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Travelers can be some of the hardest people to shop for. How do you buy gifts for people who prioritize experiences over “things”?
Last Christmas I made the mistake of saying I wanted a few candles for my apartment in China, and I ended up with no less than 8 candles as gifts. Trust me, trying to make weight with a bunch of perfumed glass bricks in my bag wasn’t easy.
Now I know you may have seen a lot of these lists, and most of them have ridiculous items. A MacBook Air? A drone??! Sorry friends, but that’s not in my budget.
All of the items on this list are realistic gifts for travelers, with only a few select items coming in at over $100. They are also all items that I either A) already use or B) want desperately, so you won’t be finding any bizarre gadgets or ugly travel clothes here.
To help you find the perfect gift, I’ve created nine different categories for you to choose from:
- The Girl Who Doesn’t Like “Things”
- The Girl Who Lives Out of a Backpack
- The Adventurous Girl
- The Fashionable Globetrotter
- The Travel Photographer
- The Girl With Her Head in a Book
- The Short-Term Traveler
- The Perfect Stocking Stuffers
- Gifts That Give Back
The Girl Who Doesn’t Like “Things”
1. Tinggly: The Gift of Experiences
I think amazing experiences make the best gifts, and most travelers I know feel the same way. But how do you buy an experience gift for a traveler without knowing their whole itinerary? What happens if you pick the wrong thing??!
With Tinggly, your traveler can choose from over 500 activities in 100+ countries worldwide. Go camping in Jordan’s desert, extreme whitewater rafting in Nepal, or try a homestay cooking experience in Gambia. Recipients have up to two years to use their gift, and they can choose whichever adventure they want. You’ll even receive a little gift box so she has something to open.
Two years ago, I tested out a Tinggly experience, spending my gift money on scuba diving with thresher sharks! I got to stay in a fancy dive resort as part of the package, which was a great gift to myself considering would I never book a luxury stay there on my own dime.
Then last May I took a friend on a hot air balloon ride in Napa. We had an incredible time, and it was such a great experience for a girls weekend. Seriously, if you want to gift someone an amazing experience with no immediate expiration date, this is the perfect present!
2. An Awesome WalkingTour
While this might take a little more preparation than Tinggly, an awesome walking tour or skills class is a great gift to give someone for the holidays. A few years ago my mom purchased a photography class for us both to enjoy, and it was a great opportunity to learn how to make the most of my fancy DSLR.
If you’re looking for specific tour suggestions, I recommend Context Travel. These tours are very small, with a 6-person maximum, and are all led by Ph.D. and MA level scholar guides. Last year I went on a Hutong Walks tour in Beijing, and despite living in the hutongs for almost a year, I was constantly learning new things!
A Context tour is a great gift for keeping a busy traveler entertained back home, or for gifting a friend you’re already on the road with. You can even make a cute little coupon yourself and let your traveler choose and adventure later.
Tours start at $50 per person
For the Girl Who Lives Out of a Backpack
3. Packing Cubes
I don’t know how I used to travel without these. Seriously, my backpack used to be a MESS.
But thankfully my family bought me a set of packing cubes and my life has been forever changed. Now my bag is completely organized and packing is a breeze. Seriously, if you have a disorganized traveler in your life, buy her a set of these and she will forever thank you.
These packing cubes are especially good for travelers with backpacks so that all of your clothes stay neat and tidy, but I love using them in a suitcase as well!
This photo also features an Origami Unicorn travel organizer. It’s meant for underwear but I use it for toiletries, makeup, and jewelry!
4. Lush Solid Shampoo
I’m obsessed with my Lush solid shampoo. This shampoo is perfect for travelers because it’s small and doesn’t leak. It’s also great for the environment since you never need to throw away any bottles or packaging. Just be sure to warn your friend to let the bar dry out before putting it back in the tin and closing the lid, because otherwise, her bar may melt!
