Top Travel Gifts
Travel Tips

Top Travel Gifts for 2018

Lightweight is this year’s travel gift-giving theme. The more I travel, the more I value featherweight items. I weigh my clothes to help decide what to pack and when purchasing new items I get the one with less mass—every ounce matters when you’re carrying bags. Show the traveler in your life that you care by purchasing travel goodies that won’t break their back when they’re hauling them around wonderful destinations. I love giving gifts and if you’re like me you want to get the perfect present for the people on your list. Here are my top travel gift picks for this holiday season. I’m sure every traveler will find something to love on this list.

  • Foldable backpack—Packable backpacks are lightweight (mine is eight ounces), take up little space (generally a small square when folded), and provide tons of extra storage when unfurled. I always have at least one with me when out for a day of sightseeing or shopping.
  • A great travel purse—I recommend an ultra-lightweight, cross-body bag like the Alvar bag from Kipling. Without anything in it, the bag weighs only .6 pounds. I love the fact that every compartment is zippered (keeps my stuff safe) and that there are two front compartments (perfect for a camera and a phone) and two deep sections. I cross it in front of me when traveling and rest my arm over the bag to keep my possessions safe from sticky fingers. The bag is a little pricey, but durable. I’ve been using the same basic black bag for years and it looks as nice as the day I bought it. ($79)
  • Lightweight luggage—One can’t pack light when their suitcase is heavy. I’m a fan of hard-sided luggage and try to cap it at about six pounds before adding my items. (price varies, but discounters like TJ Maxx have good deals)
  • Collapsible water bottle—This little gem will save your traveler loads of space and money. Made of food-grade silicone, these types of water bottles fold up when not in use and then can be unfolded when needed (like post-security when you don’t want to pay $5 for a bottle of water and TSA made you dump all your liquids over 3.4 ounces). Weighing only a few ounces when empty, they won’t encumber a person. ($8-10)
  • Comfortable shoes—Not only do shoes generally take up a lot of space in one’s luggage, but they’re also heavy. Not so with many of Skecher’s shoes—my favorites are an ultra-lite Mary Jane-style black flat with memory foam. They look stylish, cushion my feet, and are light as a feather (mine weigh about seven ounces). ($40-70)
  • Lightweight cardigan—Planes get cold. In the course of any flight, one goes from freezing to sweating seemingly within minutes. A gossamer-thin cardigan gives the traveler a valuable layering piece that they can use on the flight in lieu of a throw and as part of their wardrobe to reduce the number of clothing items packed. ($30-50)
  • Portable charger—A travel charger is a growing travel necessity these days. Even when my phone was new, it wouldn’t hold a day-long charge, especially since I was taking pictures and accessing wi-fi. I now carry a candy-bar size portable charger that weighs four ounces and can fully charge my phone at least once before needing juice itself. ($15-20)
  • Travel essentials—Electrical adapters, mini umbrellas, sunglasses case, travel towels, packing cubes, shoe bags, sleep masks, luggage tags, journals, compression socks, and more all make great gifts. ($3+)
  • E-book gift card—Once upon a time, travelers had to carry multiple books on a journey. It was a heavy venture. Today, we can carry hundreds of tomes on an e-reader or via telephone app. I love being able to download loads of guidebooks and novels to occupy me on a flight or to help me relax after a long day of sightseeing. (price varies)
  • Money—Not only is cash lightweight (unless you’re giving hard currency), your loved one can spend it on a special meal or treasured tour creating memories that will last a lifetime. If you know next year’s travel destination for your gift recipient, research the best tours or restaurants for that city and then print out a suggested itinerary with the cash to cover the expense. If they’re going to Paris, Rome, Florence, or Venice, I suggest looking into the small group tours by the Roman Guy/Paris Guy (and using our link to save money—see below). By giving cash, you are freeing them to be a bit frivolous and just have fun…and isn’t pleasure what travel is about?
  • Photographic Art—High quality travel photographs make a striking and rich-looking gift for anyone with a wall. I may be biased, but my Etsy shop, Roaming Historian, offers great pictures to transport people around the world. Our photographs feature historical and cultural sites from Europe, the United States, and the Caribbean. Photographic art makes a wonderful gift for teachers and coworkers. And with prices starting at just $10, you have the opportunity to give a piece of art at an affordable price. Plus, buying someone a picture of a place they would like to visit relieves them of the burden of carrying heavy camera equipment around. J


  • When buying electronics for a traveler, look for those that are dual voltage so they will convert easily. I’ve fried electronics billed as “travel” products because they weren’t dual voltage. Some companies just market smaller products as travel-friendly when they’re really not.
  • If you’re buying a packing cube for the traveler in your life, find ones that are flexible and mesh. Their clothes are going to get dirty and will need to “breathe” once packed back in the cubes. Flexible cubes will allow them to stay organized and pack efficiently while maximizing space.
  • Be wary of trendy items with only one useful application. I see a lot of products marketed to travelers that are, frankly, quite useless. The worst are those that are heavy and take up too much space in a bag. When buying, think if the item is worthwhile enough that someone should carry it around for days on end over miles of airports and cities.

Happy gift giving and happy holidays to all!

Note: I am not paid for any product I have recommended here with the exception of my own photographs from my Etsy store. Roaming Historian may derive revenue from affiliate links though and other sources, which helps offset the costs of bringing you the information we do. The blogs and reviews posted on this website are of our own opinion though.


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