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Perfect Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers

Whether you’re looking for the upcoming Christmas holidays or want to avoid scrambling come the next gift-giving opportunity, travel lovers can be hard to shop for. At first, coming up with gift ideas for travel lovers sounds easy, right? Not always so. Many travelers try to live a more minimalist life, so it’s best to avoid clutter or items that won’t last. Decor often comes from souvenirs or photos taken during travels, and you may not have (or wish to spend) the scratch on a high quality luggage set.

gift ideas for travel lovers 2021

So what to do? Whether the travel lover does so in body or in spirit, there is definitely a perfect gift idea on this list. No more generic gift cards or unimaginative eye masks here! Read on and find just the right stocking stuffer or show stopper for the wanderlust stricken.

Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers – that are tiny but mighty

Whether they’re nomads or just have most of their space taken up by physical souvenirs, these gift ideas are literally tiny but pack a punch. As a bonus, they’re also friendly on the wallet.

Shampoo/Conditioner Bars

gift ideas for travelers solid shampoo

One of the most annoying things about travel is the liquid limit. Add to that the waste created by liquid cleansers and this is also an eco friendly gift idea. Etsy is filled with shampoo and conditioner bars. Look for ones free of not just sulfates but also palm oil derivatives. Get a set of 3 from Aquarian Bath or a variety of options crafted in Hawaii from Le Salty Mermaid. While this is an idea best for a closer friend or partner, these beautiful bars smell great and usually have elegant packaging that make for a great practical but lovely gift.

Re-Useable Travel Sets & Tools

From cutlery to shopping bags, it’s easy to get wasteful with disposable items. Plus they’ve been banned in some countries (especially plastic bags and the like), so it’s extra useful for a traveler. And they never have to figure out how to eat their takeaway or awkwardly hold their shop when they didn’t want to pay for a basket. It’s me. I’ve done that more times than I can count.

Travel Cutlery
gift ideas for travelers cutlery

These travel cutlery sets are made to last and fold up tiny. With multiple colors to suit any taste, it’s the perfect gift idea for many travelers. Hikers? Yep. Eco conscious folks? Uh-huh. Those that travel light? Definitely.

Fabric Shop Bag
gift ideas for travelers reusable

Despite best intentions, many re-usable shopping bags don’t last and end up in landfills anyway. Choose a quality fabric multi-use bag, and haul heavy produce or bottles of wine with confidence.

Collapsible Water Bottle
collapsible water bottle gift idea

Hydration matters! But single use water bottles are terrible for the environment AND the wallet. This BPA-free travel water bottle collapses as you use it, and stays compact when not needed.

Travel Towel
gift ideas for travelers eco friendly towel

A travel towel will have more uses than you can imagine. For the no-fuss traveler that roughs it, look for a quick dry microfiber type. For one who likes a bit of style and wants multiple functions, Sand Cloud has gorgeous, well made towels that are often on sale.

Travel Sets & Kits

If you’re looking for a gift with a bit of style and flair, explore travel sets and kits based on the interests of the gift-ee. Makeup dive? Outdoor aficionado? Picnic gourmand? There’s definitely a choice to be found that won’t go to – or create – waste.

Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers – who don’t actually travel

Many people would love to travel but don’t or can’t. Whether impeded by finances, home life, or health concerns, you can still feed their wanderlust. This can be a little tricky if they find not being able to travel upsetting. Even if they may travel again eventually, make sure to choose something they can enjoy now.

Wall Art

gift idea home decor art

Whether of a favorite place they’ve been to or a place they’ve always dreamed of visiting, wall art is a great choice. If you don’t know their decor tastes well enough to feel confident choosing something there are ways around it.

If you are getting the art made from one of your (or theirs) photos, I recommend Mpix, WHCC, Bay Photo, and Miller’s. Their prices are fair and their products are top notch. If photography isn’t your or their wheelhouse, try and shop small. Of course there are many options available on Etsy and the like. If you aren’t experienced and planning to buy a larger piece, definitely look for someone who will guide you through the process.

Of course, here’s my shameless plug for my own travel art prints. I’d love to help choose the perfect gift that first both their style and your budget.

Books

If you know a specific destination your recipient is in love with, browse the coffee table books often on sale at Barnes and Noble,. I’ve gotten some beautiful, unique books that often cost as little as $10. If there isn’t a Barnes and Noble search for a local book store (or even if there is) as you may find something even more rare if you’re up for a bit of a splurge.

