A gift guide for the travel lovers in your life

From the practical to the unnecessary-but-totally-fun, 20 ways to bring cheer

Ahhh, the holiday season is here! A late Thanksgiving this year means there are fewer days in the traditional shopping scramble, so perhaps you’ve already begun browsing and/or buying.  We try to maintain a sense of minimalism (and to be mindful that the holiday spirit has nothing to do with spending money), but whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, or with your kids, let’s be honest: some items can certainly make your trips that much better. 

I’ve been thinking about what has worked particularly well for us these past years, and what I’d like to see under our stocking, if Santa and Mrs. Claus just so happen to be reading. So read on for a gift guide for the travel lovers in your life. (None of the suggestions below are sponsored or affiliates, so don’t worry about buying them from one vendor or another — or channeling a DIY spirit and, in many cases, trying your hand and creating your own variation on the theme.)

“Can these llamas come home with us for Christmas?!” Taken at our favorite storefront in Salamanca, Spain

Traveling families, adults, and kiddos, whether you’ve been naughty or nice, here’s a list you shouldn’t need to check twice:


1. Keep wanderlust alive with an international food basket or subscription like those from Try the World or Universal Yums ($15 – 40 per month)

2. Make packing for beach or camping vacations a cinch with quick dry towels, especially this style, which come in multiple sizes for each member of the family ($10 – 20 each)

3. Ensure no one’s dirty clothes mix up with their clean ones with a travel laundry bag like this cute design dotted with airplanes ($7)

4. Pack light but eat well with cooking classes and experiences worldwide with Eat With (gift cards from $75) or direct through a local shop

5. Bring the whole family together during layovers or inside a camping tent with travel games like Mad Libs Junior ($4 – 6)

6. Pick up a few words in a new language before, during, or after travels, only made easier with bilingual playing cards (or Aussie or British slang for adults) ($17 – 24)

7. Stay up with a book while everybody around you sleeps (here’s looking at you, parents of young children): a book light (or two) means different sleep schedules won’t cut into anyone’s latest reading ($15)

Elf, elf, elf, baby, elf in Listowel, Ireland


Younger kids:

8. For kids who love the beach, these collapsible buckets take up next to no space ($17)

9. Reusable sticker sets, especially this travel-themed one, have kept our little one entertained for long chunks of time ($5)

10. A water coloring and painting book means there are no errant paint marks on the back of the plane seat; there’s a travel-themed edition and many other choices ($5)

11. A travel kit subscription from Little Passports compiles a range of activities to inspire and educate little adventurers in a way that’s fun and educational ($15 – 25 per month)

Older kids:

12. Color in the map on this mug to show past travels while enjoying a hot chocolate ($24)

13. Learn the flags of the world with this cork map and reminisce about family travels ($45)

14. A copy of the Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid will inspire and encourage even deeper and greater curiosity about the world ($20)

Remember, cozy holiday PJs are always in style (at least for little ones)


15. A durable, nice-looking passport holder like this one from Herschel Supply Co. is hard to beat and should last years ($30)

16. Lightweight pajamas are travel-friendly by definition and work well for group travel, since ones like these are far superior to that old t-shirt and shorts combination ($55)

17. Personalized luggage tags like this copper one from Etsy (in a huge variety of other colors, too) will keep luggage identifiable and stylish ($9)

18. A Necklush scarf: comfy and doubles as a scarf and a necklace; whether you’re dressing up or down for the occasion, this is something an avid traveler can wear again and again ($38 – 58)

19. For skincare addicts who don’t want to skimp on their daily (or nightly) routine while on the go, this Ultimate Travel Bag from Sephora delivers ($40)

20. Don’t forget your glasses, but leave these glasses in your kitchen back home: If you love any of these 16 U.S. cities, sip your drink while tracing the lines of their maps ($32 for set of two)

When all else fails, gifting cash with strict instructions to only spend it on a specific kind of activity (to eat out at a restaurant you’ve never been, to go to a museum you’ve never paid to enter, or, the more general but never wrong, to have a night out wherever/however you’d like) is a great option.  

Bonus points if you know someone is traveling internationally and you can gift them some cash in the local currency. (Check with your bank to see if it’s possible and feasible.) And if the travel lovers in your life are fresh off a long trip this holiday season, remember that a home-cooked meal and your companionship are likely the best gifts of all.

Wherever you spend the holidays, may you feel at home!

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