Who’s dreaming of travel? There’s gotta be a dozen people on your holiday list who could use an escape. And while the time hasn’t quite come to visit a far off land, we want to help your favorite travelers get ready for a brighter 2021 and nurture their wanderlust in the meantime. Keeping in the tradition of our annual gift guide, we scoured our years of packing lists and looked to our circle of globetrotting friends for their tested-and-approved picks. What we’ve come up with are the best travel gifts that won’t just be “stuff” under the tree…but the tools, resources, and ideas to inspire the travelers in your life.
The Lightest Snowshoes
Back when we were first dating, Mike bought me a pair of snowshoes for Christmas…which as a girl from Southern California was like being gifted a bowling ball to join him at “League Night.” A decade and a hundred snowshoe hikes later, I can tell you it’s one of the best Christmas gifts I’ve ever received. Floating over deep snow and traversing icy waterfalls, these shoes open up a world of winter adventures—no lift tickets, long lines, gear rental, or commute necessary. To give ourselves an upgrade from our old clunkers, we’re gifting each other a pair of Northern Lites—the world’s lightest snowshoes! From their hardcore Predator series to their ultra-light Race Waves (1.3 lb for the pair!), these snowshoes are the choice of Iditarod winners and snow bunnies alike. No matter which style you get, opt for their amazing speed bindings, which tighten with one pull, rather than taking off your gloves to fuss with multiple clips. And while $200 is not a drop in the bucket, they have a lifetime warranty, 1% of profits go to Parkinson’s Research, and for the cost of two lift tickets you’ll get unlimited snowy adventures.
Cheeky Travel Tees
Our friends and the owners of Art of Wanderlust hand-delivered these adorable shirts to us on the shores of Lake Atitlán, Guatemala. And while this dreamy scenario made us instantly fall in love with these tees, their baby soft fabric and smile-inducing expressions keep us wearing them again and again. And by that I mean, it’s the T-shirt Mike wears more than anything in his wardrobe. As they say at Art of Wanderlust, “Each product is designed to inspire a life of adventure and to provide a daily reminder that life is too short not to be lived fully.” We love that motto and that they add a few laughs along the way. (“Adventure? Alpaca my bags” lol). Give someone their new go-to tee, all while giving back—10% of profits from every purchase are donated to Charity Water or Against Malaria Foundation.
Custom & Sustainable Bottles
We’ve been rocking Nalgene bottles since the 1990s—they’re simple, sturdy, BPA-free, and inline with our mission to reduce single-use plastics. But in the past year, they’ve really climbed the awesome scale with the addition of their customizable bottles and their new Sustain line. If you’re not on a strict Xmas delivery deadline (takes ~2 weeks to design and ship), Nalgene Custom lets you choose your vessel style then upload your own photos, text, and graphics for a truly one-of-a-kind gift. And it’s always a good time to get a Sustain bottle. This high-tech line reclaims single-use plastics destined for the landfill and crafts them into bottles that are guaranteed for life. Aside from the sweet Sustain graphic, we can’t tell the difference…but we know the planet will! Choose from seven fantastic colors.
Jet Set Jewelry
With the present travel restrictions, we all have an insatiable case of wanderlust. And while nothing can beat a first-class ticket to Europe, this nostalgic bling will certainly cheer up your favorite traveler! Passport stamps, IATA codes, iconic buildings, subway cards, maps, and details to make a globetrotter smile are etched into sterling silver and solid gold. With designs inspired from every continent and hundreds of regions around the globe, Jet Set Candy is sure to have something for everyone, from the Francophile to the California girl. We were gifted this Mexico luggage tag with a little airplane charm on the clasp after our second Mazatlan housesit and wearing it brings us closer to our casa away from casa.
We used to travel with just one daypack, but found ourselves having to gut it every time we took a hike. To avoid that hot mess, we now travel with a paper-thin second backpack, that’s ready to fill with our needs for the day’s trail or city streets. Our British buds at Neverending Voyage concur that “Packable daypacks are useful if you don’t want to use your main luggage when you are out exploring.” They tipped us off to Sinotron’s 22L backpack, which only weighs 7 ounces, but can hold everything the two of us need for the day, including a Nalgene-sized water bottle in the side pocket. Plus, at 12 bucks, it’s a no-risk addition to a traveler’s packing strategy.
