannot accurately describe how excited I was to discover these soap bags at REI!
They are just tiny dry bags the size of bars of soap. Meaning you can use one or two of these instead of those bulky plastic soap containers, thus saving room in your travel toiletry bag. And the coolest part is that the material allows bars of soap to dry inside the bag, but the outside stays dry! Genius.
TRAVEL TECH YOU CAN AFFORD
1. Kindle Paperwhite
I don't go ANYwhere without my Kindle these days. And the Kindle Paperwhite, in my opinion, is the very best Kindle out there. It has a built-in backlight perfect for reading on planes, won't hurt your eyes with screen glare, and has a battery that lasts for weeks. The newest version of the Paperwhite is waterproof, too, making reading on the beach, by the pool, or in a fancy hotel tub even better.
And of course my Kindle gets a lot of use at home, too! I read most nights before bed, and have breezed through dozens of books on this thing.
Note: The Paperwhite is currently on sale, too!
2. Anker Soundcore Liberty 2 Pro True Wireless Earbuds
I am really, really picky when it comes to wireless headphones. In fact, I didn't use ear buds for YEARS because I could never find any that felt comfortable inside my small ears. After a lot of trial and error, though, I've finally discovered that the Anker Soundcore Liberty earbuds work for me!
The Liberty 2 Pro earbuds are actually an older generation, but they actually have better reviews than the newest version – AND since they're one generation old, it means you can get a good deal on them.
If you've been wanting to try wireless earbuds for travel, I can highly recommend these!
3. AirFly Pro
I discovered this handy little gadget last year, and it's now a must-pack for me! The AirFly Pro basically allows you to use your wireless headphones/earbuds with airplane TVs! (There are other uses for this, too, as all it does is change a wired headphone connection to a wireless one, but for travelers it's most useful to use with seatback entertainment.)
You simply plug this into a regular headphone jack, turn it on, and then connect your bluetooth headphones to it like you would any other wireless bluetooth device. I've used this on multiple flights, and my seatmates always ask me about it! It would make a fantastic gift for anyone who travels a lot.
4. AirTags / Tiles
Speaking of frequent fliers… the luggage woes of 2022 travel convinced a lot of people to travel carry-on only, and to place tracking devices like Apple AirTags in their bags if they had to check them. Putting an AirTag in your luggage won't prevent it from getting lost, of course; but if it DOES get left behind somewhere, at least you'll know where.
You can use Apple AirTags to track things other than luggage, too (I have friends who put them on car keys, in reading glasses cases, and even on pet collars), but I bought some myself this year to put in my bags.
If you already use Apple products, it's easy to set up your AirTags and connect them to your Find My app on your iPhone. If you're an Android user, though, there are similar non-Apple products out there that work the same way, like the ones made by Tile.
5. Anker power bank
While batteries are lasting longer these days, I still find that my phone often runs out of juice after a long travel day of using maps and posting to Instagram Stories (and, okay, scrolling a lot of TikTok). For this reason, I always travel with a small power bank for backup battery power.
I like the Anker PowerCore Essential 20000mAh because it's fairly small (meaning easy to throw into my purse or day pack), but mighty – it will charge my phone a few times before needing to be charged itself.
This has saved me on more than one occasion, like that one time I was in Istanbul trying to make sure my dad and I could find our way back to our hotel, and my phone inconveniently decided to die when we were still about a 20-minute walk away. Luckily I had my power bank and charging cord in my bag, and simply plugged in and kept walking.
6. World travel adapter
While traveling with a voltage adapter isn't necessary for most people these days (unless you have a hair dryer or curling iron that isn't dual-voltage), you DO still need to travel with outlet adapters if you're traveling internationally.
This world travel adapter is one of the cooler ones I've seen, as it doubles as a surge protector AND has built-in USB ports. If you're from the US and know you'll need to charge lots of devices each night, this adapter would be super handy.
(If you're from somewhere outside the US or prefer your adapters to be all-in-one, I also still love my SKROSS adapter that I've had for years.)
I was skeptical about this device until I got one to try myself. Reliefband is worn kind of like a watch, and uses electrical signals on your wrist to help get rid of nausea – including the kind caused by motion sickness (or just good old fashioned anxiety).
This is the sort of wearable gadget that makes a great gift, especially for anyone who suffers from seasickness or travel sickness. I've been trying it out for a couple months now, and it really does seem to help! (Though, I admittedly still do travel with Dramamine, too, just in case.)
And they're having a great Black Friday sale!