5. Flight 001 Bags
These Flight 001 bags are so cute, I’ve been dying to get a few of my own. They have bags for laundry, shoes, bathing suits, high heels, lingerie, “stuff” and more! Flight 001 even has a cozy little jersey travel blanket that comes in a nice pouch and a 1-quart liquids bag for security. I love how everything is labeled clearly, and it makes all of the items a little more fun.
For the Adventurous Girl
6. Lifeproof Phone Case
Hopping in and out of boats, trekking in the rain, sledding through the snow… the last thing you want is a dead phone. Lifeproof cases are drop-proof, waterproof, coldproof, and dirt-proof, making them the perfect case for any outdoor adventure.
Take underwater photos on a tropical island and drop your phone in the sand, or take it on a trip to Iceland and snap photos of yourself climbing glaciers without worrying about a dead battery. This case is every traveler’s dream, and it’s not bulky or ugly!
I’ve had a Lifeproof case on my last two iPhones and I love it. Lifeproof has great cases for almost any iPhone, Galaxy, the iPod and more!
Price: $50-$170 depending on the phone and the case you choose
7. GoPro HERO5 Session
I purchased the GoPro HERO4 Silver three years ago, and I loved it! Unfortunately, It eventually died on me and I’ve been in the market for a new one.
The GoPro HERO Session is awesome because it’s completely waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters) without a case! If you’re looking for a more affordable basic version, you can still buy the original 2015 GoPro Session, however, I recommend the newer GoPro HERO5. This new version has a USB port for faster charging and transferring content, 4k video resolution, voice activation, and electronic image stabilization.
If your adventurous girl is really into video, you may want to look into the GoPro Hero5 Black, which is the top of the line GoPro. It has the waterproof body of the session, but it also contains the LCD screen and is the same size as the older GoPros so it will fit easily into any GoPro drone slot.
8. Teva Hiking Sandals
Tevas are an epic gift idea for hikers and adventurers. Traveling through Southeast Asia, waterproof hiking sandals are my best friend. Personally, I have a knockoff pair I found on Taobao because real imported shoes are way too expensive in China, but if I could I would’ve bought myself these.
If you have a friend heading on a big trip that needs a good pair of waterproof shoes, you can’t go wrong with Tevas. If for some reason she doesn’t like the style or fit, she’ll always be able to exchange them for another pair!
9. Dry Bags
For scuba divers, snorkelers, or people who don’t want torrential rain to destroy their electronics, dry bags are the best thing in the world. I use mine all the time! Whether I’m traveling via boat in the Philippines or wading through waist-deep water in a cave, I can protect all of my belongings without worrying about water damage.
What really convinced me to buy a dry bag was a windy day scuba diving in the Philippines. That day the waves were so huge that we had to jump from our dive boat and swim to a smaller boat that could take us to shore. The crew proceeded to THROW our bags to the small boat, but I wasn’t about to let them chuck my DSLR 20 feet!
Instead, I borrowed a dry bag and jumped out of the boat, swimming through the crashing waves. My camera and phone were both completely dry, and that day I purchased my very own set of dry bags.
For serious water enthusiasts, I recommend getting a heavy duty dry bag, but for those that want a little extra protection, the lightweight dry bags actually work extremely well. (I should know, I have a set of three I bought for just $10.)
For the Fashionable Globetrotter
10. Tieks ballet flats
What traveling girl isn’t obsessed with these? I have to admit I’m guilty of buying cheap ballet flats and throwing them out after a year, even though I know shoes should be more of an investment. Not only are Tieks durable, they also fold in half to make space in your luggage.
Stylish, practical, economical, and comfortable, everyone I know who has a pair raves about them.
11. Chic Passport Cover
Not gonna lie, I basically asked my mom to tell someone to buy me this exact cover for Christmas two years ago. My poor passport has been crumpled, rained on, and the seal on the front has almost completely worn off. Now that I’ve gotten extra pages, my passport is also unbelievably fat. It was time to get a passport cover, and not just any cover: one that’s RFID shield proof and snaps shut.
