Looking to buy a gift for someone with insatiable wanderlust? People who love travel tend to prioritize experiences over things, so it can be a bit tricky to pick the perfect gifts for the travel enthusiast in your life. Good news, though- there’s gear that every traveler needs to bring along to make the most of their adventures. So here’s 20 ideas for practical gifts for travel lovers to fuel their wanderlust even more!
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After traveling to over 20 countries and all over the United States, from RVing to backpacking (… and, you know, running a travel blog), I have a pretty solid grasp on what gear every traveler should have at the ready for their next adventure.
And the best thing is, if you give one of the practical items on this list to a loved one, it’ll actually be used while they’re out exploring the world and making amazing memories, as opposed to just simply collecting dust on a shelf. So let’s get to it!
Looking for a small and affordable gift that’s still totally useful? Here’s some ideas that are all under $30.
1. Inflatable travel pillow:
For long haul travel days (whether by train, plane, or bus), there’s few things more essential than a good neck pillow. But if your friend is like me and a fan of packing light, solid travel pillows frankly take up too much room. Not to fear- inflatable travel pillows can be super comfy and pack down to basically nothing at all! Plus, this one comes with a washable cover in case they spill any plane booze on it- score!
2. Scratch off world map:
Ever heard the expression “I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”? Yeah, it’s basically every traveler’s mantra. While many wanderlusty folks try to stay away from bucketlists and country-counting, it’s nevertheless so satisfying to get to tick another country off your list on this scratch-off world map. Plus- no gambling involved!
3. Nalgene bottle:
Story time! One time, I was on a flight to Japan that was extremely toasty. I had taken off as much clothes as is acceptable for a public setting and every time I asked a flight attendant for more water, I was given a comically-sized thimble of water (I still don’t understand- were the cups meant for ants?!). It was not… the most comfortable flight ever.
And ever since that extremely thirst-inducing flight, I have taken a large Nalgene bottle with me on any kind of trip, from international flights to backpacking adventures and it has totally upped my travel game. It’s kind of the perfect gift- it’s simple and very affordable, and yet it makes sure your loved one always stays hydrated as they get to and explore their destination, without having to drop a bunch of money on overpriced airport bottled water.
Plus, reusable water bottles are much better for the planet!
4. Travel books:
Listen, we all wish we could be off traveling all the time, but most of our time is spent saving up for and dreaming of our next big adventure. So why not give them some books to help them research and fuel their wanderlust?
Moon makes absolutely beautiful travel guides, packed with colorful photos and helpful tips- my husband, Justin, and I literally leave their guide to the U.S. National Parks in our SUV (you know, in case we accidentally stumble across a national park while we’re driving) and this guide looks perfect for a road trip lover.
Want to give something slightly less… educational? I love To Shake the Sleeping Self, written about a man who, with absolutely no cycling experience, traveled by bike from Oregon all the way to the tip of Patagonia. #travelgoals.
Is there anything more exciting than packing for a trip? Okay, besides actually going on the trip? I’ll wait…
5. Carry-on suitcase:
If your travel-obsessed loved one is anything like me and has a totally sad, beat-up backpack with some broken zippers, it’s time to usher them into adulthood with a luggage upgrade. Consider getting them a piece of carry-on luggage from Coolife (like this one or this one), which, in the world of suitcases, is fairly affordable, durable, and light enough to easily hoist into those overhead compartments.
6. Carry-on backpack:
In the never-ending debate of rolling bags versus backpacks, I’m going to be honest- I’m mostly Team Backpack. It leaves both of your hands free, which is handy (pun intended) if you need to look at your phone for directions or buy some yummy chili mango from a street vendor, and is way easier to carry over uneven terrain, like gravel or cobblestone.
Justin and I each have this 45L backpack from Peak Design. We wrote a whole blog post about our Peak Design Travel Backpack 45L review, but if you want the TLDR, it’s eye-poppingly feature-rich, has incredible accessibility and organization, and was clearly designed by travelers for travelers.