8. Rechargeable hand warmers
If you have someone in your life like me who loves to travel to cold places like the Arctic, or someone who loves to plan ski trips, or just someone who always has very cold hands, then these rechargeable hand warmers might be the perfect gift!
I've bought these as gifts myself this year, and they're super useful and practical. They heat up and last for hours – perfect for a football game, a day on the slopes, or maybe even a trip to Antarctica.
TRAVEL-INSPIRED GIFTS FOR THE HOME
1. Custom map gifts
When I buy gifts, I try to make them personalized when I can. It just adds that special extra touch. And a really fun option for a travel-lover is a custom map!
I like these personalized map prints, which would be great to commemorate a special big trip. (A friend of mine got one made after a honeymoon road trip, for example.)
I also love this shop for beautiful watercolor maps of different US states and regions – I might need to buy the Great Lakes one for myself!
2. Food maps
Speaking of maps, my friend Jodi from Legal Nomads offers these beautiful food maps (and other products) focusing on famous dishes from around the world. She has maps representing more than half a dozen countries all around the world, with each one featuring all the most famous traditional dishes from that country.
I've given these posters as gifts myself before, and everyone always loves them!
3. Scratch-off map
I like finding creative ways to bring my travels into my everyday life – and that includes in my home decorating! I love these scratch-off travel maps not only because it's fun to reveal all the places you've been, but also because they make for a great conversation piece up on the wall!
I especially like this one from Landmass Goods because it includes all the flags of the world for you to scratch off, too.
4. Adventure fund jar
Looking for something small but cute and very travel-centric? This “Adventure Fund” coin bank makes a great gift (and this larger version is also cool!). Elliot and I have had a coin jar on the table in our entryway since we first moved in together, and you'd be surprised how quickly all that loose change can add up!
5. Custom View Master
Here's a super unique way to display travel photos: You can gift a Viewmaster with a custom reel of memorable photos (yes, a Viewmaster like the ones you used to play with as a kid!).
I love this as a gift idea, since it's not something a person is likely to buy for themselves. Plus, the ability to choose which photos go on the reel makes it a great personalized gift. I gave Elliot one of these several years ago for our anniversary, and he loved it!
6. Mini photo printer
Or, if you'd rather have physical copies of some of your travel photos (or any of the other photos you take on your phone), a mini photo printer like this one from Canon or this one from Kodak would make a really cute gift.
Almost everything is digital these days, but I dunno… I like having physical photos sometimes, too! And these mini photo printers print good-quality images in just a minute or two. Some of them even print on sticky-backed paper so you can put your photos in your planner, on a calendar, or anywhere else.
FOR THE OUTDOOR ENTHUSIAST
1. GRAYL purifier bottle
Have an outdoor adventure enthusiast in your life? Then a GRAYL Geopress would make a great gift. These water bottles are also purifiers, great for backpacking and hiking since they allow you safely drink water from any water source, be it a stream or waterfall.
I have often traveled with a bottle like this, which also works to make tap water safe to drink all around the world by filtering out viruses, bacteria, pesticides, heavy metals, and microplastics.
They have an “ultralight” version of this bottle, too, but I prefer the larger Geopress one, as it's easier to use.
2. Hiking poles
Have you or your loved one picked up hiking as a hobby recently? Lots of people have! In that case, a set of nice hiking poles would be a great gift for Christmas.
(And, before you tell me that they're dorky, hiking poles are an *excellent* piece of gear to own. They can help improve your balance, protect your knees, and even encourage you to pick up the pace on a hike.)
I bought my dad a pair of hiking poles a couple years ago for his long walks with his dogs, and he's brought them on all our trips since! (And yes, you can travel with these; buy the collapsible kind, and pack them in your checked luggage.)
3. Packable sun hat
Sun protection is no joke, people. I've been on a quest for the past couple of years to find a packable sun hat that I love. And I've finally found some! I really love the hats made by the Wallaroo Hat Company, which are not only cute sun hats, but also effective – many of them have UPF protection built right in.
I so far have the Victoria Fedora, the Naples Fedora, and the wider-brimmed Montecito, and love them all! The Victoria can be folded up and packed (though you'll want to unfold it as much as you can).
These hats aren't cheap, but are good quality and last a long time – making them a great gift.
FOR THOSE WHO JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN
Looking for something fun to gift the game-loving traveler in your life? Here are some fun and interactive gift ideas.
1. Trip Chaser card game
My friends Dalene and Pete from Hecktic Travels launched a travel card game called Trip Chaser just in time for the holidays this year, and it's legit a fun game! Basically you build your bank and collect cards in order to “travel” to exotic places around the world, trying to avoid setbacks. The person with the most trip points at the end of the game wins.
