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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”?
A few Christmases ago, I made the mistake of saying I wanted some 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. Whoopsies!
Now I know you may have seen a lot of these lists, and most of them have ridiculous items. A MacBook Air? A $1,000 drone??! Sorry friends, but that’s not in my budget.
All of the items on this list are realistic and affordable 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 Digital Nomad
- 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, she 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.
I love Tinggly and have actually done a few of their experiences myself. First, I spent my gift money on scuba diving with thresher sharks in the Philippines! I got to stay in a fancy dive resort as part of the package, which was a great gift to myself considering I never would’ve paid to stay there on my own dime as a broke Master’s student.
The second time I used Tinggly, I took a friend on a hot air balloon ride in Napa Valley California! 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. I even got one of these gift packages for my parents last year!
For the Digital Nomad Girl
2. Sennheiser Noise Cancelling Headphones
My husband Chris got these for me two years ago and I’m OBSESSED. Not only are they great quality noise-canceling headphones, but they also are somewhat oval-shaped so they fit over your ears super comfortably. My brother is a professional musician and he even swears by these while he’s working on editing and producing songs!
Their customer service at Sennheiser is also fantastic. After almost 2 years of use, my headphones were having issues and it turns out there was a problem with the cord that I use to plug my headphones into my computer. While the Bluetooth still works fine, I’m always forgetting to charge it. When I went on their help chat Sennheiser offered to send me a new cord for FREE even though I hadn’t kept the warranty receipt and we bought them in Japan. Talk about awesome customer service.
If you really want a nice gift for the digital nomad in your life, these headphones are GOLD. I have the Sennheiser HD 4.50 which works perfectly for me, but if you want to splurge, Chris swears by the Sennheiser PXC 550.
3. Travel Laptop Backpack
Every digital nomad needs a carry-on travel laptop backpack to fit all their gear. Personally I travel with a laptop, keyboard, mouse and mousepad, camera, and podcasting microphone, so I need a ton of space in my carry on for all my electronics. A nice quality backpack that has a separate laptop compartment and tons of handy pockets is a MUST for any location independent traveler.
Take your backpack on a flight, or even wear it on the back of your motorbike as you drive to your local coworking space. Any digital nomad will get a TON of use out of a backpack like this.
4. Collapsible Laptop Stand
If you really want to help a digital nomad out with their health, a collapsible laptop stand is one of the BEST gifts you can give. Seriously, I can’t even tell you how much this thing has saved my back and posture.
I used to spend all day every day leaning over a small laptop in various hotels, apartments and coworking spaces. Now I can set my laptop up at a height that’s perfect for me. No more horrible back pain!
The best part is that this laptop stand folds up super small so I can just throw it in my backpack. I used to bring this to my coworking space every single day, and I didn’t mind because it was so light and small.
While I definitely recommend Roost stand for the quality, there is a Chinese knockoff called Nexstand for less than half the price that should do the job just fine too!
5. USB External Keyboard and Mouse
If you’re working with a laptop stand, you’re also going to need an external keyboard and mouse. I used this really cute rose-colored keyboard and mouse for almost two years and it actually fit really well in my backpack. I brought it to work at my coworking space every day, and never had an issue carrying it around until about a month ago when I ripped it out of my backpack at security too quickly and a bunch of keys fell off. Whoopsies.
I recently ordered this new Jelly Comb external keyboard and I’m definitely loving it. I like that the keyboard is a bit smaller, so it’s easier to bring with me everywhere, but I did prefer the shape of the other mouse in the first keyboard.
How does it work? There’s a small wireless USB tab that plugs into your laptop USB slot. Then all you need is some batteries in the keyboard and mouse and it runs perfectly! My life would seriously not be the same without this wireless keyboard, mouse and laptop stand.
6. Aeropress Coffee Maker
Most digital nomads can’t live without their coffee! This Aeropress travel coffee maker and reusable metal filter come with me EVERYWHERE when I travel. I love being able to make a nice cup of real coffee in any apartment or hotel room without having to worry about buying a coffee maker, or shelling out for expensive $5 lattes wherever I go.
The Aeropress is especially convenient in countries where nice coffee is not the norm. For example, in China and Thailand, you will almost never find real coffee in your hotel room (you’ll get instant coffee at most, and maybe not even that in China!). I love being able to buy a bag of ground coffee beans at the grocery store and make my own nice coffees every day no matter where I am.
If you do decide to gift the Aeropress, be sure to also grab the reusable metal filter because the Aeropress paper filters are hard to find on the road!
For the Girl Who Lives Out of a Backpack
7. 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! I use one for dresses, one for tops, and another for my underwear. Sometimes I mix it up and put all my workout clothes in one, or use the little one for swimsuits. It’s seriously life-changing.