A Children’s Book for Budding Explorers
Back in 2015, Rikki and her husband Jared took our Trip Coach course to prepare for their seven-month journey around the world. We shared our best tips—from finances to safety to itineraries—and they took their dream trip across Africa, Asia, and South America. Five years later, Rikki has published a children’s book about their adventures in some of our favorite places on the planet. Illustrated with beautiful watercolors and written with whimsy, this book would make any kid want to be an explorer. So hold off on the fairytales about unicorns and mythical kingdoms; show kids the lost city of Machu Picchu, big game of the Maasai Mara, shimmering glaciers of Patagonia, and the real wonders of the world.
Sanitizer That Doesn’t Smell Like a Hospital
As our savvy and hysterical friends at Extra Pack of Peanuts said, “If 2020 had a scent, it would be the smell of hand sanitizer.” Isn’t that the sad truth! Heck with Purell, we’re getting ourselves a bottle of their favorite all-natural Olivia Care Sanitizer in lavender and lemon. “We have a bottle in every room in the house, cars, and in our bags,” say Trav & Heather. “These are also cruelty-free and made in the USA so it is a win all the way around.” This is a stocking stuffer everyone could use.
Photography for Change
Channeling her creative energy and do-good forces through the pain of 2020, our buddy Kirsten Alana banded together with fellow top travel photographers to start Raising for Change. Each giclée print captures a favorite vignette from around the world and proceeds benefit a cause that relates to that place—be it human rights, food access, or planet protection. Printed with a white border, matte finish, and a protective coating, they are easily frameable and enduring works of art. While we think $150 is pretty reasonable for 24″ x 16″ fine art print, you can also support these artists and smile every time you pick up your Android with their $1 phone wallpaper.
Couples Travel Hammock
A lot of people are upgrading their backyard accessories for their ongoing staycation, but why not get something that can work at home and abroad? Jenn and Ed of Coleman Concierge recommend this breathable, quick-dry nylon hammock that packs down to 9″ x 6″. “A travel hammock is a little luxury that makes chill-time in the outdoors that much more zen. This one rocks because it fits two…double the chill.” Until the next time you can swing between two palm trees in the Caribbean, this couples hammock will see you through.
Safe & Stylish Getaways
We’ve always known the benefits of glamping—fresh air, private accommodations, family connections, communing with nature, and enjoying wide open spaces—we just didn’t realize “social distancing” would be added to the list. Boutique outdoor accommodations are the safest and most fabulous way to stay right now and we’re proud to have written an award-winning guide on the topic. Comfortably Wild: The Best Glamping Destinations in North America is the culmination of our 3-year, 73,000-mile, 9-country quest for the most unforgettable outdoor accommodations. You’ll find fabulous treehouses, Airstreams, domes, teepees, and more creative structures, plus uncommon adventures and inspiring people. Organized by type of experience (farmstays, wellness retreats, safaris, etc), this book is about discovering new ways to immerse yourself in the great outdoors and reconnect with the people you love. To make this gift extra personal, we can sign a copy with the message of your choosing.
Powerful Point & Shoot
Whenever we’re camera shopping, we consult our award-winning photographer friends Dave & Deb over at The Planet D. Since we don’t all need a pro-grade DSLR or want to rely on a phone to document our trip of a lifetime, a powerful point and shoot is the perfect middle ground. “Dave loves the Sony RX100 VI,” says co-founder Deb, “and I use it all the time for vlogging! It fits great on my gimbal too, keeping things lightweight but looking like a million bucks.” With a Carl Zeiss lens and 20.1 megapixels, you’ll have professional-quality photos for a fraction of the price of other professional cameras.
With limited storage space in the camper and our propensity for adventure travel, we don’t do rollie suitcases anymore. It’s all about duffel bags, particularly those that double as a backpack for easy maneuvering. Our intrepid buddy Angel The Travel Ambassador has taken his Eagle Creek Migrate Duffel (made of recycled car windshields!) all over the world and ranks it as his “go-to.” Eagle Creek is also one of our favorite outdoor brands for their adventure-tested designs and “No Matter What” lifetime warranty. We own the 45-liter Gear Warrior Travel Pack and love how much we can cram in without exceeding carry-on size.