This game is also packaged really nicely in a small box, and the art on the cards is so pretty. You could even travel with it if you wanted to.
2. Lonely Planet Everyday Adventures
Lonely Planet is usually known for its travel guidebooks, but recently they released a new “guide” called Everyday Adventures, which aims to give people new ideas of ways to explore places closer to home. I'm a big fan of hometown travel, and think this would make a fun gift.
3. Travel-themed board games
In our house, we are big fans of board games. (Any fellow Betrayal at House on the Hill fans out there? It's a favorite of ours.) But don't assume that board games only mean Monopoly and Clue. There are SO many great games out there.
For those who want to weave a bit of travel into their board games, check these out:
- Trekking The National Parks
- Ticket to Ride Europe
- And they even make “escape room in a box” games now!
FOR THOSE WHO DON'T WANT “STUFF”
I personally enjoy buying people physical gifts to open on Christmas Day, but it can be really tough to find things that are both thoughtful AND useful. Sometimes, more “stuff” just isn't the answer.
If you're looking for some non-material things to buy the traveler in your life this year, here a few things to consider:
1. Flytographer session
Whether you're traveling solo, with a partner, or as an entire family, it can sometimes be really difficult to get good photos of yourself. I often travel with a tripod to get the shots I want, but others usually just rely on the goodwill and photography skills of strangers – which we all know usually leads to absolutely terrible photos.
If you want to make sure your friends and loved ones get truly beautiful vacation shots to take home, why not gift them with a Flytographer session?
The way Flytographer works is pretty simple: you choose the city, choose a photographer, choose the length of your session (60 minutes is probably enough), and then book! And then you go have a fun professional photo shoot and get a few dozen edited photos to keep.
Flytographer operates in more than 300 cities all around the world, and you can even buy a gift card that never expires – the perfect gift.
(They're currently running a 20% off sale on gift cards through Black Friday!)
2. GetYourGuide gift card
I've been booking a lot of day trips and tours recently through the GetYourGuide platform. I find this booking platform really easy to use (they even have a handy app to keep track of all your tickets for you), and appreciate how many user reviews there are to read for most tours.
GetYourGuide has thousands of tours and experiences to choose from all around the world, from cruises to day trips to food tours. I've booked things like an island tour of Aruba, wine tasting in the Douro Valley in Portugal, a day trip to Essaouira in Morocco, sightseeing in Istanbul, and more through GetYourGuide.
You can purchase a GetYourGuide gift card for any amount and gift it to a friend of loved one. Gift cards are good for 18 months, and can be used to book any experience or tour on the site.
3. Bookings for future travel
Travel demand is back around the world, and that means you definitely need to plan ahead when it comes to future travel. The end of the year is always a favorite time of mine to start planning trips for next year – and there are usually some sales, too!
Some companies offering great sales right now include:
- Intrepid Travel – My favorite tour company is once again doing a Cyber Sale, offering up to 20% off tours for 2024. They have a flexible booking policy, with no change fees up to 56 days before you travel.
- G Adventures – Similar to Intrepid, G Adventures (the company I just did my Galapagos trip with) is also doing a sale, with up to 30% off tours if you book by November 30. Look for tours here.
- Booking.com – The hotel booking site (that I personally use most of the time) is offering up to 30% off hotel bookings. Many hotels on Booking offer free cancelation, so this is a deal worth taking advantage of if you're thinking of planning a trip soon.
4. Plot of land in Scotland
Okay, this one may seem a little weird or silly, but this is what we bought my in-laws two years ago for Christmas and they LOVED IT. They still talk about it weekly.
Highland Titles is a company that sells souvenir plots of land in Scotland, along with a “title” like Laird, Lord or Lady of Glencoe. If you order far enough in advance, they'll send you a beautiful gift package with certificates and cards with GPS coordinates denoting where your land is.
Because yes, you're *actually* buying a tiny plot of land within a designated nature reserve in Scotland. You can even go visit your plot in real life, which I just think is delightful.
This is a really fun and personalized gift, and who knows, maybe it'll prompt a trip to Scotland someday, too!
(We bought the “couples plot,” which is two 1-square-foot plots next to one another. You can purchase anywhere from 1 to 100 square feet. And no, this isn't sponsored; I just think it's such a fun gift idea.)
So there you have it – another year, another gift guide!
Which of these items would you like Santa to bring YOU this year?
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