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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.
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 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! 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!
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 learned a ton of 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 an 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. 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!
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 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. 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 I’m obsessed!
Seriously, I 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!
For the girl who loves being on her phone but rarely has a place to charge it, this will be an awesome gift!
7. GoPro HERO5 Black
I got this one last year for Christmas and I love it! While I did look into some of the newer GoPro models, I definitely think the GoPro HERO5 Black has the best value for the price.
The GoPro HERO5 Black has 4k video, voice control, and will send your videos to your phone through a super convenient app that actually combines your footage into an edited video! The HERO5 Black is also waterproof up to 33 feet (10 meters) without a case, has an LCD touchscreen display, and is voice activated!
Seriously, any adventurous traveler would kill for one of these.
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. 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, 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!
Stylish, practical, economical, and comfortable, what more could you want?
11. 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 residency form in China. I even bought a darker color for my fiance Chris and he loves his too!
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. Stylish Comfortable Travel Sandals
I used to have the Teva Capri Universal Sandal in Toffee and I was OBSESSED. Unfortunately, I wore them to death and now I can’t find them anymore! However, the Teva W Ysidro is pretty similar.
Thankfully, I discovered a love of Birkenstock while I was home in the US last year, 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 wear them almost every day 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 are by far my favorite shoes on the planet.
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. 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.
17. Cute DSLR 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
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. 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
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. Collapsable Filtered Water Bottle
My parents brought these 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.
My parents have already told me that this bottle is going in my stocking, and I suggest you grab one of these for your traveling friend ASAP!
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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