Now I love walking around with my cute little passport. I also use the mini pocket to store headshot photos for visas, and my residency form in China.
12. Stylish Camera Purse
Having an obvious camera bag is one of the best ways to get your camera stolen, and who wants to carry around a giant ugly bag anyway? If you’re looking for something fashionable and functional, there are plenty of beautiful camera bags that look like purses. The best part? You can take out the padding and use it as a normal bag too!
These camera bags come at all price points, from the glamorous Ona Bags to other more affordable versions, like the ZLYC bag I link to below. Shop around on Amazon and see if you can find something your stylish friend will love!
13. Cute Travel Sandals
I used to have the Teva Capri Universal Sandal in Toffee and I was OBSESSED. But unfortunately for me, I treated these shoes like they were regular Tevas, using them for hiking and wading through shallow water. They actually held up surprisingly well for a long time, but eventually, I needed to throw them out.
The best thing about these shoes is that they’re extremely sturdy and comfortable but look like regular cute sandals. They go with literally everything and I’m dying to get another pair when I’m home for Christmas.
If you don’t like these, there are many other cute styles to choose from, and they’re all super comfortable!
14. Safe and Stylish: Pacsafe Purse
I think we can all agree, pickpockets and bag slashers are the worst, and constantly worrying about your bag detracts from your overall travel experience. Last spring I bought a Pacsafe travel purse and I’ve never looked back. The purse zipper clasps shut, and the bag is made of slash-proof material that keeps thieves out. Now I can wander worry-free and actually enjoy my travels without constantly stressing over keeping a hand on my purse zipper.
For the Travel Photographer
15. Gorillapod Tripod
I have the basic SLR Gorillapod, but there are plenty of other designs for smartphones and digital cameras too. This tripod is perfect for travelers because it can grip onto almost any surface. Wrap it around a tree, place it on a pile of wobbly rocks, attach it to the side of a (small) cliff… Gorillapod can go anywhere.
Unfortunately, I bought the cheaper version without the flexible ball head attachment and I still regret it! I’ll definitely be picking the attachment up when I’m home this Christmas!
16. Smartphone Camera Lens
So many of my friends have these detachable smartphone lenses, which are perfect if you want to get an awesome shot with your phone. If your friend is an epic smartphone photographer Instagram goddess, she will love you forever if you buy her a set of these!
I personally like this package which contains wide angle, fisheye, and zoom lenses with little lens caps!
17. Cute DSLR Neck Strap
My parents bought me this strap two years ago and I’m obsessed! I get so many compliments on my fun neck strap, and it’s way more comfortable than the original Nikon strap my camera came with.
A cute camera strap is the perfect stocking stuffer or small gift for a friend, and most of them come in under $10.
For the Girl With Her Head in a Book
18. Kindle Paperwhite
Can you believe I used to travel with the Lonely Planet China book that literally weighs 10lbs?! I switched to a Kindle a few years ago and trust me, I’m never going back. A Kindle is perfect for storing not only novels but also guidebooks too!
For an expat like me, the Kindle is great because I have a really difficult time finding good English-language books in China. With my Kindle, I always have a few books on hand for long plane or train rides.
I’m absolutely obsessed with my Paperwhite because I can read in the dark without needing a flashlight or overhead light. I can also connect to the wifi to instantly download books, without needing to worry about connecting my Kindle to my computer.
19. Awesome Travel Books
For the girl who already has a Kindle, why not get her a travel e-book?
I have a mild obsession with travel books, especially ones written by female authors. My all-time favorite is Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, a story about a young woman traveling China in the 1980’s when China had been open to international tourists for “just about 10 minutes”.
For the Short-Term Traveler
20. Scratch off Map
In college, I had a map on a cork board and a tin full of push pins so that I could put a new pin in every place I visited. Now that I live in China and change apartments too much, that’s not really realistic. Save your friend the hassle and get her a cute scratch off wall map so that she can proudly display her adventures to everyone who enters her home!
