Can you believe that we’re already talking about the holidays? Ok, maybe you can since some stores have had their Christmas stuff out since July. You might even be sick of all the holiday hullabaloo by now. (I hope not!)
Last year, Christmas looked very different for our family. We were expecting E any day (he was due the 16th of December) and had just settled on our first home. Thus, the holiday season was a blur of preparations that had nothing to do with the holiday season. We barely got our Christmas presents purchased, wrapped, and distributed. Our tree went up on December 22, and only because my pregnancy hormones demanded that I bring the baby home to a house with a Christmas tree. E graced us with his presence at 10:30 PM on Christmas Eve, and we spent Christmas Day in the hospital.
After such a crazy 2018, I am doubly ready for the 2019 holiday season! One thing I’m excited about is putting more thought into gifts than I was able to last year. I really enjoy Christmas shopping and the quest to find something that someone will really love. Today, I want to help you find a great present for that special someone by sharing fifteen of my favorite travel-related gift ideas for 2019!
(PS: I’ve continued to write gift guides each year after this first edition! You can find all of them here for more great ideas.)
Gifts at a Glance
- Packing Cubes
- Passport Protector
- Inflatable Neck Pillow
- Osprey Day Pack
- USB Multi-Port Charger
- Sidewinder Charger Organizer for MacBook
- Filtered Water Bottle
- Metal Straws
- Reusable Cutlery Set
- Global Entry Sponsorship
- Jewelry Organizer
- Shutterfly Gift Card
- Travel Journal
These perennial favorites are must-haves for any domestic or international traveler, whether it’s his or her first time away from home or thirtieth long-haul flight.
1. Packing Cubes
Ok, so perhaps not the most glamorous gift to start off the list, but out of everything I’m going to mention today it’s my packing cubes that I can’t live without. I can’t imagine preparing for a trip and not utilizing them. They’re so multifunctional. I love the smaller ones for socks, underwear, swimming suits, and the like, and I’ve used a large one to pack all of E’s clothing like it’s his own little suitcase that still fits inside my bag.
2. Passport Protector
Aside from the photos I take, the stamps in my passport are undoubtedly my favorite souvenirs from my travels. Those little books can take a beating, though, so I keep mine looking pristine by using a passport protector. As a bonus, you can tuck luggage receipts, boarding passes, vaccination records, and other necessary items inside so that they’re always at the ready. Mine is pretty basic, like the one above, but there are lots more out there with fun patterns if you want to jazz it up!
3. Inflatable Neck Pillow
There was a time in my life that I thought neck pillows were the epitome of uncool travel. Then, I started using one and realized that my pride had been getting in the way of my comfort on flights. I still don’t want to give up much packing space to a neck pillow – or, even worse, have to hook it to my suitcase or wear it around my neck – so I’m glad I found this pillow from Purefly. It quickly inflates when needed and rolls up for easy storage when deflated. Plus, the cover is machine washable. Airplanes are notoriously uncomfortable, so consider giving your loved one a chance at a little rest!
Note: As of 2023, this item is no longer available, but there are plenty of other great neck pillows out there!
The Kindle is the quintessential gift for the traveling reader. I’ll admit, I’m still in the physical book camp, so this is a bit of an aspirational addition to the list for me. I don’t know why I haven’t made the switch to an e-reader yet, if only for travel. It’s so convenient! Instead of lugging around enough books to get you through a trip, you can load hundreds onto a single lightweight device. Plus, it’s now glare-free, waterproof, and has a built-in adjustable light so that you can literally read anywhere at any time.
You can also consider adding an Amazon gift card to help your loved one start his or her Kindle library.
Cost: $130 – $300 depending on the model
5. Osprey Day Pack
When you’re on the road, a good day bag is key. I absolutely love the Osprey daypack that M got me for Christmas a few years ago. (He liked mine so much that he bought one of his own a few months later!) It’s lightweight, comfortable, versatile, and has held up really well over the years despite taking a beating on numerous flights, hikes, and days of exploring. This is also a gift that isn’t limited to use on vacation, which makes it all the better!
Everyone loves a good travel gadget. Whether your loved one is a die-hard techie or not, there’s something here to make his or her travel life easier!
If you want to get incredible videos of your travels, you can’t do much better than a GoPro. Ever watched a particularly impressive video of someone skiing, diving, mountain biking, hiking, or strolling through a city? Chances are it was filmed on a GoPro. M’s parents graciously gifted him one for his birthday in 2016 and he has loved using it to document our adventures.
If your loved one already has a GoPro, consider gifting a fun mount or accessory take it to the next level! There are tons of options for use in different sports and activities, but some of the most versatile are the flex clamp, the suction cup, and the floating hand grip.
2023 update: The Hero 10 is now available.
7. USB Multi-Port Charger
Ever noticed how there never seem to be enough outlets in a hotel room? One of the best things M and I bought before our trip to Iceland was this multi-port charger. With two phones, two Apple Watches, and some other devices that needed to be
A multi-port charger is especially helpful when you’re traveling to a country where you need to use an adapter to plug into a wall outlet. Rather than buying a bunch of adapters for all your charging cords, you can plug everything that charges via USB into this device and only use one outlet!
