Is wanderlust your magic word? Do you know someone whose love language is travel? If so, you understand the unique challenge of gift ideas for travelers.
You could get something kitsch, like a globe for their desk or a map to mark their global adventures. The problem is that when you’re buying gifts for people who would rather be anywhere but home, they’re never going to see those gifts.
The best gifts for travelers are those that can travel with them.
Give the Gift of the Perfect Travel Backpack
As a frequent traveler, the travel gift that makes you happiest isn’t a cute oddball object. Chances are, those will be forgotten in your bag. The best gift is the one that makes your life easier, whether you’re in the air, in a rickshaw, or meandering through cobblestone streets.
It all starts with a great travel bag.
You know the pain of the wrong bag—the moment of dread when your carry on doesn’t fit, the pain of paying $50 to check your bag, and the tired annoyance that sets in when you open your bag in the hotel room to find your possessions in disarray.
Unfortunately, many travelers still explore the world with the wrong travel bag. A carry on is organized but too bulky to navigate easily. A hiking backpack is ergonomic but has the organizational capacity of a trash bag.
The best solution is a travel backpack that’s carry on-sized, front-loading, and comfortable—a backpack designed with traveling in mind.
The Tortuga Outbreaker
The Outbreaker offers the obsessive organization of a carry on and the ergonomic benefits of a hiking backpack. It opens like a suitcase so you can see everything you packed, with a top-loading compartment for your laptop or tablet and an easily accessible front compartment for small necessities like your sunglasses, notebook, and pens.
Like a hiking backpack, it uses a hip belt to distribute weight in your legs instead of your shoulders. That way, your back will stay comfortable no matter how long you’re on the road.
Are you traveling to the damp bogs of Ireland or the balmy Thailand rainforests? Water-resistant sailcloth can keep up. And when you’re en route, muted colors will help you blend with everyday commuter bags.
The Tortuga Setout
The Tortuga Setout is a smaller, just-right blend of packing features and ergonomics. It offers the features you love about the Outbreaker (carry on-sized, front-loading, and comfortable) in a streamlined package.
That means a main compartment big enough to pack for a week, a padded laptop compartment, and a front compartment for easy access to necessities like credit cards, sunglasses, and your notebook. You get the ergonomic hip belt with a compartment for your boarding passes and phone.
Gifts for Practical Travelers
If your loved one’s definition of a great gift idea is something they’ll use constantly, thinking about travel headaches and gifts to correct them is the way to win their hearts.
For the obsessive organizer, packing cubes are a must. Cubes help you maintain the obsessive organization you can’t live without (no more hunting for hidden socks!) while also making it easy to access what you need, when you need it. Tortuga offers a collection of packing cubes perfectly sized to fit our award-winning Outbreaker, Setout, and Prelude backpacks.
For the eco-friendly traveler, reusable travel-sized containers are a great way to cut down your carbon footprint while away from home. Plus, you’ll always have access to your favorite products while traveling. Our co-founder and CEO, Fred, uses GoToobs.
For the ultra-minimalist, give the gift of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap. Fred calls it the one liquid to rule them all—the liquid version is concentrated and can replace your soap, shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, and detergent. If there was a One Ring of toiletries, this soap is it.
For the travel writer, reach for the Fisher AG7 Original Space Pen and a classic Moleskin notebook. There are pens, and there are pens, and as a pen used in manned space flights that has been tested to withstand zero gravity, writing upside down, extreme temperatures, and even writing underwater, the Space Pen falls in the latter category.
As for the Moleskin, we know everyone owns a smartphone now, but there’s something romantic about scribbling thoughts in a notebook. Also, notebooks don’t run out of battery.
Gifts for Long-Haul Travelers
If long flights are as routine as getting in the car, it’s worth investing in gifts that make the trek pleasant (even if you’re stuck in the middle seat). Comfort is the name of the game for frequent travelers and veteran red-eye fliers.
For overnight flights, a travel pillow is a great gift. Your back, neck, and your neighbor’s shoulder will all thank you. We’re one-bag travel fans at Tortuga, so we love pillows that don’t take up much space.
The AirComfy Ease is a great option for light travelers—it inflates when you need it and shrinks down to nothing when you don’t. Plus, it was the only pillow out of 17 that the editors at Travel + Leisure gave perfect scores when reviewing the top travel pillows for 2021.
For those who just want some peace and quiet (you know, when there are screaming toddlers or sitcom-worthy fellow passengers) noise-canceling headphones are your secret weapon. This list from Travel + Leisure gives a good overview of noise-cancelling headphones for every type of traveler.
If you also want to travel without a heap of cords, wireless headphones (or earbuds) are a great investment—this list from the editors of Rolling Stone gives you a good starting point.
Gifts for Techie Travelers
Remember the days of traveling without technology? Those days are over. These days, your technology is your connection to the world. In some cases (your credit card getting stolen, for example) your phone can help you keep a bad situation from getting worse.
If you’re looking for a smart gift for travelers, it’s time to turn to tech.
Battery life is a constant uphill battle (i.e. a constant sprint to the next charger), so hop on over to our extensive review of the best external battery packs.
Tired of daisy-chaining your laptop, tablet, and phone to get charge from a single plug? Tired of puzzling out which adapter you need for which country? Give the BONAZZA international travel adapter a try—it accepts two- or three-pronged plugs in over 150 countries and has four (yes, four) USB ports. Plus, it’s one of the smallest adapters on the market. Yes please.
Gifts for Stylish Travelers
You want to see the world with fresh eyes. You don’t want to look like a tourist while doing it. Also, if you’ve been on the road for approximately an eon, the right clothes will help you feel more human.
For a full review of everything your wardrobe might need, check out our comprehensive review of the best travel clothes. As advocates of low-stress one-bag travel, we recommend building a capsule wardrobe, i.e. a collection of clothing that can be mixed and matched in endless combinations. That means neutral colors, versatile materials, and flexible layers.
If you’re not yet traveling with merino wool clothes, you’re not traveling in comfort. Merino is the ultimate chameleon—it’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer, layers beautifully, packs well, layers well, and doesn’t stink.
For capsule wardrobe staples, one of our travel writers, Shawn, swears by Bluffworks tailored fit chinos as the best pair of pants he’s ever worn. Not travel pants. Pants. They’re comfortable to wear, pack down to nothing, handle heat and cold in equal measure, and are ready for action whether you’re going to dinner or rock climbing. Yes, he went rock climbing in chinos, and it was worth it.
For women, reach for the Aviator Performance Skinny, a.k.a. the best travel jeans in the world. One word: pockets. These pockets can replace a purse, not those rinky dink for-show pockets on most women’s jeans that hold lip balm if you’re lucky.
If your wardrobe is incomplete without a dress, our staff swears by two travel-friendly dresses: the Everlane Japanese GoWeave Sleeveless V-Neck Dress and the ADAY Back to Front Dress. Both pack down, travel well, and offer timeless design that’s easy to style up or down for a stroll around the city, a grand tour of the local nightlife, or a classy business dinner.
If you’re looking for the best gifts for travelers, start with staples. Look for:
- Travel backpacks like the Tortuga Outbreaker or the Tortuga Setout for comfort and ease of packing
- Practical gifts, like packing cubes, reusable toiletry containers, or the One Soap to rule them all
- A neck pillow designed for maximum middle-seat comfort
- Noise-cancelling headphones for some blessed reprieve
- The gift of longer battery life (portable batteries and adapters)
- Travel-friendly clothing (packable, wrinkle-resistant, and versatile)