Gifts for Travelers: 15 Useful Items for Any Type of Traveler

Need a great gift for someone who loves to travel? Here are 15 things that would make great gifts for travelers to get you started:

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1. A Kindle (or another type of E-Reader)

Kindle Paperwhite

Get rid of the paper books, they only weigh a traveler down! I personally own a Kindle, and I LOVE it for travel. Instead of lugging around at least one book (and then worrying about trading it or stashing it when I’m done), I can carry around hundreds of books in my little, compact Kindle device. I have a cover for it by MoKo, which I’d also recommend to keep the Kindle clean and protected.

In regards to which Kindle to get, I am not sold on the Fire. I actually have a Touch, and the new versions of the Touch are the Paperwhite (pictured here). They connect to WiFi, but these days we all have phones that do that too. Just stick with the simple reading functions and you should be fine.

Related: The Best Travel Books For Adventures Near and Far

2. Scratch-Off World Map

I don’t know any travelers who don’t LOVE to ogle over maps. Add a bit of interaction to that and you have a winning gift right here: the scratch-off map.

I received this as a birthday present once, and now it sits in an un-glassed frame on my wall, where we enthusiastically take it down to scratch off more countries after each trip. You can use it to track one trip or a lifetime of trips like we do. It will surely get your travel bug itching because all of those countries are just waiting to be scratched off.

3. Universal Adapter

Don’t leave the country without first purchasing a universal adapter.

Why? Because they are cheaper here (in the US) than anywhere else (most electronics are) and you know your devices will plug into them without problems. Universal adapters like this one cover plug options for over 150 countries.

This specific model pictured above can handle both 110 and 220 voltage. However, it does NOT convert voltage. You can use it for cameras, phones, laptops, etc., but don’t use this alone if you are planning to use a razor or hairdryer.

In my experience, I have purchased travel hair dryers while living in Europe (where they use 220v) because it’s easiest. You could try a voltage converter, but I’ve heard too many bad electronic-appliance-frying stories to trust them completely.

A universal adapter is a great gift because even if you already have one, it can’t hurt to have two and be able to plug in more than one device at a time.

Related: Travel Adapter and Voltage Converter Basics

4. Zipper Purse

Ladies, I have talked highly about this one before. It is essential to have a purse that zips closed and is comfortable.

A zipper is a must! It adds an aspect of safety and protection of your valuables that cannot be overlooked. Do not use clip or button purses or especially open purses. Make sure you have one that zips! Also, look for one with a wide strap to provide comfort despite the weight you may carry.

This zipper purse is one of many on our huge list of crossbody bag suggestions that ALL have zippers!

5. Messenger Bag

Gents, embrace the man bag. It is so convenient when you are spending your days roaming around cities or even in transit. It can be uncomfortable to have two backpacks (one small one for day trips) because they can be tricky to carry together. A backpack and a messenger bag usually fit really well together both for comfort and convenience, and style, of course!

The ones my brother and husband own have always come from Europe, but they are similar to the one pictured here. A space for a drink, a zipper and extra velcro or clips, a wide strap, and some inside zip pockets are some things you should look for in these bags.

The list of crossbody bags we mentioned above includes many styles for men, too!

Related: 5 Gift Ideas for Men Who Travel

6. Guidebook!

Guidebooks are a great place to start planning an upcoming trip. The Lonely Planet brand is my favorite, and if you don’t know where to start I would recommend checking out the “on a shoestring” editions. These are guidebooks dedicated to certain regions of the world that explain how one could travel “on a shoestring” budget.

There are also country-specific guidebooks, and they are always a good bet to get a traveler excited about a trip. You don’t need the newest version to learn about history, activities, and general information about most places. Just remember: do not rely solely on guidebooks to plan your trip. Always check updated websites for the most current information.

Related: Travel Vaccinations & Visas

7. Pocket Phrasebook

While you’re shopping for guidebooks, pick up a phrasebook too! If you (or your gift recipient) are heading somewhere that speaks a foreign language, this could provide great entertainment for a long plane ride, and of course, it is a handy reference when you need it.

I recommend sticking to western languages for phrasebooks because if you pick up a Mandarin (Chinese) phrasebook, for example, it might just make your head hurt and you’ll never want to look at it again. Some languages aren’t mean to be learned through a phrasebook. However, if you stick to western languages (those easier for English speakers to pronounce), you should have a good shot at learning some things that will help you on your way.

Related: Holiday Gift Ideas: What to Give Travelers To Italy

8. Backpack

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A good backpack is a necessity for any traveler.

Pictured above are two of my backpacks, both from REI. I have a 30L REI Traverse (blue) and a 50L Gregory Jade (red). I am in love with both and highly recommend both. Of course, the smaller blue one is for shorter trips. I have taken my blue backpack abroad for up to 17 days, whereas I take my red one for longer trips.

