Last Updated: 12/2/20 | December 2nd, 2020
Travelers can be a fickle group of people to buy gifts for. We’re constantly coming and going, we usually don’t carry a lot of stuff with us, and no two travelers are alike so finding the perfect gift for the traveler in your life can be tricky.
While a plane ticket is never a bad idea (I’m a window seat in case anyone is thinking of getting me one), I’ve put together this ultimate holiday gift guide for travelers as there’s a lot of great travel gear out there these days that helps people travel cheaper and better.
Even me, the gear-adverse traveler, likes a lot of this stuff!
This is stuff I actually think is super useful. No nonsense. No fluff. Just the best gifts for intrepid travelers and globetrotting nomads!
Gifts Under $25
1. Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are an awesome tool to help you stay organized while you travel. Whether you’re a budget backpacker or traveling with half a dozen suitcases, packing cubes will keep you organized as you travel the world. They come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to store items big and small. If you know a traveler who needs a hand staying organized, this is the gift for them! (If you want something nicer and better quality, check out these ones!)
2. Travel Padlock
This simple item is one of the most important for the budget traveler. Since many hostels have lockers, backpackers need to have their own travel lock when they’re on the road. While you can usually rent them at hostels, those prices add up after a while. I never leave home without a lock because I know it will come in handy.
Anyone who has ever stayed in a hostel knows that a quality pair of earplugs is a necessity. From chronic snorers to late-night drinkers to copulating couples in creaking bunks, hostels are known for their less-than-quiet accommodation. Add some earplugs to your shopping list. Because the gift of a good sleep is priceless!
4. DryFox Quick Dry Travel Towel
Unless you’re only staying at hotels or using Airbnb, you’re going to need to bring a towel when you travel. Having a lightweight, quick-drying towel makes a huge difference when you’re on the road since regular towels are too bulky and heavy (and they take a long time to dry). Get a travel towel for your next trip so you can travel light. They’re a compact, quick-drying solution that every backpacker needs. (Use code “nomadicmatt” for 15% off your purchase!)
5. Travel Adapter
Nothing is more tedious than arriving to a new destination only to realize you can’t charge your devices because the electrical outlets are different. That’s why you’ll need a travel adapter. They’re a simple accessory. There’s a million out there but this is one I use as it covers every region of the world and comes with USB ports too. It’s cheap, easy to use, and lightweight. Everything you need in an adapter.
6. Scratch Travel Maps from Landmass
Scratch maps are a fun way to keep track of your past travels while helping you stay inspired as you plan your future trips. You simply scratch off the parts of the world you’ve been. Simple. Easy. Landmass is my favorite company that makes these, though there are plenty of other companies that make them now so you can find them in all sorts of sizes and colors.
7. Passport Holder
A passport holder is a must-have for any avid traveler. Not only does it protect your passport from wear and tear, it makes your travels much more convenient. Most passport holders have slots for your travel credit cards as well as any cash you have, making it a safe and convenient way to keep your valuables secure while you travel. While there are tons of expensive and fancy passport holders out there, a simple one will get the job done and save you money in the process (money you can spend on more travels!).
8. Toothpaste Bites
Traveling with liquids is always a pain. They’re a hassle at airport security and, when it comes to toothpaste, there is a lot of waste. The plastic tubes end up in landfills and you can never really get all the toothpaste out of the tube. Enter toothpaste bites. These dry tabs of toothpaste that come in a recyclable jar (no plastic!). They take some getting used to but they’re an eco-friendly option for the environmentally-conscious traveler. (And they clean your teeth well, which is also very important!)
9. Hand-drawn Food Maps
These are unique, hand-drawn typographic maps of food from Legal Nomads and artist Ella Frances Sanders. They make a thoughtful gift for anyone who loves to eat and travel (and who doesn’t!). They come in a variety of sizes too! Jodi’s maps are the best! (Use the code NOMADICMATT to save 10%)
10. Moleskine Notebook
I never leave home without one of these. They are the perfect notebook for journaling during your trip as well as for writing down travel notes such as directions, contact information, and language tips. I think everyone needs to write more during their travels so they have something to look back on (other than photos).
