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Traveler’s Holiday Gift Guide

by Bonnie

It is that time of year again…time for holiday gift shopping!

The time when your family and friends start asking you what you want for Christmas (or Hanukkah, or whatever you might celebrate). And you start wondering not only what you should ask for, but also what to buy for everyone else.

While this can be a fun time of year, for many people it is also one of the most frustrating. You don’t want something you don’t need. But sometimes you don’t really know what you need or want. You wait and wait for your mom or dad or whoever to give you a list and suddenly it is December 23 and you haven’t done any shopping because no one has given you a wishlist.

We have you covered with our traveler’s holiday gift guide! Not everyone is a seasoned traveler, but most everyone will travel at least occasionally. Hopefully, our gift guide will help you to find something for that difficult to shop for person on your list or give you ideas of what you can ask for from those shopping for you.

Everything on this list is something we use and love. If you have any questions, please let us know!

We tried to sort everything by price point, but with all things, it depends on what’s on sale and sometimes certain colors and sizes are more or less expensive.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

Price Range: Less Than $30

Amazon Basics Cables

Let’s be honest, electronics are a part of our everyday life now. And keeping them charged is important! We use Apple products and we live by Amazon Basics cables because they work just as well, for a fraction of what Apple charges for their charging cables.

The quality is great…we have never had to replace one and we’ve been using these almost exclusively for several years. Instead, we just keep buying additional cables to keep in the truck, RV and portable charging station so that we don’t have to remember to pack the ones we keep at the house.

And, if you’re not an Apple user, you can probably still find an Amazon Basics cable that will work at a fraction of the cost of a branded cable.

Portable Charger

You’ve got your charging cables, but what if you don’t have electricity? We picked up this Jackery Bar External Battery Charger a couple of years ago and we love it! It will provide two or three iPhone charges and can also charge an iPad. While it may not hold quite as much juice as other external batteries, it also doesn’t cost nearly as much! You can also get one with charging cables built-in!

Dual USB Car Charger

Being able to charge your electronics is essential. Being able to charge two devices at one time…even better! While many newer cars have built-in USB chargers, if you’re still rocking an old school charging plug (or even a cigarette lighter), you’ll need an adapter.

The two port USB charger and Amazon Basics Cables we use to keep our devices charged while driving.
The two-port USB charger and Amazon Basics Cables we use to keep our devices charged while driving.

This inexpensive dual car charger, along with a couple of Amazon Basics charging cables, makes for the perfect mobile charging station!

Money Belt

Lots of travel-industry folks will suggest using a money belt when traveling to hide your cash. We like this one, from Eagle Creek, that is actually a belt. Traditional money belts hide under your clothes and pretty much require you to undress to access.

While this one will not hold your passport, etc., it will hold emergency cash and it’s a belt! An actual, functional, comfortable belt!

Sunglass Croakies

Whether you are at home or away, being able to easily slip your sunglasses on and off is essential! I got my first pair of Croakies many, many years ago and they have been a staple of my life ever since.

While Croakies are useful every day, they are a lifesaver while traveling. Being able to slip the sunglasses on and off quickly and easily as we move in and out of buildings is fantastic. One may say that they look a little silly. But, if it prevents me from losing my sunglasses, it’s worth it!

Travel Towel

A good travel towel is essential, especially when backpacking or camping. We used similar towels from REI when tent camping because they dry quickly. They also roll up fairly tight, thus not taking up a lot of room in your luggage.

Having a towel when traveling is great just in case you need to shower at a train station or if you get caught in the rain and just need to dry off. Plus, if you plan on visiting the beach, you’ll generally want a towel!

Luggage Scale

Nobody likes overweight baggage! Check your weight with a luggage scale BEFORE you get to the airport. If you’ve ever tried to weigh luggage with the bathroom scale, you know it’s not as easy as it may sound. Plus, this is easy enough to pack with you so that you can make sure all that shopping you did while on vacation doesn’t put your bag over the weight limit.

If you’re a backpacker, you can make sure you don’t load your pack so that it is too, heavy for body weight. Believe me, that pack will feel A LOT heavier after 45 minutes than it does whenever you first pick it up!

Travel Power Adapter

If you are traveling internationally, you will need an adapter plug. Sometimes you will need a converter, but usually, just an adapter will do (check before you go to be sure). Since every region is different, we have this Flight 001 4-in-1 Adapter. It covers 150 countries and fits into one small easy-to-pack cube.


Headlamps may look silly, but the functionality can’t be beaten. We have had our Petzl headlamps for more than six years.

