Gifts for the Traveler They’ll Actually Use!

Have a seasoned traveler in your life who seems to always be on the road and have everything they could possibly want?  I understand completely. Having traveled globally for over a decade, I think I’ve got my list of things I have that I can’t live without (too see my must haves, check out my post HERE).  But even I have to admit there are a few things that I wish I had (or better  yet gifted to me) so I wouldn’t have to buy them on my own. Here is a list of things I would love to receive or have received in the past which I think are great gift ideas. 

Reusable water bottle (collapsible) 

As many cities are trying to reduce single use plastic and waste, reusable water bottles are a great gift to give since they’re refillable at the airport and they don’t take up any space as long as they’re collapsible.  

I like to keep it simple with one of the these.  It’s easy to refill at the airport, doesn’t take up any space, and I just clip it on my backpack for easy access.  You can even get a beer cozy for it if you want but I found that it really doesn’t do much good since I keep it clipped on the outside of my backpack so it doesn’t keep the water cool very long.  

What I also like about these is that you can carry some iodine tablets with you so you’re covered pretty much anywhere.  Depending on the size of the bottle, you usually need 2 iodine tablets for 1 quart of water so a 480ml bottle is about half a quart.  

These things are cheap, light and easy to carry and it helps when we can reduce our use of single use plastic so I think these are great to have.  

Map to show where you’ve been

This is fun for any traveler because it shows in one glance where your world traveler has been.  I love my map and I look forward to inserting small pin in it every time I get back. 

There are 2 different ways of thinking about this.  One is to have a map like this where you can scratch off all the different countries you’ve been to.  The other is to just have a regular map like this and stick pins into the different cities and countries you’ve visited.  I prefer to stick pins into the map because it seems odd to me to scratch a huge country off the list if I’ve only seen a small part (think of only seeing Billings, Montana and counting that as having seen the US).  But ultimately, the choice is yours. Whichever map you gift, it’s sure to be a conversation starter whenever the recipient is entertaining guests. 

Passport wallet

I have this unassuming passport wallet that I carry with me all the time.  It allows me to have all my travel documents in one place as well as cash, credit cards, and boarding passes.  It’s also an RFID blocking wallet (even though I’m not entirely convinced that’s worth the extra cost) but it might be worth it for peace of mind. 

So I usually carry my normal everyday wallet when I’m out and about in town but I’ll have my passport wallet in my bag so that I always know where it is when I’m about to go through immigration or if I’m filling out an arrival card and need to grab my passport in my bag in the overhead bin.  I keep it in the same place in my bag so I always know where it is and when I’m in town, I’ll either keep it hidden in my bag or tuck it away in the hotel safe.  

I use my passport wallet as a backup.  If something were to happen where I lose my regular wallet, I have backup/emergency credit cards as well as cash and my passport stored away safely so that my trip won’t be ruined.  

Retro travel posters

Ok, so this is a personal favorite of mine and I own a few.  I think these old marketing posters are really cool and I love having them around my house especially if they’re for cities or countries I’ve visited.   

I guess this is a personal taste thing but I just like them.  Add in a frame and I think it’ll be cool addition to the home of any traveler.  

As a side note, is there an av geek out there who wouldn’t want to stay at the TWA hotel at JFK? Even if you aren’t an av geek, you have to admit that the retro look is pretty cool!


So if your traveler doesn’t have a tablet, you might want to consider buy them one.  Now you can go the expensive route and get an Ipad but I found that it’s easier to carry something simple like a kindle.  I find that the kindle is small enough to treat it as a grab and go type of electronic and it allows the user to play games or read while on long plane or train rides.  

I don’t carry my table around with me when I’m out and about for the day so it just stays in my suitcase except when I’m traveling but it gets the job done, especially if you don’t find anything interesting on the inflight entertainment system or just to read a book.  

Noise cancelling headphones

For the traveler who doesn’t want to be disturbed, noise cancelling headphones can be heavenly.  It won’t matter if you’re sitting near a crying baby, an obnoxious drunk, or a chatty cathy. Noise cancelling headphones will drown out all the surrounding noise and allow you to work or watch a movie without disruption.  

I’ve used all types of noise cancelling headphones on planes and although I admit the Bose headphones are fantastic in really drowning out the surrounding noise, I don’t like to carry them with me for long trips.  For quick trips, that’s a different story. The reason I don’t like having them on long trips is because I find them to be too big and bulky. They take up a lot more space than regular headphones so I just don’t feel like I can justify the amount of space it takes up in my backpack. However, if they’re the type of person who enjoys working or gets distracted, these noise cancelling headphones can really help. 

At the very least, every traveler should have some quality listening device (not the free ones you get on the plane). Whether it’s headphone or just ear buds, quality goes a long way vs. struggling with the free crappy ones given out for free. I prefer just old school wired earbuds for most of my trips so I can walk around the airport with one earbud in and one out. That way, I can listen to my music but also hear any announcements in the airport, gate, lounge, etc.

Chromebooks or netbooks

Lighter, cheaper, and safer than a laptop, Chromebooks (or any sort of netbook) is great for anyone who may not want to carry a full laptop around but still wants to get work done. You can red my thoughts about carrying a laptop on your trip HERE.

Chromebooks and netbooks are similar to laptops but need wifi in order to really be productive.  These can be used offline so if you’re a writer or creating spreadsheets or anything that doesn’t require internet access, these are going to be just fine.  Chromebooks use the Google operating system while netbooks typically use Windows.  

The drawbacks are that they won’t have DVD drives (but really, how many laptops have those these days anyways?) so watching movies won’t be an option.  However, what I do like about these is that they’re much lighter because they have very little storage space since the bulk of the items are meant to be saved on the cloud.  

For anyone who likes to get work done and really doesn’t need the full capabilities of a laptop, a Chromebook or netbook might be the perfect thing.  Also, as wifi becomes more and more available on planes, I think the usability of these units will increase in the future. Finally, since there isn’t much in storage, the price point on these is fairly low and they’re really light making them easier to carry than a normal laptop.  


I have a Sony A7iii camera that I bought as a gift for myself last year. I wanted to try and take better photos of the places I visit and although it was a huge investment, I’m really happy with the purchase. That said, it don’t think everyone needs to have one but I do think anyone who is into photography or wants to take better photos would really be excited about getting a professional grade camera.

Yes we all have cell phones and technology has come a long way in terms of cameras and cell phones.  To be honest, it’s amazing how clear photos are when taken on a cell phone and it’s scary to think that this technology is only getting better.  

That said, if you’re the type of person who enjoys taking pictures and is perfectly content with just a point and shoot camera on your cell phone, that’s fine.  To be honest, in most cases when I’m taking a quick snapshot of something (like food, planes, etc) the first thing I reach for is my cell phone.  

But if you’d like to take up a great hobby and maybe learn about photography and take some better photos, you might want to seriously invest in a camera (or buy one as a gift).  By learning about photography, you’ll be able to take better photos by studying the lighting, different positions (so you’re not taking the same photo as everyone else), colors, etc.  

Final thoughts

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel around the world and visit some amazing places and with that, seen some amazing places.  Through the years, I’ve been asked by friends and family what I wanted for special occasions and I’ve never really had a great answer.  Of course their hearts are in the right place but since they don’t travel, they may not think about the practicality of certain gifts. Hopefully this list will give you some idea of what to get your special someone who enjoys traveling but seemingly has everything they need.  

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