8. Sidewinder Charger Organizer for MacBook
This was one of the best things I bought myself last year. Regardless of how carefully I tried to wrap up my computer charger, it always seemed to disintegrate into a mess in my bag. It drove me crazy. When I saw my colleagues at my freelance gig using the Sidewinder, I immediately bought one for myself. Problem solved! This handy tool keeps everything nicely wrapped and in
If your loved one has a Mac laptop, I promise this will make his or her life easier. Sidewinders are available for older versions of the MacBook Air and Pro like mine (those with the Magsafe charger) as well as newer versions of the MacBook that have a USB-C charger.
Issues like overtourism and environmental sustainability are hot topics in travel right now. Help your loved one reduce his or her impact on travel destinations with these useful gifts.
9. Filtered Water Bottle
One of my favorite ways to save money, reduce plastic waste, and stay healthy when I travel is by bringing my own water bottle. I have two that come along on my trips regularly, one standard water bottle and one with a filter. The latter provides me with clean drinking water no matter where I am in the world and is the most versatile to gift!
10. Metal Straws
Over the course of 2019, plastic straws have gone from a normal component of eating out to the face of the plastic pollution crisis. As a result, more and more restaurants have stopped offering them or only do so upon request. That’s fine for some drinks, but there are times when a straw really does help. (Milkshakes and some alcoholic beverages, for example.) Luckily, reusable straws are inexpensive and can be taken almost anywhere. With these fun metal straws, your loved one will never be without a straw when needed but won’t be adding to the pollution problem either. Conveniently, a cleaning brush and carrying bag are included.
11. Reusable Cutlery Set
Another big component of plastic waste? Plastic silverware! If your loved one is really passionate about protecting the planet, consider gifting a set of reusable silverware. Whether tucking into hawker stall feast in Singapore or ordering takeout to a hotel room in Phoenix, there are lots of times when these guys will come in handy. As a bonus, this set also includes chopsticks, metal straws, a cleaning brush, and a carrying case.
I personally don’t love the feeling of eating off of wood, but if you want a more lightweight option this bamboo set offers the same pieces at a quarter of the weight.
Cost: $8 (bamboo) – $10 (metal)
Unique Ideas and Experiences
Need help for a particularly difficult loved one who seems to already have everything he or she needs? Try these ideas for a different approach.
12. Sponsor their Global Entry or TSA Pre✓ ® Application
Any frequent traveler who has not yet gone through the process of applying for TSA Pre✓ ® or Global Entry will be incredibly grateful to have these clearances. Consider fronting the cost for your loved one to apply for one of these time- and sanity-saving programs. What this gift lacks in glamour it makes up for with five years of sailing through security and customs with ease.
While you can’t exactly buy a gift card from US Customs and Border Protection, you can get creative with how you present this gift. Make a fun homemade gift certificate, enclose a check in a funny card, use scrapbooking tools to create a passport – the opportunities are endless!
Cost: $85 – $100
13. Jewelry Organizer
This is another aspirational addition to the list for me. As organized as I am generally, my packing process for the jewelry I take on trips leaves a lot to be desired. I am constantly untangling necklaces and hunting for matching earrings while trying to get ready on the road. Help make your loved one’s life easier: this pretty organizer will help keep all of her jewelry safe and tangle-free.
14. Shutterfly Gift Card
I’m just as guilty as anyone of taking thousands of photos on vacation and then letting them languish on a hard drive forevermore. Help your loved one do something fun with his or her photos with a gift card to a photo service like Shutterfly. I personally have used Shutterfly for almost 15 years to create photo books after big trips, but they also offer lots of other keepsake options ranging from coffee mugs to throw pillows to Christmas ornaments. At the very least, your loved one can order prints to stick on the refrigerator 🙂
If you’re not a Shutterfly fan, there are plenty of other photo services out there that offer gift cards for similar products.
Cost: $10-$100 per card
15. Travel Journal
Photos are great, but they don’t tell the full story. In addition to taking lots of photos, I am really passionate about keeping a journal while I travel. Whether I spend time writing paragraphs about my adventures or just jot down a list of the day’s activities, journaling helps me remember key events, reflect on what I have learned and experienced, and treasure the trip in years to come.
In searching for travel journal recommendations for this post, I found so many great options that it was hard to narrow them down to a few. (Ahem… M? Are you still reading??) Nowadays, I don’t always have time to write a moment-by-moment account of my day. Thus, I really like journals with questions and prompts that help you hit the highlights quickly and succinctly. Here
is my wish list are my favorites:
This journal, which includes a lot of pre-trip resources and checklists, plus foreign phrases and a metric conversion chart.
This journal, pictured above, which has a wealth of great prompts to help you remember the best and most impactful parts of each trip.
And this one, which is colorful and fun for the creative, artsy traveler in your life.
And if you don’t like any of those, there are plenty of other journal and planner options out there to choose from!
Thanks so much for checking out today’s post! I hope that it was helpful in inspiring a few ideas for the people you love, or for your own wish list 🙂 I’d love to hear what your dream travel gifts are in the comments below. In the meantime, whatever you celebrate and wherever you are, I wish you and yours a truly wonderful holiday season!
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