11. Exploration Journal
If you want a travel journal that isn’t just blank pages (like my boring moleskine) but rather has space for itinerary planning, places to jot notes in the local language, a packing list, and much more (including a map you can fill in as you travel), get the Exploration Journal. It was designed specifically with travelers in mind, so you can take notes and write down stories and reflections during your travels. It’s the perfect gift for the avid traveler.
12. Travel Books
Few things can inspire you to travel like a good book. They can transport you to new places and keep your wanderlust stoked while you work towards making your own travel dreams a reality. If you’ve got an avid reader who loves to travel on your holiday list (or if you’re just looking for something to read over the holidays), get a travel book. Books are the best gift in the world and on my Amazon page you can get a list of all the best travel books I’ve read over the years.
13. Celiac Travel Cards
My friend Jodi from Legal Nomads created these helpful travel cards for anyone traveling with Celiac disease. They are in-depth resources that communicate your concerns to restaurant staff in a way that allows anyone traveling with the disease to have a worry-free meal. If you or someone you love has Celiac disease, these travel cards are a useful resource! (Use the code NOMADICMATT for 10% off!)
14. Dry Shampoo
Dry shampoo is a convenient liquid-free alternative to regular shampoo. It’s a useful minimalist solution for budget travelers who travel carry-on only and an eco-friendly choice as well. Natural dry shampoos absorb the grease and oil in your hair, keeping it clean while you’re on the road — and with minimal effort too. It works for all types of hair and hair lengths as well so you don’t need to shave your head or do anythign drastic either.
15. Ten Years a Nomad
This book is my memoir about my ten years traveling and backpacking the world, my philosophy on travel, and the lessons I learned that can help you travel better. It takes you on a trip around the world from start to finish: getting the bug, the planning, setting off, the highs, the lows, the friends, what happens when you come back — and the lessons and advice that come with all that. People have been really enjoying and connecting with it and I think you or any other traveler would love it!! (Plus, getting it helps support everything we do here!)
16. Donate to Charity!
For the traveler in your life who has everything, why not make a donation to charity on their behalf! FLYTE is an awesome charity that I started back in 2015 to help high school students in underserved communities experience the transformational power of travel. Every year we send a new group of students abroad, but we can’t do it without your help!
17. Get the Books to Get You Outdoors!
If you’ve been following my blog, chances are you’ve noticed I’m not much of a camper. Sure, I love the outdoors but I never sleep well in a tent. That’s where “glamping” — a mix of “glamorous” and “camping” — comes in. My friends Mike and Anne from HoneyTrek wrote the go-to book on glamping in North America. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who likes the outdoors but also appreciates a little extra comfort.
And for more outdoor adventures, my friend Renee wrote an in-depth guide to America’s National Parks called Roaming America. It’s full of detailed itineraries, insider tips, and personal recommendations. It’s a must for any road tripper or nature lover on your shopping list!
Gifts Under $100
18. Menstrual Cup
Menstrual cups are reusable, eco-friednly feminine hygiene products. While I can’t speak to their effectiveness personally, tons of female travelers I know are huge fans. It can be a hassle trying to find the products you need while abroad, making this a simple, effective, and affordable addition to your toiletry kit.
19. Trtl Travel Pillow
Travel pillows are perfect for those long-haul flights, delayed buses, and airport naps. Every traveler needs to have a travel pillow on hand to maximize that downtime and time in transit, and Trtl pillows are the best on the market. They help prevent jetlag and make even the longest, most uncomfortable trip a little more bearable.
20. Suavs shoes
Suavs shoes are super versatile and durable, making them perfect for traveling. Whether you’re just exploring the city or in need of something that looks a bit fancier, these shoes can do it all so you don’t have to pack multiple shoes. They are flexible, light, washable, and breathable. I love them! (They look great too!)
21. Travel Headlamp
This is a handy tool for both backpackers and anyone looking to do any hiking or camping. In a hostel, a headlamp is helpful if you need to check in or out but don’t want to disturb your fellow travelers. For outdoorsy folks, they’re useful for hiking, setting up camp in the dark, and for emergencies.
Environmentally, pollution from single-use plastics is something every traveler has witnessed. And, monetarily, when you’re traveling, continuiously buying water gets expensive. Do your part to help the planet by traveling with a reusable filter. LifeStraw is an awesome brand with a built in water filter. The filters last 5 years so you save money on changing them too.