This photo also features an Origami Unicorn travel organizer. It’s meant for underwear but I’ve also used it for toiletries, makeup, and jewelry!
8. Eco-Friendly Shampoo and Conditioner Bars
Traveling with hair products is the wost. Seriously, something ALWAYS leaks, and it’s usually my shampoo. Thankfully, it’s super easy to buy eco-friendly solid shampoo and conditioner bars now! These babies fit multiple bottles of shampoo and conditioner into one bar and don’t contribute to landfill waste when you throw them away.
My favorite brand of solid shampoo is Ethique. They’re vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil free, no silicones, and contain 5 BOTTLES worth of shampoo or conditioner. WOW. You can also grab a cute travel case for the bars so they don’t get all over her bag!
I honestly can’t wait for the day that they start making Curly Girl Method approved solid hair products so I can switch back to shampoo bars!
9. Reusable Makeup Eraser
I SWEAR by my makeup eraser cloth. I have two of these reusable makeup remover washcloths and I love them to death. They actually work BETTER than the disposable makeup remover wipes, and you don’t have to worry about carrying around any makeup remover liquid.
How do they work? All you have to do is get them wet in the sink and they magically take off all your makeup. Trust me, I didn’t believe it either until I bought one for myself. I even tested with a makeup remover wipe to see if it actually took off all my makeup and there was nothing left on my face! I immediately purchased a second one.
Once you’ve used them for about a week and they start to get dirty you can just throw it in the wash and you’re good to go! Traveler or not, every girl who wears makeup needs this.
10. Travel Toiletry Organizer
I’ve been using a smaller travel toiletry organizer and it’s PERFECT for staying organized on the road. While I keep my hair products in a separate bag (I use big bottles on the road long-term…), my travel toiletry organizer holds everything else. Moisturizer, lotion, my face washcloth, toothbrush, deodorant, razor, jewelry… you name it!
While the one I have is great (I actually stole it from Chris!), I like this one even more because it has a whole little jewelry compartment in the back which would be super convenient for me since I just keep my jewelry in little bags and it’s always getting tangled.
I love how this organizer can sit on the bathroom counter or hang up on a hook or railing without spilling anything out. It also comes in a bunch of different colors and patterns! That said, if you want to also put your shampoo and conditioner in it, a larger one like this may be better for you.
For the Adventurous Girl
11. Solar Powered Phone Charger
Hiking all day, camping overnight, staying in hostels with no outlets.. the last thing you want is a dead phone. My fiance actually got this portable solar charger for Christmas and it’s so handy for long outdoor trips.
Seriously, I really wish he had this when we were hiking the Kumano Kodo for 2 weeks in Japan and had to route the entire journey on our phones! Something like this is also perfect for camping or hostel dorms where there are never enough outlets.
For the girl who loves being on her phone but rarely has a place to charge it, this will be an awesome gift!
12. Waterproof 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!
13. 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 the next day.
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
14. Kosan Go Travel Dress
I backed this dress on Kickstarter and I’m OBSESSED. Not only is it anti-wrinkle, anti-odor, moisture-wicking, and UV resistant, it also is adjustable to two different lengths! I absolutely loved wearing this dress on my Southeast Asia honeymoon, because I could wear it relaxed during the day while wandering around the city, and snapped up into a cute tulip skirt in the evening.
This dress also has zippered pockets (super convenient for travel!), along with a hidden pocket in the bust. Trust me, this dress is well worth the price, and I actually felt really fresh wearing it multiple days in 90-degree weather without washing it.
I ended up going with the blue floral pattern, but I’d love to also get it in floral red or black! Seriously, give me a call Kosan because I’m obsessed with you.
15. Crocs Isabella Shoes
Ewww Crocs? Yeah, that’s what I thought too until I saw these beautiful waterproof jelly flats. Not only are they super comfortable for walking around in all day, but they also go with basically everything, don’t rub on your feet or cause any sort of blisters, and they have little bumps on the inside of the sole to massage your feet as you walk!
I had my parents bring a pair of these to Vietnam for me a year ago, and I’m SO GLAD they did. These were the perfect shoes to wear out and about during the rainy season because I didn’t have to worry about getting them wet! I honestly didn’t even bother using my flip flops on the beach on my honeymoon. I wore these EVERYWHERE every single day.
Stylish, practical, economical, and comfortable, what more could you want? BEST SHOES EVER.
16. Chic Passport Cover
Not gonna lie, I basically asked my mom to tell someone to buy me this exact passport 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 Yellow Fever vaccination book. I even bought a darker color for my husband Chris and he loves his too!
17. 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. Shop around on Amazon and see if you can find something your stylish friend will love!