We visited our friends Caz and Craig in the heat of summer for a hike. As I’m grimacing at my heavy hiking boots and socks, she is slipping on her breezy pink Keens. It should come as no surprise that she included these Clearwater CNX hiking sandals in their Y Travel Blog gift guide and that I’m finally going to get a pair. She says, “They are like wearing a comfy pair of socks with holes in them so you have heaps of room to breathe…I’ve had them for 3 years AND they still look brand new and are comfy as ever.” An ultra versatile pair of shoes is what every traveler needs.
Hand-Drawn Art for Foodies
For Travel Yourself’s gift guide this year, our friend Cailin had the sweet idea to feature products made by travel bloggers. We were honored she featured our book Ultimate Journeys for Two and were so glad to find Legal Nomads’ beautiful hand-drawn map designs. “A lover of good food and all things travel, Jodi has created these unique maps that you can get as prints, tees, or totes!” says Cailin. “My favorite is definitely the Italy print, they make me hungry just looking at them!” Who doesn’t love Italian cuisine? Oh, your giftee prefers delicacies from Mexico, Japan, Thailand, or Portugal? Jodi has maps for those countries too.
The Justifiable Selfie Stick
The vain concept of a selfie stick has always bugged the heck out of us. That isn’t to say that we haven’t had 100 instances standing at a gorgeous vistapoint and wished we had one—or a tripod for that matter. That’s why this combo device, recommended by our friend the Casual Travelist, caught our eye. She says, “Lightweight and compact, it’s perfect for travel photography and for Facetime to keep in touch with friends and family.” And heaven knows that during this pandemic, we’re all using our phones for video chats more often and don’t want strangers touching our phone for a pic. At only four ounces and serving the function of two devices (with a remote control thrown in!), it will be worth its weight and sacrifice in pride.
A Better Travel Towel
Hotels and Airbnbs rarely offer towels that you can take to the beach, waterfall, or mountaintop picnic spot. And you wouldn’t even want to carry that bulky terrycloth for the day–much less haul one on a two-week trip. Packing your own compact, quick-dry, sand-resistant towel makes a ton of sense–from a space, time, and hygiene standpoint. We’ve always carried one, but we’ll admit it was less than stylish or sustainable–until now! We love these Nomadix towels, not just for their hipster motifs and reversible designs, but the fact they’re made from post-consumer plastic! And even with material from the equivalent of 30 disposable plastic bottles, they’re incredibly soft and durable—easily doubling as a travel yoga mat. Toss one in your luggage and keep one in your car for impromptu adventures.
Live Language Classes
Know someone anxiously awaiting their trip abroad or brushing up on their foreign language skills? Take it from us, nothing works better than practicing with a native speaker. Rebecca and The World tipped us off to iTalki and their 10,000 teachers, who give 1-on-1 language lessons—for as little as $5 an hour. With a gift card, your budding linguist can find their ideal teacher (each one offers an intro video to get a sense of their style, plus trial sessions to make sure it’s a fit). No subscription required, it’s easy to share the love of languages.
Leggings with Pockets
I always wear leggings and never carry a purse, which basically leaves me without a place to even hold a credit card. Not any more! With deep pockets that conform to your body, these super soft leggings allow me to comfortably tuck away a smartphone and not worry about it falling out on a jog. Once I discovered such a concept, I bought a couple pairs from different vendors, and with a year of wear “under my belt” Kyodan leggings are the clear winner. Unlike my cheapy pair, the pockets don’t bulge out after a couple wears and they are heavy enough to feel like actual pants (not pantyhose). They come in tons of colors; find your hue.
The Adventurer’s Picnic Blanket
One of our favorite travel accessories of all time…the Matador pocket blanket! It’s a mere 4″ x 1.2″ x 3″ when packed, but big enough to sit four people. We always keep this one in our day-pack (it only weighs 5 oz) so when we see a pretty place to relax, we can have a water-repellent, puncture-resistant blanket for picnics or an excuse to gaze up at the clouds.
Road Trip Sidekick
Whether in our camper or a rental car in a foreign county, we always use this mount. A thin metal square sits in your phone case (or sticks to the back) and the circular magnet clips onto the air vent. It doesn’t clutter your dashboard or windshield, there’s no plastic springy thing to fumble with, and you can set/release your phone with one hand. Hop in a rental car and instantly set up your GPS, music, and hands-free phone.
Travel Jewelry Organizer
Where do you put your jewelry when you travel? My necklaces tend to be in a knot at the bottom of my toiletries and I can never find that second earring. A travel jewelry box is something I would have never sought out, but was thrilled in Scenic Suitcase’s new gift guide. “This compact Vlando case is wonderful for carrying jewelry on your travels (bracelets, earrings, rings, necklaces, etc).” says Stephanie. “Its silver-toned fastener with Tiffany blue exterior makes it a classy solution for travel organization needs.”
