gifts for travelers 2016 shopping guide

Best Christmas Gifts for Travelers: Holiday shopping guide for your traveling friends (or yourself!)

The holiday season is officially upon us. Most of what I buy these days, or wish for, is travel related. So today, I’m sharing my ideas for the best Christmas gifts for travelers. From stocking fillers and small gifts to electronics for travelers and inspirational books and journals. And of course, some of my favourite gear that’s been making my travels easier over the last few years. Most of these are items I personally travel with, some are items on my wish list that I’ve heard other travelers rave about.

If you’re looking for a small present for someone going travelling soon, take a look at the stocking fillers ideas. If you’re looking for something big, take a look at the electronics.

This post has been updated with fresh ideas for Christmas 2019!

Note: the links in this post are affiliate links from Amazon. This means that if you buy an item through these links, I will receive a small percentage of the sale, at no cost to you.

Stocking fillers for travelers and small items up to $20

Passport Holder

My passports always end up looking like a mess. The corners especially. And I’m not alone, most frequent travelers end up with a frayed passport that can get immigration officers shaking their heads at us. My latest passport is in a passport holder, and it’s making a massive difference. I’m not ashamed of my worn out passport anymore, but more importantly, I know that it’ll survive long enough for me to fill up all the pages! This leather passport holder includes space for credit cards and blocks RFID readers for extra security. I’m showing you the grey version as I like the simplicity, but you can choose from seven different colors.

Infinity scarf with hidden pocket

If you don’t like the idea of a money belt, or are looking for a more fashionable solution, consider one of these infinity scarves. They come in tons of different styles and colors these days, and have a hidden pocket that will fit anything from a wallet to a mobile phone, or both. These are great for long haul flights as well, if you want to keep valuables close by and not worry about them while you’re trying to sleep (let’s face it, it’s hard enough to sleep on a plane without worrying about stuff going missing!).

Eye Mask

Eye masks are a basic item, but having a good one can make a huge difference to a traveler’s quality of sleep, whether it’s on planes, overnight trains or even hotels that don’t have proper blackout curtains. I like this eye mask because it’s contoured, meaning it won’t drive me crazy every time I blink.

“Travel Between the Lines” Adult Colouring Book

This item is probably on most traveler gift guides this year, but for a good reason. Adult colouring books are all the rage this year, and Travel Between the Lines has beautiful travel inspired images. I think it’s an awesome idea for long flights or train rides, or for when you simply want to disconnect and get away from electronics. Don’t forget to add coloured pencils!

Money belt

A money belt may look geeky but it’s a good way to store money and credit cards, and even your mobile phone. I use mine not just for travel but also for the gym. This one is water repellent, which is handy for rainy days or gym sessions that are a little more exhausting than usual 😉

Scratchable World Map

Keep track of where you’ve been! This is a scratch world map that lets you reveal each country you’ve been to one by one.

Carry on Cocktail Kit

A bit of a novelty item really, but an interesting stocking filler or secret santa present for the traveler who already has everything! These carry on cocktail kits come in different flavours, from Bloody Mary to Gin & Tonic, and are small enough to be TSA-approved.

Electronics gifts for travelers

Olympus Tough Camera

The famous Go Pro is great for videos, but I’m more of a photo person, so the Olympus Tough is my ideal adventure camera. It’s sturdy and tough, as the name suggests, and it’s waterproof without the need for a case. I’ve gone snorkeling, paddle boarding and sailing with it many times. Mine has even been in a Vietnamese mud bath with me (long story…). I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, but the ‘Tough’ survived the incident without any trouble. The selling factor for me was that aside from being adventure proof, this camera also takes great food pictures, which is a huge bonus for me as I take a lot of food snaps for my blog. I own the TG-4 version, and it’s still going strong after 4 years of travels, but the newest model on the market now is the TG-6 which is nearly identical but has a couple of upgrades.

Kindle Paperwhite

I like to hold on to good old fashioned paper when reading a book, and didn’t “convert” to e-readers for a long time. But it meant that I rarely ended up reading anymore, because I’m on the road so often and can’t really carry more than one book. And often, that one book just has to make way when the bag is over weight or I need to fit my things into a carry on bag. Eventually, I caved, and got a Kindle (received it as a Christmas present, actually!). It’s light weight, it stores thousands of books, and I can get new books in an instant whenever I feel like it. A huge bonus for me as traveler is that the Kindle Paperwhite has a built-in light, allowing me to read in the dark. Great for night busses, or simply for reading in bed without disturbing my partner. And the no-glare screen means I can also read in bright sunlight on the beach. The latest version of the Paperwhite is even waterproof so you can read in the pool or in your bathtub!