23. Superstar Blogging
Is there someone on your list looking to start a new career? Why not give them a leg up and enroll them in Superstar Blogging! We offer comprehensive courses on blogging and travel writing that outline everything you need to know to succeed in the travel industry. You’ll learn from me and other top travel experts on how to level up your game, reduce mistakes, and get you heard above the noise!
Gifts Over $100
24. Travel Backpack
If you’ve got a budget traveler on your holiday list, a travel backpack is the gift that keeps on giving. A well-made bag will last for years and through dozens of adventures. Having a reliable travel backpack is one of the most important items for a traveler.
My favorite bag is the Flash 45 from REI but other companies worth checking out for high-quality bags are Osprey, Nomatic, and MEC (for Canadians).
Some bags worth checking out are:
(For a different backpack, check out my guide finding the right backpack for more options!)
25. Versatile Travel Clothing from Unbound Merino
These travel clothes are some of the most versatile on the market. Made from merino wool, Unbound offers clothing that can be worn daily for weeks (and months!) without getting smelly. They are perfect for the traveler who wants to pack lighter. I really love the material, they’re comfortable, they hardly ever need a wash, and they last forever!
26. Eco-friendly Luggage from Samsonite
If you’re in need of proper luggage, Samsonite has been a go-to brand for durable, reliable luggage for ages. Now, I’m a backpack guy but I love this new luggage set. It’s made from 100% recycled plastic! Every little part of it! I can get behind something that environmentally friendly. It also comes with a limited 10 year warranty too in case something goes wrong.
27. MacBook Air
This is my favorite travel computer. It’s light, it’s powerful enough for regular use, and the battery life lasts a long time. While an iPad might be another potential travel choice, I find the Air much more versatile — especially with their new M1 chip. You can just do a lot more with it. When I’m on the road, this is the laptop I travel with.
While not a cheap phone, the iPhone 12 has such a high-tech camera that you don’t need to take a traditonal camera with you when you travel. It has a solid battery life, a grat lens, beautiful screen, and, is overall, just awesome. True, I’m an Apple fanboy so I might be biased but hey, it’s my list!
For a less-expensive phone with an equally awesome camera, check out the Google Pixel. It’s less than half the price and has an excellent camera.
29. Wireless Noise-Canceling Headphones
These are ideal for those long flights or bus trips as they block out background noise so you can read, work, or sleep without being disturbed. The wireless Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones are fan favorites and my go-to brand. They are comfortable, rechargable, and do an amazing job at removing background noise. If you’re on a budget, consider the QuietComfort 25 instead.
30. Mophie External Battery
These days, we all travel with numerous electronic devices like phones and tablets. It can be hard to keep them all charged. An external battery solves that problem. Two high-output USB ports make this external battery incredibly convenient, and it can charge up to 100 hours of battery in one go.
While I personally prefer to read physical books, I can’t argue against the convenience and simplicity of the Kindle. Hauling around physical books is a pain if you’re traveling often. With a Kindle, you can pack over 1,000 books into a single device and many versions can also use apps and access the internet. It’s a wonderful gift for the avid reader.
32. GoPro Hero 9 Black
Every traveler needs a camera, and few are as versatile and durable as the GoPro. They’re incredible for photos and video no matter the climate. They’re waterproof and are perfect for both everyday city exploring as well as more extreme and adventurous activities. They’re just awesome. If the Hero 9 is too pricey, grab the 8. It’s just as good and a bit cheaper!
33. Fashionable Travel Wear from Bluffworks
For fashionable travel and work clothing, check out Bluffworks. Their versatile travelwear is perfect for business trips, romantic getaways, or for any trip where you want to look your best. Their clothing balances comfort and style, making them the perfect choice for the fashionable traveler. Best of all, they donate a portion of their profits to our charity FLYTE!
Whether you’re searching for the perfect holiday gift for a traveler in your life or just looking for some holiday inspiration for yourself, this list will help you find an awesome gift for the holidays. No matter your budget, there is something here for you that will help you level up your travels or the travels of a loved one.
Book Your Trip: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. I’ve been using World Nomads for ten years. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
Need to book your trip?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use when I travel. The are the best in class and you can’t go wrong using them on your trip.
Photo credit: 13 – Electric Teeth