Beyond the Lawn Game
In a 104-square-foot camper, we can only have so many toys, and the fun of bocce is worth every inch. We bring this Italian bowling game with us wherever we go because it fits neatly in our trunk and can be played on virtually any terrain. Don’t let those dirt courts box you in, bocce takes on a whole new dimension at the beach, in a dense forest, indoors with furniture obstacles, or out a second-story window (#VerticalBocce).
Trip Protection Hero
You may not get the coolest husband or mom award for this gift, but if anything goes wrong on your next trip, you’re gonna reach hero status…like when your flight gets delayed and you take everyone out for a gourmet dinner (because Allianz Travel is footing the $300 bill) or when your bags get lost en route to Paris and you get reimbursed $1,000 for a new wardrobe. We’ve had the Allianz AllTrips Premier Plan since 2015, so whenever we travel we’re automatically covered for emergency medical care, trip delays, cancellations, lost luggage, trip interruption, rental car damage, and lots more. (See how our canceled flight last month turned into the best night in Lisbon). If you take more than two flights per year, it’s time to stop rolling the dice and get some “set-it-and-forget-it” travel insurance. #TravelHappy
National Parks Pass
A must-have for every US explorer or pent-up globetrotter, The America The Beautiful parks pass gets you and a carload of friends into 2,000+ federal recreation sites—for a mere $80/year! Just having it in our glovebox has prompted the best detours. (We’ve seen 10 national parks on this year’s pass alone, saving over $300 and creating countless memories.) Have someone over 62 on your list? They get a lifetime pass for the same price! Purchase a pass and it will come with two blank signature lines for use by the gift recipient. Inspire exploration, promote conservation, and earn shotgun on their next road trip.
Our friends at Travel Past 50 have done long-distance hiking around the world, putting most 20-somethings to shame with their stamina. They have all sorts of tips for surviving 500-mile hikes like the Camino de Santiago, but one you can tie up with a bow is their favorite trekking poles. They swear by their Black Diamond Zs for being “lightweight, easy to adjust, and foldable to fit in small bags,” and say, “we almost always pack walking sticks in case of unforeseen hikes or injuries.”
The Secrets of Nomad Living
In this memoir, our friend and consummate traveler, Nomadic Matt shares his decade-long journey. More than the places he’s been, it offers lessons only long-term travel can teach us about the world and ourselves. We’ve known Matt since 2011 and have seen his incredible rise as a travel media star and were impressed not just with the quality of his writing, but his brutal honesty. Ten Years a Nomad reminds us that vulnerability takes bravery and success starts with the risks we take.
Inflatable Solar Lanterns
We already loved our Luci inflatable solar light but its virtues were completely affirmed when our friends at Divergent Travelers (who don’t have the storage of an RV) said, “My Luci inflatable solar light goes everywhere I travel. We have used it in our tents while camping, on picnic tables while enjoying a nice summer night and to light up pathways.” No batteries needed, it’s made of tough waterproof material, charged by the sun, and creates an inviting light that lasts for hours—be it for an emergency or ambiance.
Slim & Sturdy Toiletry Kits
The sensible meeting point between a space-hogging Dopp kit and a janky Ziploc, Flanabags are just what we need for toiletries! These TSA-compliant, quart-sized bags with wrist straps are thin, sturdy, and in a variety of patterns to add a little fun. Our friend Marielena of Epic 7 Travel says “I’ve been using mine for three years and it looks brand new!” We particularly like that the gusseted bottom gives it enough structure to stand up on its own for easy riffling. We’d recommend the Travel Duo for a more complete gift.
Beautiful Photo Puzzles
In 2019 you might have been too cool for board games, but in 2020 puzzling and pizza delivery is a hot Saturday night. And if you’re going to psycho-analyze every pixel of a portrait or landscape image, it might as well be an award-winner. Taking her body of work, which has racked up its share of hardware from Lowell Thomas awards to SATW’s Photographer of the Year, Susan Portnoy of Insatiable Traveler has found a way to turn any of her photographs into 252-piece puzzles! Just choose your favorite image, select “keepsakes” and you’ll get a 10″ x 14″ board game. Leave the Milton Bradleys in the closet, and spend your night putting together a piece of art.