Atlas Obscura offers fascinating and quirky tomes, whereas if you are after gorgeous photos National Geographic books have something for almost any particular travel interest. List lovers big on research (and who may travel again) will love 1000 Places to See Before You Die.

gift ideas travel lovers
The famous Last Bookstore in downtown Los Angeles

You can also combine coffee table travel books with other interests, like cooking, photography, history and more to really make it special. Novels set in foreign destinations – especially series – are perfect for homebound wanderlusting bibliophiles.

Home Decor

The possibilities are endless here; so much so as to be wildly overwhelming. So I’m listing a handful of ideas that focus on small businesses and individual creators.

Food Posters
gift ideas food maps

Jodi Ettenberg is a lawyer turned nomad turned homebound wanderluster after a spinal leak turned her world upside down. She’s kind, smart, and her shop offers perfect gifts for the travel lover. Food map prints, totes, and tees highlight 6 of her favorite countries.

Metal Wall Art
gift idea metal wall art

Metal wall art is a great way to inject some variety or act as a centerpiece. Word art, compass rose, or map outlines can be found in abundance. You can even order custom work, for the perfect unique piece. If you’re ordering for the holidays, make sure to look for shops guaranteeing shipping dates.

UNICEF Market
gift ideas that give back

Choose a gift that gives back from the UNICEF Market. It’s the best sort of double whammy – supporting UNICEF’s global work to help children and buying from local artisans. With items from all over the world, you’re sure to find the perfect gift.

Gourmet Subscription

A gourmet subscription is a perfect gift for the travel lover who’s home all the time. See how different ones are rated (and with a wide variety of price points) on CrateJoy. There’s something in virtually every culinary category. One of my favorite gourmet sites is iGourmet, where you can choose a one-time basket or a luxe subscription.

Find even more ideas on this fantastic list of 21 Food Subscription Boxes to give as gifts. The folks at Epicurious know their stuff!

Gift Ideas for Travel Lovers – when you want to splurge

Lucky for this travel lover in your life, you’ve decided to splurge! Of course a high value gift card is the easy way out, and ideal if they can’t take heavy or bulky items. But let’s dig down and find a few fabulous gifts for the traveler you’ve decided to treat this year.

Luggage

Normally practical gifts are dull, but this doesn’t have to be.I recommend investing in high quality luggage if you travel often or far. It might seem ridiculous to spend more than $100 on luggage, but when you’re running around looking for a replacement in a Croatian market you’ll probably feel differently. As I did. When I had to replace my cute but far from sturdy suitcase – while running around a Croatian market. Penny pinching does not always pay off!

Away became famous first for its sleek and nigh-indestructible hard side carry-ons. They offer polycarbonate or aluminum options. Prices start around $225, come in several colors, and includes a 100 day trial period and [limited] lifetime warranty.

With similar offerings but more nuanced categories, Monos also offers a 100 day trial period and limited lifetime warranty. It’s a newer company with an eye towards sustainability and ethical practices. The suitcases are polycarbonate or hybrid with aluminum, and the larger sizes are a bit better value than Away’s.

travel gift idea monos luggage

If your intended recipient is a backpacker or hiker, get thee to REI. Why? First they have an exceedingly generous return policy. If something fails, they’ve got you. Yes there are some exceptions, but just read their policy carefully. Gregory, Deuter, and Osprey backpacks are some of the best out there, and a worthwhile investment. If you have one in your area, I strongly suggest going in as the staff is extremely knowledgeable and will help you pick the perfect item. Cooking systems, tents, sleeping bags, specialty gear, and GPS gadgets. For anything that needs to stand up to heavy use, I find the REI premium worth it.

gift ideas for backpacker hiker
You can spend anywhere from $20 to several hundred and many items can be used outside of hiking/backpacking

Travel & Leisure’s editors have also compiled a list of some of the best luggage options of [nearly] every type, so if you’re looking for a different style it’s a great jumping off point.

Gadgets

The right tech can really level up travels. Although it is of course possible to go low-tech and have amazing trips, some people love a good gadget.