7. Packing cubes:
Packing cubes are AMAZING- no longer will your friend need to crumple up their dirty clothes with all of the rest of their vacation gear, but they can have separate zippered little pouches for it! Beyond just their dirty clothes, packing cubes are excellent for keeping all their stuff organized while they’re on the go and weirdly help actually fit more stuff into luggage. Like I said- magic!
8. Packable backpack:
Now, I know I just listed a backpack above, but hear me out. Whether you’re strolling around a city or going for a hike at your destination, having a backpack to take with you during the day is super handy to hold your water bottle, your jacket, a camera- all the essential travel goodies. But, even if their main piece of luggage is a backpack, they’re not going to want to dump out all of their stuff to use it for day trips.
Which is where the handy packable backpack comes in! It folds down into a tiny pouch, can be tossed into the bottom of their carry-on, and when they’re ready to head out and explore, bust it out of that pouch. Incredibly handy- especially for travelers who love to explore outside at their destinations.
There’s a few basic needs that every traveler needs regardless of where they’re going- sleep, food, water, and a reliable way to watch Netflix on the plane. So with that in mind…
9. Sleeping mask:
Give the immeasurably awesome gift of actually sleeping on a plane (or a hostel dorm room or Airbnb with crappy curtains)! This nifty sleep mask has adjustable eye cups to block out 100% of light, so all your loved one will need to worry about while trying to catch some Z’s on the plane is their overly chatty seatmate!
Sticking with the plane theme (or really, any mode of transit), headphones are key to a comfortable ride. And there’s so many ones that would make awesome gifts for travel lovers!
- Justin and I both have the Samsung Galaxy earbuds, which, for something that easily fits into the palm of your hand, has a stunning amount of features, like noise cancellation and ambient sound mode. And this little device allows your friend to use their wireless earbuds in systems for wired headphones, like airplane entertainment systems or on the treadmill at their hotel gym.
- If there’s one constant about travel, it’s weird and, at times, noisy sleeping conditions. As a light sleeper, I’ve been kept awake by crowing roosters in Hawaii, fighting street dogs in India, and garbage trucks in Mexico (fun fact- the garbage trucks in Puerto Vallarta sound like they’re playing disco music all the time!).
These sleep buds are specifically designed for the light sleeper in your life to catch some shut-eye, by passively blocking noise and playing from a huge catalog of soothing sounds.
11. Water filtration system:
Whether they’re traveling abroad or exploring the backcountry, adventurous souls do not always have guaranteed access to filtered drinking water. And that generally means your loved one is going to resort to buying bottled water. Not only can this add up over a trip, but it’s also terrible for the planet- Americans alone throw out 35 BILLION water bottles per year.
But good news- there’s some cool water filtration systems that are perfect for travelers- the Sawyer Squeeze is awesome, especially for travelers who may also like to partake in outdoor adventures, or the Grayl Geopress functions as both a water filtration system and a water bottle. Good for the wallet and the planet!
CLOTHES FOR ON THE GO:
There’s a few totally practical items of clothing that would work as awesome gifts for the travel lover in your life.
12. Hiking sandals:
There is perhaps no item of clothing that is more ubiquitous amongst backpackers, hikers, and travel enthusiasts than a solid pair of hiking sandals, specifically made by the brands Chacos and Tevas. Most hiking sandals are crafted with Vibram soles for awesome traction and thus, are super comfy for everything from strolling around the streets of a city, to hiking up a canyon, and even rafting down a river.
13. Multi-functional clothing:
When you’re moving all over the place, the dream is to have a small amount of items that let you be prepared for a wide variety of different situations. For example, this large scarf could serve as a shawl when entering temples, a blanket on a chilly plane, or a cover-up as you walk to the pool. Or a buff can act as a scarf, a makeshift face mask, or a headwrap
14. Rain coat:
It is basically travel law that no matter where you go on a trip, there’s a good chance it will unexpectedly rain on you. The old adage that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes is totally true- all you need is an excellent raincoat and you’ll be all set to keep on exploring, rain be damned. Nothing can beat the gift of keeping your loved one dry and toasty during their worldly explorations- check out this raincoat for women and this one for men.
TRAVEL TECH GEAR:
Out of all of the things listed in this article, I probably use all of the things in this category on our trips the most. So help your friend get a tech upgrade!