Carry-on Approved Multi-Tool
When MacGyver goes carry-on he brings the Leatherman Style PS! At just two ounces, this TSA approved multi-tool packs in spring-action needle-nose and regular pliers, wire cutters, scissors (which double as a small knife yet cruises through airport screenings), flathead and Phillips screwdrivers, tweezers, nail file, carabiner, and a bottle opener. We’ve had ours for years and it has a 25-year warranty, so it’ll keep on giving.
Drinking Water…Whenever, Wherever
You’ve probably heard us geek out over our SteriPen. Why? Because it has allowed us to completely kick single-use plastic water bottles (our last one was February 2012). With this compact UV-light purifier, we quickly sterilize any H20 (be it from the Amazon river or a faucet in a Cambodian bus station). Our favorite model is the Ultra Light, which can treat 20 liters on a single USB charge. Make sure your favorite traveler always has clean drinking water and empower them to protect the planet from single-use plastic.
We met the guys at Unbound Merino at TravelCon last year and loved their passion for travel and quality gear. Our feeling was echoed when our friends behind the sustainable travel blog, Drink Tea & Travel said, “Their clothes are not made to be disposable, they last longer, need to be washed less and are perfect for just about any travel occasion.” The blog’s co-founder Max has worn his Unbound boxers, socks, T-shirt, and zip-up merino hoodie in warm and cold climates, urban settings, and remote outdoor destinations and thanks to the unique properties of Unbound Merino, “he’s been able to wear them for days without washing.” As minimalists and environmentalists ourselves, we can completely get on board with Unbound’s organic biodegradable merino wool and commitment to reducing consumption.
For The Lovebirds
Know someone who had a honeymoon or anniversary trip postponed in 2020? Cheer them up with our book on couples adventure travel and the tools to make their dream getaway a reality. With our best global travel tips and 75 favorite destinations from our first five years on the road, this Nat Geo book still makes us proud. Especially when the AP puts it in their top 10 “Travel Books to Inspire Trips or Give as Gifts” or Forbes.com says, “This lively, engaging travelogue is pumped with invigorating ideas and advice galore” or in the wise words of BuzzFeed it’s “the perfect holiday gift to get the dude you like a lot.” Plus, it’s consistently in the top 3 books in Amazon’s “honeymoon travel” category, so we have a good feeling that your partner or that cute couple in your life will like it too. Pick up a copy on the indie BookShop.org or order a signed book through the HoneyTrek shop.
We’ve seen compression socks in a lot of travel gift guides and didn’t think much of it until our friend Sherry of Ottsworld said, “This is a travel gift idea that can save someone’s life…I had a very big scare with blood clots that formed during a long haul flight. Ever since I made it through that experience, I have been a huge advocate of wearing compression socks on any flight over 3 hours.” If you can give something cute and cozy that also reduces the risk of a life-threatening condition, then that’s a heck of a gift.
The Traveler’s Card Game
Every traveler has great stories, all you need to do is ask. Spark up lively, thought-provoking, and hysterical conversations with the Travel Banter card game. Created by our clever friend Nicolette of CultureTrav, these 98 questions are printed on the back of gorgeous travel photographs with topics that run the gamut…Arts & Culture, Food & Drink, Life & Lessons, People, and Culture. We played with my mom over Thanksgiving and reminisced about past vacations, shared untold stories, and even learned new things about each other. This compact deck is the perfect stocking stuffer and great trick up your sleeve for long car rides, family reunions, solo trips, and unforgettable nights.
Do-Good Shopping Resources
Still have more shopping to do and want to support good causes along the way? Try sites like GreaterGood.com, who’s proceeds from their wide-range of awesome gifts have raised more than $60 million for people, pets, and the planet and invested more than $50 million in artisan and fair trade purchases. Want to support indie bookstores at risk of closing? Find your favorite on Bookshop.org and they’ll send them 100% of the profits from your order. If you’re trying to kick the Amazon habit but don’t want to lose out on deals, install the WikiBuy extension (recently purchased by Capital One) in your browser and it will alert you when another site has it cheaper!
Happy Holidays everyone! We appreciate you checking out our travel gift guide and shopping through the links we provided (they’re not all Amazon, don’t worry). These affiliate links support our work and help keep HoneyTrek going without any extra cost to you. Cheers to a wonderful holiday season and more adventures in the new year!