We recently got a USB rechargeable headlamp from UCO in a Cairn Box. We love that with this headlamp we don’t have to worry about batteries while we are traveling.

Maybe you are navigating streets without streetlights or changing a tire on the side of the road. We’ve needed the headlamps to set up our tent or RV when arriving at the campground after dark.

Heck, Grant even got his out one night when the sun went down before he was done mowing the grass! Yes, that is just one reason why we now live in a condo!

Price Range: $30-$50

Scratch Off Map

So, we got the Landmass Goods Travel Tracker Scratch Off map hung and now we are hanging one picture from every trip surrounding the map.
So, we got the Landmass Goods Travel Tracker Scratch Off map hung and now we are hanging one picture from every trip surrounding the map.

The Landmass Travel Tracker Scratch Off maps are a great way for any traveler to record (and show off) where they’ve visited. Available in a  World map or United States (with National Parks), any traveler will love this gift! This easy to scratch off map is a great display of where you’ve been and where you still need to explore.

A fun map and conversation starter!

Also available on Amazon.

Travel WiFi Router

One of the key parts of our road trip tech: charging station and travel router.
Our portable charging station and portable router set up and ready to use.

We take this small (2.2″ by 2.2″ by 0.7″) WiFi Router by TP Link with us everywhere we travel. Combined with a retractable Ethernet cable, we can use just about any wired ethernet connection at a hotel. Admittedly, it doesn’t always work, but when it does, we get a boost in speed and not as much “congestion” as we would on the hotel’s router. Plus, it’s more secure.

Amazon Fire Stick

We have gotten to where we almost always travel with an Amazon Fire Stick. It is small and easy to pack and allows you to stream just about anything you want to (provided you have the subscription).

The best part about the Fire Stick is that it has the ability to log into Web-enabled internet portals, found in most hotels. This makes it the perfect device for streaming Netflix, etc. while on the road.

Looking for the perfect gift for the frequent business traveler in your life? Look no further!

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

We first bought these pillows for tent camping. They roll up into themselves, making them easy to pack and store while traveling. The pillows naturally expand in a reasonable amount of time to be comfortable while sleeping.

Our two pillows now “live” in the camper, as the perfect companion to our “normal” pillows on the bed. Recently, we bought two additional pillows to take with us on road trips without the camper. We just aren’t a big fan of the feather pillows we seem to find at most hotels these days.

Nike Dri-Fit Shirts

Grant and I both love Nike Legend Dri-Fit t-shirts. These shirts are light, wick moisture, breath very well, feel good and are the most comfortable synthetic t-shirts we have found yet. You can get them with various logos on them, but I like the solid colors for travel. They are timeless.

Columbia Declination Button-Up Shirt

Grant Enjoying the Train Ride
Grant enjoying the eight-hour train ride and his 7th book (on his iPad Mini) of the Eastern Europe trip. The Columbia Declination Trail Shirt was super comfy!

Grant has been wearing the Columbia Declination shirts while traveling since our first trip to Italy. The shirt is lightweight, very breathable and the modal/poly blend resists wrinkles, no matter how tightly you roll it.

Women’s Columbia PFG Tamiani II Short Sleeve Shirt

If you want something nicer than a t-shirt, but still lightweight and quick-drying, this is a great option! I love this shirt for sight-seeing and light hiking. With moisture-wicking fabric and UPF protection, this is one of my favorite travel shirts.

Price Range: $50-$100

Packing Cubes

One of the best ways to make a small backpack or suitcase work is to use packing cubes. You will be amazed at how much more you can fit if you pack your clothes into these cubes.

Once everything was placed in it's compartments, all I was left with was my clothes, camera, medicine, water bottle, travel pillow and small towel. the eBags packing cubes made quick work of packing my clothes.
The eBags packing cubes made quick work of Grant’s clothes for eight days in Italy.

We use eBags Hyper-Lite Packing Cubes. They come in a variety of sizes and colors, so you can get whatever size best fits your backpack, suitcase, or whatever you are packing in. They also sell multi-packs if you want or need a variety of sizes.

Women’s Convertible Pants

Convertible pants (which convert to shorts) may not be the most stylish, but they sure are convenient! One of my favorite styles is the prAna Sage Convertible Pants. They are fairly lightweight and roll up nice and tight for packing. The legs are easy to zip on and off or roll up to capri length. The shorts are a little longer than I generally like, but when visiting churches or museums, I usually find that is better.

Men’s Convertible Pants

Grant has been wearing Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants since our Italy trip and he loves them. Yes, they are travel pants, but they are comfortable and very flexible. The pockets are pretty much perfect, with the sole exception of the zippered cargo pocket, which would be better on the right leg, not the left leg.