21. Travel Wall Decal
Seriously, if I didn’t literally just move out of my apartment to travel the world, I’d probably buy one of these cute travel decals for my bedroom. Travel decals are the perfect apartment accessory for a traveling girl who’s come home, and there are plenty to choose from on Amazon, going as low as $9 USD!
22. Turn Her Travels into a Book!
Who wouldn’t love all of their beautiful travel photos to be displayed in a coffee table book? It’s the perfect talking piece for guests and a great way to remember all of the incredible adventures she’s had. Design the book for her, or let her create it herself. Either way, she’ll thank you forever!
The Perfect Stocking Stuffers
23. TSA-Friendly Locks
A few good locks are a necessity when traveling around the world. Keep your checked luggage safe from theft, or avoid wandering hands on a crowded subway train. She can also keep her bags safe if she happens to be traveling in a country where most hostels don’t come with lockers (looking at you Philippines).
24. Cord Tacos
I don’t know about you, but no matter how hard I try, my cords get so unbelievably tangled when I travel. Grab a pack of rustic cord keepers, and pass them out to all your traveling friends as gifts. I’m even thinking about getting one of these just for my headphones so they don’t get tangled in my purse!
25. Carry-On Cocktail Kit
Want to treat your traveling girl to a nice cocktail on the plane when she leaves after the holidays? Grab her a Carry On Cocktail Kit and a mini bottle of alcohol. She’ll feel like she’s in first class even if she’s stuck in the middle seat of coach.
26. A Good Eye Mask
A good eye mask is a necessity when traveling the world. I’m a pretty light sleeper, so I need a good mask like this with little pillows under the eyes that prevent light from getting in around your nose. If you want to treat your traveler to a great gift, get her a luxurious eye mask so that she can actually sleep on those planes, trains, and busses (and hostels).
Gifts that Give Back
27. Diva Cup
Is it weird to give a Diva Cup as a gift? I don’t think so, but then again I don’t find this stuff awkward.
I’m absolutely obsessed with my Diva Cup and I’ve written about it at length multiple times. Avoid the mess and hassle of a period on the road, while also saving money and the environment at the same time. Triple win!
28. Vibes high-fidelity earplugs
Earplugs that will also allow you to listen to music? What traveler wouldn’t want these?! Vibes earplugs are sleek and will tune out the noise while allowing you to listen to some great music.
The earplugs work by filtering acoustics to lower the decibel levels of any given environment — all without muffling or distorting the sound like traditional foam earplugs. Vibes also has a partnership with the Hear the World Foundation, and proceeds from each pair purchased will help fund hearing aids, surgeries, and programs for the hard of hearing around the world.
29. THINX Period Panties
Yes, more period stuff.
I think you guys all know I’m a little bit obsessed with my period panties. They’re stylish, comfortable and they actually work! Curious about these mysterious period panties? I wrote a huge long post going into all the details
One of the main things I love about THINX is that they give back to women in the developing world. For every pair you buy, THINX will donate one full set of AFRIpads to a woman in need. AFRIpads are washable, reusable pads that women can use to save money and avoid the period shame that keeps young women in many countries home from school.
Use my $10 off coupon by clicking the button below!
30. LifeStraw Go water bottles
Traveling around Southeast Asia, I was super jealous of the friends I’d meet with filtered water bottles. I hated constantly having to buy water at 7-11, only to throw the bottles out the next day. With a filtered water bottle, you can just drink tap water on the go (or river water) and be perfectly fine! You’ll save money and the environment.
Personally, I’m a fan of LifeStraw because they also give back to the global community. Through the company’s Follow the Liters program, every LifeStraw product sold provides a child in a developing country with access to clean, safe drinking water for an entire school year!
Hopefully, this list gave you a little insight into the wonderful female travelers in your life (either that or you just bought half this stuff for yourself).
What gifts are you obsessed with? Let me know below!
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