15 Actually Useful Travel Gifts For The Wanderlust Stricken In Your Life


The best thing about having friends and family that are constantly globetrotting?  They’re frequently away during holidays, so you rarely have to worry about getting them gifts.

But, alas, even the most adventure-starved nomad seeks the comfort of home every once in a while.  And sooner or later, you’ll end up seeing them around the holidays.  Might as well be ready with a gift tucked around somewhere. We think these 15 travel items make for practical gifts that the jet-setting, backpacking, and world-wandering can find very useful.

Before the list, a warning: if someone is a frequent traveler, chances are, they’ve already made their investments in the true essentials.  That means, as a gift, it’s usually best to avoid luggage, backpacks and travel headphones as these are, typically, among the first few things travelers put a lot of thought (and money) into.  Your job, as a gift-giver (should you choose to accept it), is to help them out with the rest.

Preparedness 101

Sometimes, things go wrong in trips.  Sure, the chances that something catastrophic will happen isn’t high, but being prepared for adverse situations is always a good thing.  These gifts can make preparedness quite the non-cumbersome affair, too.

1. Lifestraw $19.95

Quite possibly the most portable water filter ever made, Lifestraw is not just compact and lightweight, it’s incredibly potent, removing 99.99999% of waterborne bacteria, taking out 99.8% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and reducing water turbidity by approximately 0.2 microns, meeting or exceeding all EPA standards for efficacy. It’s easy to use, too — just stick the contraption into a not-quite-sure-whether-clean water source (be it a lake, a puddle or a magical oasis in the desert) and start sipping through the straw, running water through the integrated tube straight to your mouth.

2. Trakdot GPS Luggage Tracker $59.99

Lost luggage can be a serious nightmare and it’s easy to ignore the gravity of that potential problem when it hasn’t happened to you.  The Trakdot GPS Luggage Tracker can help prevent that from happening, offering a way to let travelers keep track of their luggage from check-in up to the time they get them back.  To use, simply cram the device inside the bag and track its current location from the accompanying smartphone app, so you can complain to airline officials with actual verifiable information in hand (“Look here, it says you sent my luggage to Budapest. That’s near Long Island, right? Right?”).

3. Bugsaway Clothing $35 up

Mosquitoes are gross.  The diseases they carry?  Even worse.  Anyone who travels as much as your globetrotting friend or family member is bound to end up in some place with plenty of them.  And while we’d prefer the much more cost-effective Kite Patch for the job of keeping the skeetos away, I’m afraid wide availability for that isn’t likely to happen till late next year.  In the meantime, Exofficio’s Bugsaway Clothing, which come treated with Permethrin, can do a good enough job of keeping those flying disease-mongers at bay.  Each garment will retain its repellent powers for up to 70 washes, too, giving travelers protection from two-winged bloodsuckers for a whole load of adventures.

Capturing Memories

Memories fade.  That is, if you don’t get creative about making them last.  Preserving travel memories can be done in different ways, such as documenting trips in photographs, collecting memorable souvenirs, and making colorful scrapbooks all about your adventures.

4. Moleskine Passion Travel Journal $19.95

Actually, any travel journal will make for a lovely present, especially for travelers who enjoy documenting their adventures.  Since everybody still embracing the notebook seems to love Moleskine, we figure you can’t lose with their 240-page travel journal offering, which features five themed sections to fill in and five tabbed sections to personalize, along with checklists, calendars, trip planners, budget charts, and more.  It also includes 12 adhesive labels for personalizing.

5. Luckies of London Scratch Map Travel Edition $14

A perfect home display piece for globetrotters, it lets them scratch off every place they’ve visited to reveal the underlying graphic, creating a visual map of how much of the world they’ve actually seen.  Every person with wanderlust needs one.  Put it up in a prominent spot in the living room and we guarantee an instant conversation piece.  This particular map measures 16.5 x 11.7 inches, with gold scratchable layers covering each destination.

6. Joby Gorillapod $16.99

Traveling usually involves plenty of adventures exploring locales on your own.  While you can always meet someone who’d be kind enough to take your pictures, there are many instances when you will have to go the selfie route.  This solves that problem, allowing you to position the camera in a whole host of otherwise awkward positions for getting exactly the shot your want with you in it.  Beware, though: lots of travel fiends I know have already invested in one, so may want to check if your friend or family member still needs it.