REI Flash 22 Daypack

This pack is lightweight and designed for small loads and use on the trail. It comes equipped with a hydration sleeve and 2 mesh side pockets, perfect for a couple of water bottles.

Grant and the Flash 22 daypack
Grant wearing his REI Flash 22 pack.

The inside and outside pockets allow you to keep items you may need easily accessible while on the move. This is our go-to bag for hiking and other day trips.

For more information, check out our article on choosing the right daypack here.

Laptop Backpack

Grant bought and loves this eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack.

This laptop bag has a ton of smart features. With several compartments, an AC adaptor “garage” and a water bottle pocket, this bag has it all! It converts from a backpack to a briefcase and will slip over suitcase handles. In our eyes, this bag is perfect for any kind of travel.

Price Range: More than $100

Charging Station with Battery Pack

Whatever electronics you use, you will need to charge them! Rather than carry around several different cords praying that you have enough outlets, we suggest this Aviiq Portable Charging Station.

You can charge up to four devices at a time, all with one wall outlet – or none at all! And it keeps everything in one place and tangle-free. The one we have is an older version without the battery pack and we love it! Seriously, this thing goes with us EVERYWHERE we travel. Being able to use it on the go is a wonderful improvement!


While we rarely travel with a suitcase, there are times when that is just the best way to pack. We mostly use a suitcase when cruising or going to a resort… Basically, any trip that involves unpacking just one time.

Buying the right suitcase for your needs is essential. It needs to be sturdy, yet lightweight. Wheels and a handle are a must. The size that you need will vary, so think about that before you buy.

We each have a hard-sided Samsonite, similar to this one. Four wheels allow it to spin and pull easily. It has a built-in TSA lock. The size allows us to easily pack for more than a week. And it’s expandable…essential if you typically do a lot of shopping while on vacation!

Travel Backpack

When traveling overseas, or anytime that we will be moving around a lot, we carry a backpack rather than a suitcase. If you have ever tried to pull a suitcase across cobblestone streets, you will understand why we love to travel with a backpack. Being able to have our hands free when getting on a train or walking through the airport is also great.

Bonnie is now using the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible and Grant is using the Lowepro Highline BP 400 AW.

The backpack may be a little bit and boxy, but it carries nicely and has great organizational features!
The backpack may be a little bit and boxy, but it carries nicely and has great organizational features!

With some careful packing, we can fit about five days worth of clothes, plus toiletries, electronics, and any other essential items. It does taking some creative packing and VERY careful consideration of what you actually need, but we have lived out of a backpack for more than a month at a time in Europe.

You can read a full review of Bonnie’s backpack here and Grant’s here.


I know not everyone is on the Apple bandwagon, but we are and that is what we recommend. The iPad Mini is our tablet of choice, allowing us to read books, work, or just catch up on the day’s news.

Bonnie reading a book on her iPad at the camper.
Bonnie reading a book on her iPad at the camper.

We each have an iPad Mini, which is the perfect size for reading and they fit in the front pocket of our backpacks for easy access on the train or in the airport.


While the camera on the iPhone is great, sometimes you just need a bit more. This is where the Canon SX70 comes in. It is lightweight, making it perfect for hiking or backpacking around the world.

Grant currently uses the SX40, a previous version and we have taken it on hikes, to Eastern Europe and twice to Italy.

The camera is light, has an AMAZING optical zoom and weighs about a pound.

Can’t Decide on a Gift? Check Out Cairn

Cairn is a subscription box for hiking and travel gear. We have gotten three boxes so far and gotten some really impressive gear. We are constantly impressed with how thoughtful the boxes are. The USB-rechargeable headlamp, in particular, is a favorite. We have also gotten a great packable water bottle, sunglasses and new granola bars to try.

You can gift multiple months so it really fits any budget.

Looking For RV Gear?

Be sure to check out our RV Gear Guide for suggestions for the RV owner in your life. 

Happy Holiday Gift Shopping 

Hopefully, we made shopping for the holidays just a bit easier! If you have any questions or are looking for recommendations on something we haven’t covered here, please contact us! We are happy to answer any questions about our recommendations.

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Our holiday gift shopping recommendations for the traveler in your life! Includes electronics, clothing, luggage and other useful gadgets.
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Kellie Jo December 2, 2016 - 11:03 pm

Great post! I’ll steal some of these recommendations for my students on the trip we’re taking to Italy!

Jean November 23, 2018 - 6:23 am

Allot of good ideas for the holidays. Thank you.

Grant November 23, 2018 - 2:06 pm

Thanks Jean!


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