Action Cameras

For the adventurous yet quality-driven video nerd, check out the Insta360 system. Customizable and with incredible quality, you can take this things from the top of Everest to the depths of the Great Barrier Reef. I’ve been drooling over the 360 R 1-inch Edition (hey, I’m a photographer first), and just might make the jump from my current GoPro Hero8 next year. Prices start around $230 for their tiny but powerful Go 2 (billed as the world’s smallest action camera) to $650 for a 1 R dive package.

gift ideas action cam

GoPro is of course the gold standard, and I’ve been very happy overall with my GoPro Hero8. Keep an eye out for their sales, as they often offer sweet discounts on newest models. Currently the GoPro Hero 10 is on sale for just $350 ($200 off) or $400 with an accessories bundle. DJI – best known for their drones – makes well respected action cams as well under the Osmo name. The tiny Pocket 2 can be had for just $350 and takes up hardly any space. The DJI Action 2 won’t save any money over GoPro but it’s modular like the Insta360 above.

gift idea action cam
Bluetooth/GPS Tracker

Bluetooth trackers can be attached to almost anything – luggage, keys, cameras and so on. Pick up a set of 4 bluetooth trackers from Tile for just $56 right now. This is a great gift because it’s useful at home or while traveling, tiny, and affordable. You could also choose to pay for the annual plan, which is either $30 or $100 depending on which features you choose. That’s just less than $3-$8 per month.

Real-Time Translator

For the traveler that heads to far flung destinations with varying languages, pick up a real-time translator. While Google translate is definitely useful, it’s nice to not need to have your phone out all the time. Choose your language settings and simple speak into it. Poliglu two-way language translator makes conversing a relative breeze. It’s currently on sale (which happens various times through the year so keep your eyes peeled) for $89.

handheld language translator

For the globe-trotting coffee snob on your list, grab them a portable mini espresso machine. It’s perfect whether they travel to cities or off the grid. The Wacao Minipresso GR is just $55 and doesn’t even need electricity – it’s completely manual. So no worrying about converters, chargers, or batteries.

A Word on Gift Cards as Gifts

I know I called gift cards generic BUT they don’t have to be. Typically I prefer to avoid them. They lack pizazz and can feel a bit cold. However, when thoughtfully selected and presented with a heartfelt card (or small physical gift), they are a great gift idea for travel lovers. Almost every business offers a gift card option. Choose from a favorite restaurant (theirs), a relevant store (such as REI mentioned above), or a service you’re confident they’ll use.

My only caution is to make sure the amount is useful. I don’t mean to spend more than you can afford or is appropriate. A $20 gift card can be great even at REI but perhaps not as helpful at an expensive restaurant they may not be able to afford even with a card. Be sure to check expiration info as well – anything valid less than a year pushes them into a bit of a corner.

One more shameless plug here on that front – I offer gift certificates at my newly launched travel consulting & coordinating business. Arrivo Travel combines my love of travel with my love (and laser focused talent) for planning and researching travel. I’d love to help someone you care about enjoy a spectacular trip perfectly suited to their tastes.

How to Come Up With Your Own Idea

If you didn’t quite see the perfect item to gift your particular travel lover, fear not! Of course the better you know them, the easier it is. However there are a few additional tips to help you choose just the right gift for said travel lover.

  • If you’re friends on social media, look at the pages or people they follow. Especially if they’re shops or destinations.
  • Consider their personal style/vibe: a casual low-key person is probably not going to enjoy fancy or luxury gifts as much as someone who enjoys fine dining and designer brands. Someone who decorates in modern neutrals probably won’t enjoy a vibrant, intricate decorative item. Remember, this about their styles and tastes!
  • Talk to them! Of course asking outright feels clumsy but strike up a casual conversation about their interests. Ask them for their opinion, especially if it’s a product. What camera gear do you recommend? What’s your favorite restaurant for global cuisine? And so on. This is especially ideal if you’re a good ways out from the gift-giving date – you’ll have lots of time to research and they’re less likely to figure out what you’re up to
  • Ask others close to them. If you aren’t as close or just can’t think of anything, reach out to others in their life. Their best friend, partner, parent, etc. They’ll have insight that will help you dial in precisely.

Happy Hunting!

Please feel free to share any ideas you have. I always encourage supporting small and local businesses as much as possible. Especially in the last couple years, many have taken a huge hit to their businesses. I’d love to see the word spread about “the little guy” you appreciate!

10 Comments

  1. Pepper Valentine

    I haven’t heard of these shampoo/conditioner bars but this is a great idea! I’m always scared of packing liquids bc I’m worried they’ll leak and ruin my other items in my luggage (which has happened to me before)! Brilliant!

    • Ella

      There are so many options, especially on etsy. And it’s great for those that travel carry-on only too. Save your luggage and it’s better for the planet too 🙂

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