18. Cute and Comfortable Travel Sandals
I used to have the Teva W Ysidro sandal in Cognac and I was so in love with them. Unfortunately, I wore them to death, and I couldn’t find another pair in the same color until just recently. (Maybe I should ask for some this Christmas??)
Thankfully, I discovered a love of Birkenstock while I was home in the US two years ago, and picked up a pair of Arizona sandals. Not only are they in style right now, but they’re also super comfortable. I’m so glad I splurged for these shoes because I literally wore them almost every day (until they died too) with pretty much any outfit: tropical dresses, jeans, cute jumpsuits… doesn’t matter!
I wore these all through California, Tanzania, Vietnam, and Australia, and they were beyond perfect.
19. Safe in Style: Anti Theft Purses and Backpacks
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. A few years ago 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.
Anti-theft bags have really come a LONG way in recent years. Now there are tons of brands offering stylish anti-theft gear from cute travel laptop backpacks to crossbody purses and little day backpacks. Honestly, I NEVER in a million years would guess that some of these bags were anti-theft if it didn’t say so on the tag.
For the Travel Photographer
20. Flexible 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!
21. Selfie Travel Drone
While professional travel drones can be upwards of $1,000 USD (!!!), seflie travel drones are perfect for the average traveler. Just throw it up in the air and smile! It’s that simple.
These drones are affordable, simple to use, and super compact. Perfect for beginners who are new to flying drones, selfie drones are a great affordable gift that any traveling photographer will love! Plus, most of them are built to survive a few crashes… They’re also a great way to test the waters if your traveler isn’t 100% sure she’d use a larger fancy drone.
While there are a ton of different selfie drones to choose from, ranging from around $40 – $400, my favorite is the Hover Camera Passport 2. This drone is small enough to fit in your pocket but takes incredible high-quality photos. Unlike most selfie drones, you can fly this baby up to TWO MILES AWAY. Launch it from your hand and control it with your smartphone and shove it into your pocket or purse when you’re done… sounds like my kind of drone.
Looking for something a bit cheaper? Try Holy Stone HS 160 instead.
22. Cute Camera Neck Strap
My parents bought me this camera neck strap three years ago and I literally wore it to death. Last time I was home, I decided to grab this Lifemate camera scarf strap to replace it, and I get SO MANY COMPLIMENTS.
I love that my camera has some personality, and is basically an accessory in its own right. This strap is also way more comfortable than the original Nikon strap my camera came with.
No matter what you choose, a cute camera strap is the perfect stocking stuffer or small gift for a friend, and most of them come in under $10.
Not your friend’s style? Don’t worry, Amazon has a million… literally.
For the Girl With Her Head in a Book
23. Kindle Paperwhite
Can you believe I used to travel with the Lonely Planet China book that literally weighs 10lbs?! I switched to a Kindle about 4 years ago and trust me, I’m never going back. A Kindle is perfect for storing not only novels but also guidebooks too!
For someone who is always traveling like me, the Kindle is great because I have a really difficult time finding good English-language books when I’m traveling. With my Kindle, I always have a few books on hand for long plane or train rides.
I’m absolutely obsessed with my Kindle 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.
If your traveler 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 favorites are Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven, Love with a Chance of Drowning, Wild, Without You There is No Us, and What I Was Doing While You Were Busy Breeding.
For the Short-Term Traveler
24. Scratch off Map
In college, I had a map on a corkboard and a tin full of push pins so that I could put a new pin in every place I visited. While it was fun, the little pins were definitely a hassle. Travel scratch-off maps are just as cool and so much easier.
Someday I will be settled enough to get one of these but for right now I’ll just have to live vicariously through all of you. I especially love how this one looks with the white background and watercolor! It’s the perfect conversation piece for any living room.
25. Shadow Box Ticket Stub Holder
I always end up collecting so many things while I travel: tickets, postcards, coins, and other paraphernalia that’s too pretty to throw away. But then, what do I do with it??
A Shadow Box is the perfect gift for the girl who loves to collect things while traveling but doesn’t have the energy to scrapbook. Imagine how cool this would look if it were filled with brochures, tickets, postcards, and coins from all around the world!
The Perfect Stocking Stuffers
26. 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).
27. Collapsable Filtered Water Bottle
My parents brought these BeFree collapsable filtered water bottles to Vietnam and I was stunned. Who knew you could buy a filtered water bottle that folds up inside your purse?? Seriously! They were able to drink water right out of the tap while I carried around my clunky filter bottle, or just bought bottled water like a travel noob.
I was so obsessed with this bottle my parents actually got one for me last Christmas and I love it! It was perfect for trips around Southeast Asia, and I love how it folds flat when you’re done drinking. No more bulky water bottles when you’re out and about!
28. 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
29. 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.
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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