Recently, I got myself a Kindle Unlimited subscription, which allows me to borrow up to 10 books at a time. I can get through thrillers and detective books in a day when I’m on vacation or on a long flight, so for me it has really been worth it. You can try Kindle Unlimited for 30 days for free in most countries! By the way, the entire Harry Potter series is on Kindle Unlimited, and makes for a great winter reading marathon!
Kindle Unlimited Membership Plans

Macbook Air

A travelers’ favourite and my work machine of choice. The 13″ MacBook Air is light enough to carry around the world and big enough to work on (I’m not a fan of the 11″ versions). It has great video and photo editing software out of the box and is generally hassle free (most of the time). It’s a big ticket item as a Christmas present, but there are good refurbished versions out there, and the older models – I’m currently still using a 2013 version – are still powerful enough for most normal users.

Power bank – multicharger

This thing was a game changer for us on our last long trip. A power bank that charges up to six devices at a time. Hotel rooms are notorious for not having enough power outlets for connected travelers, so it has been great to be able to charge two phones, a Kindle and a camera all on one power station. Bonus: these things are great for making friends at airports and conferences where everyone is always searching for power! Pick a fast charging option, it’s worth the higher price.

Top of the range noise canceling headphones: Bose QuietComfort 35

I love Bose’s QuietComfort series of noise cancelling, over-ear headphones. They are comfortable, sound amazing and cancel out background noise better than any other headphones out there with their active noise cancelling system. They’re also durable – mine are right years old and still going. The newest version, the QuietComfort 35, are Bluetooth headphones and come in your choice of silver or black.

In-ear headphones: Shure SE215

Whilst I love my Bose, I do have a gripe with the fact that they’re quite large, and thus take away a considerable amount of valuable packing space. I’m also not that keen on wearing over-ear headphones in the gym or on a beach, so I spent a long time searching for a pair of in-ear headphones that I could be happy with. These Shure SE215 take a bit of time getting used to with their odd shape, but the sound is great, they come with a range of different ear pieces so you’ll find out that fits you, and they won’t fall out when you’re running. No active noise cancelling, but the passive noise cancelling is pretty good on these, especially with the range of different foam ear pieces that come with them. And of course they pack up super small in a little pouch that fits into any jacket pocket. There’s now a range of different colours for this model, and you can choose between wired (with microphone if you do calls on the road) and wireless.

Packing and Gear

Osprey Sojourn Wheeling Backpack

I do a lot of long-term travel, where I need to lug my bag around city sidewalks, planes/trains/automobiles and even deserted islands, so sometimes having a backpack is kind of convenient. But then I’ll go to a five star luxury hotel and just do not want to look like a backpacker. Say hello to the convertible Osprey Sojourn! I have the 26″ (60 liter) version, and it’s shocking how much fits in this thing. The wheels are sturdy, there are plenty of compartments inside, and it looks neat and sleek in the dark grey version. More colours available if grey is not your thing.

Osprey Sirrus Hiking Backpack

My Soujourn is great, but not the most comfortable bag to carry for multiple hours a day, so when we went hiking for two weeks this summer with all our travel gear on our backs, I needed something lighter. As I’ve been very happy with the quality of my other Osprey bag, I chose the Osprey Sirrus hiking backpack. I have the 26 liter version, as I try to pack an absolute minimum of gear and mostly use it in warm weather, which makes it easier to pack light. For most travelers, I would recommend the 36 liter version (linked above) to give you a bit more space to pack all trip essentials.

Pacsafe portable travel safe

An item we mainly carry around when we’re staying in guest houses and hotels that don’t have an in-room safe. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but great for peace of mind when we have to leave valuables in the room and are out all day. This Pacsafe bag has heavy chain mesh all around it, and there’s a long metal safety cable that allows you to lock the bag to any non-movable object you can find. It folds down flat for storage and travel.

Pacsafe make a range of great travel bags, I’ve also got my eye set on this handbag that’s slashproof and has an RFID-blocking compartment.

Hanging toiletry bag

I never travel without a hanging toiletry bag anymore. All my stuff has an assigned place, there’s no annoying searching for little items when I’m tired and just want to go to bed after a long day of travel. It’s also great to be able to hang the bag up when there’s little space in a hotel bathroom, or when I know I’ll have to pack quickly in the morning. On long trips and overnight flights, I actually travel with two of these: One for my normal toiletries, and one small one in my carry on bag where I keep any small items (not necessarily toiletries) I use during the flight. I can just hook the bag onto the seat pocket in front of me and have everything I need at hand (contact lens case, eye mask, moisturizer, even my cell phone goes in there so I don’t end up loosing it…).