15. Battery pack:
Ooooh, boy. There’s no if’s, and’s, or but’s about it, the battery pack is our tech gadget workhorse when we’re traveling.
It’s almost shocking how reliant travelers are on technology while they’re on the go- think of all the electronics most travelers take with them during the day (cell phone for Google Maps and Google Translate, camera for photos, mobile hotspot for wifi on international trips… the list goes on and on), and there’s nothing worse for a traveler than when one of their electronic device’s battery dies while they’re out and about in a new city. Luckily, though, they can easily just throw a battery pack in their purse or backpack and never have to worry about their battery dying mid-exploration again.
We take our battery pack everywhere, from backcountry camping excursions to international flights and short weekend road trips. Truly a must-have for any serious traveler.
16. Mobile hotspot:
Getting reliable internet in other countries is tough- purchasing coverage through your carrier is usually REALLY expensive and you can’t simply rely on getting internet in coffee shops and your hotel to get around. A mobile hotspot device is a godsend- the traveler just needs to purchase a SIM card from the country they’re traveling in, pop it in the device, and voila, they’ll have a portable little WiFi network.
Justin and I use this Netgear Nighthawk, not only as a portable wifi device when we travel internationally, but also as a mobile hotspot to work remotely from our RV. PLUS it acts as a battery pack to charge other electronic devices and you know there’s nothing that makes a traveler’s heart sing quite as much as multifunctionality.
17. Universal plug:
So we already established that travelers tend to rely on a bunch of electronic devices while exploring destinations. But plot twist- electronic device chargers from some countries simply do not work with other countries’ electrical systems (e.g., your friend won’t be able to charge their iPhone in that German castle they rented on AirBnB with their charging brick from the United States).
We got ‘em covered, though- a universal plug will help your friend charge their devices all over the world. Plus this nifty model comes with two extra USB-ports so, when they return back to their hotel room at night, they can charge up allll their tech gear for tomorrow’s explorations.
Travel lovers tend to be brave souls, surfing, hiking, and skydiving their way around the world. And what could possibly be better to capture all of those epic outdoorsy explorations than this teeny tiny adventure camera. Not only is it waterproof (down to 33 feet), but it’s also small, incredibly lightweight, and versatile enough to capture both epic photos and their next YouTube video.
19. Peak design tripod:
Photography and travel go together like peanut butter and jelly. And what goes better with travel photography than an easily packable, super lightweight, multifunctional tripod? Dare I say, nothing!
If your loved one is a shutterbug and likes capturing photos (especially if they ever travel solo), getting them an awesome tripod to take on their trips will lead to countless photos that would have frankly been impossible without it. We have the Peak Design Tripod and I am OBSESSED- it’s about the diameter of a water bottle when collapsed, super lightweight, and has all kinds of cool functionality, like a built-in mobile phone mount that stows away when not in use. Pretty neat, huh?
Whether they’re shooting with a multi-thousand dollar camera setup or an old iPhone, it’s not an exaggeration to say that having a tripod will completely elevate their travel photography game.
20. Peak Design capture clip:
One more suggestion if your travel lover is a photography enthusiast. There’s not a ton of great solutions for where to stow your camera while you’re off exploring that allows both your hands to be free and your camera readily accessible.
Until recently, the most prevalent option was to simply use a neck strap, where you have the weight of a camera (which can be quite heavy, depending on what body and lens you’re using) simply hanging off your neck. But with the Peak Design Capture Clip, you can simply clip your camera on anywhere, like your belt or your backpack strap, and, with the literal press of a button, be able to easily grab your camera to snap a picture when the opportunity arises.
I’m a little obsessed with this nifty little contraption (if you want to learn more, check out our Peak Design Capture Clip review), but I think we can all agree- while a camera hanging off your friend’s neck just makes them look like a big ol’ tourist, a camera securely clipped on to their backpack transforms them into a slick National Geographic photographer. Amazing!
I hope this article got your creative juices flowing for the perfect gifts for the travel lover in your life. If you got the travel bug, are there any gifts you’d love to get that I missed? Let me know in the comments below!