Problem-Free Check-In

Who wants to spend an hour or more at any airport line?  Nobody.  These gifts can help make sure that won’t be your recipient’s fate any time in the near future.

7. Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale $19.09

Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen several products enter this category, with their own take on highly-portable digital scales travelers can use to weigh their own luggage, allowing them to avoid surprise charges (or deal with an extra 30 minutes of repacking) when checking in at the airport.  For our money, there’s nothing better than the Balanzza, a digital scale that measures no bigger than a regular TV remote.  Based on personal experience, we’ve found this very accurate, with very few misweighs (and even then, differences are minor) throughout its many times of use.

8. Clear Bag System $29.95 up

The TSA has some strict restrictions when it comes to carrying liquids and gels.  The Clear Bag System is designed to comply with all of them, consisting of a clear quart-sized zip-top bag and leak-proof canisters with pump-dispenser caps that you can use for holding your shampoos, conditioners, lotions, gels, sunscreens, and more.   Both the bag and refillable containers are reusable, making for an item travelers can find useful over multiple trips.  There are several designs and combinations, so you can find the perfect one to suit your target recipient.

9. Tom Bihn Travel Tray $22

Designed to help travelers quickly pass through the TSA line, it’s a canvas tray that can switch into a pouch and back with the simple cinch of a drawstring.  Just dump everything you’d otherwise keep in your pockets on there before you hit the line, carry the pouch around, and turn it into a tray as soon as you’re in front of the line.  After you’re cleared, cinch it back up into a pouch and be on your merry way.  Plus, the tray can double as a perfectly-functional valet bowl at home or in the office.

Travel-Friendly Fashions

Clothes always make for great holiday presents, provided you can pick styles that won’t make the recipient cringe.  And, please, note the emphasis on not making recipients cringe.

10. Brad Thor Alpha Jacket $200 / SeV Kelly Jacket $150

We can’t imagine better travel jackets than Scottevest’s inventory, with their multitude of pockets, functional styling, and travel-ready designs.  These two models, the Brad Thor Alpha and the Kelly, are our current favorite from the men’s and women’s lines.  The former brings a rugged masculine design perfect for globetrotting action heroes, while the latter carries a casual sportswear aesthetic that looks perfect for rocking all-day.  At these prices, we imagine these purchases will be reserved for a traveler who’s actually near and dear to the heart, though.

11. Travelsox Compression Socks $23.50 up

Like other types of compression clothing, Travelsox’s compression socks will help stimulate blood flow and reduce swelling during those extended periods of sitting in a cramped coach seat, all while wicking away perspiration and wetness.  This is a must-have for anyone willing to sit through hours upon hours of airplane flights and bus rides.  Might also be helpful when you get kidnapped for ransom in a foreign country and forced to spend the next few days tied to a chair in a corner.  Or something like that.

12. Travel Fragrance $86

This is, basically, perfume made for travelers.  How?  Well, they made the bottles so that they’ll never leak nor break, housing the glass container inside a durable aluminum shell.  To use, twist up the top to pull out the actual glass bottle and expose the sprayer before dabbing.  Once you’re done, screw it back in and you’ll never have an unfortunate spill again.  It’s available in three city-themed scents, all packaged in a shell that abides completely with airport regulations.

Other Great Travel Gifts

13. Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips $28.72

This 400-page hardcover volume chronicles some of the world’s “most fabulous journeys,” as explored by National Geographic’s host of travel writers.  Every continent is covered, from famous destinations to obscure sojourns, using stories, full-color photos,  detailed maps, and expert opinions to inspire the wanderlust-stricken to get up and plan a new trip at every turn of the page.

14. 11-Inch Grid-It $29.99

The Grid-It is always a safe bet for a holiday gift.  Even if someone already has two of them, they can always use one more with the gaggle of gadgets, tools, and gear we’re continually accumulating.  This set is one of our go-to picks, bundling a 12″ x 8″ Grid-It panel with a customizable weave of elastic straps and an integrated tablet pocket in the rear.

15. iGeek External Batterry Charger $61.92

It used to be hard giving a battery pack as gift, with small ones packing too little power for heavy gadget users and large ones being a tad too bulky for those who want to travel light.  Not anymore. The iGeek, for instance, provides a powerful 11,200 mAh battery inside a case measuring a mere 6 x 3 x 1 inches, giving you a tool that can cram into a pocket, all while holding enough juice to replenish your smartphone’s charge at least five times over.