Packing cubes

Wondering how experienced travelers can fit so much stuff into a tiny carry-on bag? The answer often lies in packing cubes. They’re great for compartmentalising and organising your luggage, so stuff isn’t just flying around. I recommend getting a few different sizes, for pants, shirts, underwear etc. They’re also practical for keeping electronics organised (so many cables!!). I like these ones for their bright colours (my bag has to be grey on the outside, but that doesn’t mean the inside can’t be a bit more fun!).

Dry bag

When I first bought my dry bag, I was doubting whether I’d actually get much use out of it. But this thing has been river tubing, sailing, island hopping and kayaking with me. I also frequently use it as an extra layer to protect my electronics inside my backpack or suitcase on a rainy day, and it’s saved my computer from moisture damage on various occasions, including a motorbike tour in the rain in Vietnam and a boat ride in a typhoon in the Philippines. This Osprey dry bag is very light-weight, and I wouldn’t trust it to dump my computer in water with it, but it’s extra protection and folds up very small when not needed. And for what it’s worth, when we’ve used it to keep our clothes dry while going river tubing (and the bag was basically swimming next to us), it’s kept everything perfectly dry.

Books for Travelers

Thai Food by David Thompson

David Thompson’s Thai Food is an ode to Thai cuisine. On over 600 pages, he explains the intricacies of Thai ingredients and Thai cooking. The book starts with an in-depth overview of Thai history and culture, including a 20-page section just on Thai rice. I’ve found that the recipes in the book aren’t the easiest, but the results are always stunning and bring out what I love so much about Thai food: layered and complex flavours, and meals with various dishes that complement each other beautifully. This is a book for foodie travelers, with beautiful photos and background information. Master these recipes and you’re a master of Thai Cooking.

Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne

I started reading Around the World in 80 Days on a long bus ride through Cambodia, and for days I found it hard to put the book down. In this classic by French author Jules Verne, a man and his valet attempt to travel around the world in 80 days on a bet. It is the story of a great adventure, and will have any traveler wondering how they would travel around the world. I was definitely looking at a map of the world and scheming possible routes, dreaming about long ship voyages and romantic train journeys.

How Not to Travel the World by Lauren Juliff

The travel memoirs of a 20-something backpacker who went out to discover the world. A funny and engaging read especially for the future backpacker in your family.

1000 Places to See Before You Die by Patricia Schultz

1000 Places to See Before You Die is a classic “coffee table book” and a beautiful gift for travelers. It’s a book that you will go back to over and over for travel inspiration and to learn about the world. I met Patricia Schultz at a travel conference in the Philippines, she is incredibly passionate about travel and loves to share the best places she can find. This is a second edition with updates and new places.

How to Shit Around the World

In her keynote at the TBEX travel conference, Patricia Schultz shared with us how much criticism she received from potential publishers about using the word “die” in a book title. I can only imagine that Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth had a much harder time with her title, “How to Shit Around the World“. Whilst the title will make most people chuckle, the contents of the book is actually a serious and important topic (though shared in a humorous way): health on the road. This book is hugely popular with long term travelers and people visiting countries and regions where staying healthy on the road can be a bit of a challenge. It goes into topics like sanitizing water, avoiding dehydration and coping with awkward and unsanitary bathrooms around the world.

Calendars and Journal Gifts for Travelers

1,000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day Calendar 2019

The calendar version of the famous book I shared above. This is a page-a-day calendar for 2019 with a different place for each day. Each page features a photo of an amazing place around the world, with a short info blurb about that place.

Old World Map Journal

Oscar Wilde once said, “I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.” That is just one of various inspiring travel quotes strewn throughout the pages of this gorgeous journal. The cover is a beautiful old map with gold foil accents, and there’s a fold-over flap with a magnet that closes the diary, keeping the pages safe from being torn on the road or in an overpacked suitcase.

Classic Moleskin

A classic journal that you can’t really go wrong with. I have several copies of this black Moleskin journal with plain pages lying around. Some are used for work, others for travel memories or business ideas and random thoughts.

When I’m traveling, I like keeping one of these small Moleskin Cahier journals in my purse. They’re so small they’ll fit into any purse, and they’re great for writing down trip memories and practical information. Mine have come in handy many times, for example to write down train numbers and times for Vietnamese train ticket agents who couldn’t speak English, or for copying down maps in areas where Google Maps wasn’t working.

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