Some other backpacks to consider are the Osprey Farpoint 55 and Osprey Meridian 60. I’ve personally tested each one and recommend both!

The key to finding the right backpack: don’t let anyone else tell you what size to get, you let your body size and strength determine how much you can handle. More about that here and in the video below.

If you want to get a backpack for someone, offer to take them into an outdoor retailer or get them an REI gift card.

9. Sleep Sheet

This is the perfect gift for someone who plans to be staying in hostels. This is a sleep sheet. Basically, it’s a light sleeping bag that you can put over a bed or within its covers, yet you only touch your own sleep sheet instead of the hostel or hotel sheets.

I have a cotton one which is why I recommend this kind. It is compact, light, and feels wonderful, not to mention the peace of mind you get from sleeping in it. You can also get silk versions of this that are even more compact, but I’ve never used one so I can’t personally recommend them. For anyone nervous about bed bugs or germs in general, a sleep sheet is essential for a good night’s sleep.

Related: 3 Things to Help You Sleep on the Road

10. Sarong

Anyone (yes, including guys) heading to the beach needs a sarong. The days of the beach towel are long gone for travelers.

Don’t be that traveler who brings a beach towel abroad. Sarongs are incredibly light and compact, dry relatively quickly, and are useful in a plethora of ways. Yes, you can wear them as clothing as long as you figure out those knots (you don’t want it to fall off mid-salsa dance), you can drape them over your pillow to keep your face from collecting germs off hotel/hostel pillows (yes, I do this), and of course you can use them as beach towels to lay on or dry off with at the beach.

I can almost guarantee that any beach destination will have these available for purchase, but you can really never have too many (and they pack small), so it wouldn’t hurt to get one ahead of time to bring along as well.

Related: Ninja Packing Tips: Packing list for Europe with just a 30L backpack

11. iTunes Gift Card

Give the gift of music. It’s more personal than you might think. As a traveler, I have come across so many new songs and bands as I’ve traveled abroad that I know this is a great gift. If I have an account balance on iTunes to go in and purchase new music as I travel, it literally helps create memories on the road.

Do you know when you hear a song that takes you back somewhere? When I listen to new albums on the road, it always takes me back to that trip when I listen to them again in the future. Besides memories, new music is great to add to your music library when you are gone for a while and are craving something new to listen to.

Related: 50 Songs About Travel and Adventure: A BMT Community Playlist

12. REI Gift Card

Let them finish off their list themselves. REI has an extensive collection of high-quality travel items. Backpacks, travel bags, purses, travel games, protectors for all sorts of devices, water bottles, hats, sunglasses, guidebooks, sleeping bags, pads or sheets, travel pillows, the list goes on and on. 

If you aren’t exactly sure what to get a traveler, a gift card to somewhere like REI is perfect. Grab an REI gift card here.

13. Digital Camera/Video Camera/GoPro

Every traveler needs a camera, whether it be a point-and-shoot, a video camera, or even a GoPro.

I have a Canon EOS M – the perfect solution for a traveler who likes to pack light and take great photos. It is Canon’s compact system camera and fits in the palm of my hand. I have both the 22mm and 18-55mm lenses and would recommend at least the 18-55mm if not both.

I also have a GoPro, and it’s oh so much fun for the adventurous traveler!

14. Treasure Chest

Yes, you read right, a treasure chest.

This is one thing I own that I would grab out of my house in case of a fire. If you opened up my treasure chest you would find: my passports (both old and new), foreign coins and bills from all over the world, patches from each country I’ve been to, shells I’ve collected at beaches, old ticket stubs from the Olympics or famous museums, postcards, letters, and other small knick-knacks I’ve collected from all over the world.

It truly is my treasure chest, and it would be quite a meaningful gift to someone who treasures their travels as much as I do. Give it to them empty, and let them fill it up. Click here to download an invitation to fill up a treasure chest, and give it along with the gift.

15. The Aspiring Traveler’s Handbook

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Lastly, I couldn’t possibly create a list of great gift ideas for travelers without putting in a plug for my own product, my book “The Aspiring Traveler’s Handbook: A preparation guide to international travel.”

This little gem is the compilation of just about all of my travel advice for new or somewhat inexperienced travelers. It contains everything you need to know to plan a trip abroad, starting with choosing a destination all the way to zipping or clipping up your pack and getting on a plane.

Of course, I’m going to recommend it, but don’t just take my word for it, see what others are saying about it.

Happy shopping!

If you can’t physically give your favorite travelers a gift because they are out wandering the world, check out this list of online gifts for travelers on the go.