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Who are the real experts on what makes a great travel gift? Those of us who have learned the hard way!! There’s nothing quite like frequent travel for work or a long distance relationship to teach you exactly what makes a good gift for travelers—a gift they will actually use.

A lot of the top-ranking travel gift lists out there promote gifts for travelers that are just… well, a bit ridiculous. Take this to-go cocktail kit, for example. No one actually needs this (well, except perhaps someone traveling alone with a child under three).

So this list of gifts for travelers is different. I’m here to tell you about travel gifts that are practical—items that can make frequent travel more bearable and less exhausting. Gifts your friends, family, or lover will be packing along and using for years to come.

Buy Them Some Protection

Protection is always a good idea, especially when it comes to... electronics.

Phones, e-readers, iPads, laptops -- they are all very vulnerable in transit. It’s all too easy to think that you’ve padded them well, only to end up with a cracked screen after your bag has been jammed in an overhead locker (or sat upon by the aforementioned three year old).

So take note of where your traveler needs a little extra protection, then go and get them some. Here are some suggestions...

A laptop case

It's easy to jazz this gift up a little. This bright, fun book-themed case is perfect for an avid reader.

You can also visit Zazzle to personalize a laptop case by adding your own pictures or text.

A phone cover +

This one carries your phone, credit cards, and some cash.

An e-reader case

E-reader screens crack more easily than you might think (I've broken two of them in the last six years--both while traveling).

This kindle cover is slim, light, durable, and affordable.

A laptop messenger bag

This stylish and durable messenger bag has a TSA-compliant laptop sleeve that lets you go through many security checkpoints without the hassle of removing your laptop.

It also has a cord organizer pocket, padded tablet sleeve, and an external vista loop to attach lights when you're traveling by bike.

A camera case

Don't buy too big. If they have a small to medium sized camera, choose a small camera case that they can carry independently or easily slip inside another day-pack. This model is a good place to start browsing options.

Keep Their Valuables Safe

These pocket-sized travel essentials can help you keep your money and other valuables safely close by when you're out and about.

Belroy travel wallet

My guy friends (and Amazon reviewers) rave about this wallet. It holds money, cards, passports, and your boarding pass. It even comes with a super slim pen for filling in customs forms.

A clip-around waist bag

I don’t really like carrying a handbag when I’m on the road. I don’t really use it while I’m exercising, but this cheap and sturdy option is water resistant and allows me to carry my room keys, money, passports, credit cards, and phone around hands-free.

A flip belt for exercising

The best-rated solution for serious runners and gym-rats, this super-slim and comfortable belt allows you to take essentials with you on while you’re running.

A jewelry pouch

I’ve tried so many different jewelry cases for travel, but keep coming back to a simple, padded jewelry pouch.

Wine protector & carrier

Whether you're taking wine with you or bringing it home, you can safely transport up to three bottles of wine in this nearly weightless, spongy, neoprene case by The Wine Enthusiast.

Help Them Pack

If your traveler always hits the road with everything stuffed in an old duffel bag, consider upgrading their luggage. Having a suitcase or bag that’s just right for you can make traveling easier and packing much less tedious.

Over the years, I’ve tried everything from hard-sided four-wheeled suitcases to hiking backpacks. Here are some of my picks for good pieces of luggage...

A travel backpack

Osprey are the name for travel backpacks. We own four (we even bought the kids version). They make great, light day-packs or serve well as luggage for a short trip.

A leather backpack

This classy leather backpack will weather well over time, and has a padded laptop compartment and additional space.

A convertible duffel/backpack

Check out this handy duffel that easily converts to a backpack when you need to cover some ground. Padded compartments for laptops and other electronics. Suitable for airline carry-on.

An expandable suitcase

Many of us aspire to travel without checking luggage, but it's not always possible (and becoming increasingly more difficult as airlines regulate carry on more tightly.

When you can't pack light, you might as well pack in something durable, roomy, and easy to maneuver.

Keep Them Organized

If they already have some good luggage, there are still things you can give them to make packing (and the real challenge--finding things later) easier. Here are just a few suggestions:

Packing cubes

Not everyone is a fan of these, but those that love them won’t pack without them. This affordable 5-piece set by Travelwise will help things stay ship-shape inside any sized suitcase.

Waterproof & drawstring bags

Whether you want a handy space for all the dirty laundry you're accumulating along the way or you need a waterproof wetback for swim and beachwear, this dual set by MyKazoe has you covered.

A toiletries case

Everyone needs toiletries. Everyone needs something to put them in. Even better, buy one of these and then stock it with things like floss, toothpaste, a toothbrush, etc. Your traveler will love not having to pack and unpack these sorts of things every time they hit the road.

A word to the wise, though. Don't buy fancy leather toiletry cases. They're heavier, harder to clean, and they mold in the tropics.

Help Them Rest

When you're flying economy or on a long bus ride, trying to catch some quality rest is always difficult. However, there are certain basics that can really help. Here are some things that make transit time more comfortable:

Inflatable hoodie travel pillow

These wrap-around pillows not only help provide snug support that will help you relax, they can prevent pulled muscles and other neck crinks that come from sleeping too long in awkward positions. Buy inflatable. And check out this cute hoodie-version that boosts your privacy as well.

Noise-cancelling headphones

Being exposed to high levels of constant background noise is tiring. One way you can help yourself stay more rested is to cut down on some of that noise. It’ll also make watching movies or listening to audio much easier and more enjoyable. This pair of noise cancelling headphones by Monoprice is compact, and reputed to be about 70% as good as the high-end Bose’s, for one third the price.

If your traveler is more of an “ear bud” person, check out these earbuds. For anyone who spends a lot of time plugged in, they’d be well worth it.

Recharge & connect them

The number of "gadgets" you need to carry with you when you travel if you want to be able to plug in, charge up, and connect reliably is quite astonishing. Here are a few must-have's in the tech department.

International voltage converter

Anyone who travels internationally needs one of these. Portable and universal, this can plug in virtually anywhere, draw power across different voltages, and charge multiple devices at once.

Universal travel-wall adaptor

A straight-out adapter (no voltage conversion) with two USB ports.

Solar charger

Even if you’re not going off the grid, a solar-charger can be a useful thing to pack along. Ours has charged lamps, phones, and laptops during extended power outages after cyclones and on long car trips.

Wireless travel router and USB port

If you want to convert wired networks to wireless, create your own secure connections, stream or share media easily, you need one of these. This is last season’s model, but it's much cheaper than the latest version and has most of it’s features.

5-port USB charging hub

If you really need to use 5 USB ports at once, it’s possible you’re traveling with too much stuff. However, these can come in handy when you need to charge up an entire family’s-worth of devices at once.

Lighten their load, the e-way

All the gadgets available today might mean you have to pack along more cords and adapters, but they can save on space and weight in other ways. Books, and even laptops, are on their way out for anyone who really wants to travel light. Here are a couple of my favorite space-saving (and also sanity-saving) gadgets:

Kindle Paperwhite

If your traveler loves reading but hasn’t yet converted to an e-reader, buy them a kindle. They might protest initially, but they will quickly be converted—especially when it comes to travel. When it comes to kindles I recommend the Kindle Paperwhite. It’s back-lit, so you can read in a dimmed plane cabin without spotlighting yourself.

An iPad

If you really want to splash out electronically, consider buying them an iPad. This could enable them to leave a larger laptop safely at home, and has the added benefit of being an excellent portable entertainment unit in-flight (for them or any kids on hand).

Bluetooth keyboard for iPad

If they already own an iPad (or if you want to enable them to work via iPad much more effectively) consider buying a portable blue-tooth keyboard for an iPad.

Keep them entertained

There’s a lot of “dead-time” involved in frequent travel, and it can help make the whole process much more bearable if there’s some quality entertainment on hand for those hours at the gate, in the air, or driving. So think about what your traveler likes doing, and search out some fun options for them.

Portable bluetooth wireless speakers

Any music lover will tell you it's definitely worth packing along a portable speaker for streaming music with a rich sound that rivals much pricier models.

New sudoku

Sudoku’s not my thing, but those who love it, really love it. This collection of new sudoku puzzles will help them fill in many hours (and, incidentally, exercise their brains in ways that help stave off Alzheimer’s. Neat, huh?)

An Amazon gifts card

A gift card can let them pick up exactly what they want to read or watch. Put some extra thought into this gift by suggesting things you think they might enjoy. If you’re after something travel themed, try Better Than Fiction: True Travel Tales From Great Fiction Writersor one of The Best American Travel Writing collections. 

Isolation headphones for kids

If anyone you love is traveling with children, the best thing you can do for them is to help keep the children entertained. Try these kidphones for children. They're fabulous for siblings, because they plug into each other and let both kids watch the same show on the iPad at the same time.

Or make them up a play-kit including sticky tape, child-scissors, paper, crayons, stickers, rubber bands, paperclips, and a small hole-punch. You’d be surprised how long you can entertain a toddler with some basic office supplies.

Help them make memories

In a world where we can cross a continent and take thousands of photos in a single day, you can run out of e-storage fast! If you want to help them capture those photos in the first place, try the following:

Portable external hard drive

We own two of these Slim Seagate 2TB model. They get good reviews for portability, reliability, and durability (better, incidentally, than the 1TB or the 3TB models).

Flash memory card

Almost everyone takes pictures with a digital camera these days, and digital cameras need memory cards. This 64GB card is totally worth grabbing.

Mini journal

A small, sturdy notebook perfect for jotting down notes about things you’ve seen and done (or simply groceries you need to remember to buy) when you’re out and about.

Keep them warm and dry


A Turkish towel

Why pestemal Turkish cotton instead of a regular travel towel? Well, these towels are much thinner and lighter than regular towels, but still 100% cotton. They’re usually much larger than travel towels, too, so good for the beach. They’re mutli-purpose (make a great airplane blanket or sunshade for kids), and they soften up over time.

A poncho

Light. Hooded. Windproof and waterproof. Fine for both sexes. Something a bit classier than your average plastic poncho that will also act as a windbreak on blustery days.

Travel umbrella

So a travel umbrella is not the world’s sexiest present, but it might save your loved one from a lot of cold, wet discomfort.