Travel has taught us to boil down our possessions to the essentials—the handiest, sturdiest, coolest items that make a difference in our day-to-day lives, and hopefully the planet too. To create the first-ever HoneyTrek Travel Gift Guide, we scoured our 7-year-long packing list 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 help the traveler in your life get out there and explore!
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 week-long trip. Packing your own compact, quick-dry microfiber 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–until now. Our friend Travis of the incredible mileage hacking blog, Extra Pack of Peanuts, introduced us to Dryfox’s new design. They come in fun (reversible!) patterns and have a built-in pocket to store your cash and keys while you’re swimming. At 60″x30″ these extra soft towels completely cover your body, but only weigh 8 oz. Toss one in your luggage or keep it in your car for impromptu adventures.
The Be-All-End-All Tote Bag
Oh, this may look like just another tote bag but the Evironsax has been a secret weapon of our packing strategy since 2012. It was actually given to us as a going-away present from our friend Sarah, and we still call it the “Sarah Bag” (if you called yours the “HoneyTrek Bag” we’d take that as a serious compliment). Of course, it’s great for groceries and is estimated to replace over 5,000 single-use plastic bags over its lifetime, but it’s also the ultimate overflow bag. While packing down to 1.4 ounces, it expands to fit an entire load of laundry, that awkward-shaped souvenir, or become a beach bag full of the day’s supplies. We’ve pushed this thing to the limit and we’re only on our second bag in seven years!
It’s funny that no one thinks to swap their stock camera strap, boring black and emblazoned with manufacutuer logos, for something more attractive. (We’re guilty too!). Now that our buds at Bobo & Chichi tipped us off to Arion’s handsome herringbone design with anti-slip surface, I know what’s going in Mike’s stocking this year.
The Answer to Disposable Water Bottles
You’ve probably heard us geek out over the SteriPEN. Why? It’s allowed us to kick single-use plastic water bottles ever since Feb 2012. With this compact UV-light purifier, we can 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 of water before you need to recharge it via USB. Make sure your favorite traveler always has clean drinking water and empower them to protect the planet from single-use plastic.
Talk about boiling down your packing list to what matters, this comfy shirt says it all: Passport& Camera& Suitcase& Tickets& Phone, says it all. That’s just one of 25+ cheeky designs by our friends Adventurous Kate and Cailin of Travel Yourself. Our favorite? “Wanderer. Adventurer. Explorer. Nomad. Vagabond.”
Carry-on Approved Multi-Tool
When MacGyver goes carry-on only he brings the Leatherman Style PS! At just two ounces, this TSA approved multi-tool packs in spring-action needlenose and regular pliers, wire cutters, scissors (which double as a small knife, just don’t tell TSA;), flat-head and Phillips screwdrivers, tweezers, nail file, and combination carabiner and bottle opener. We’ve had ours for years and it has a 25-year warranty, so it’ll keep giving.
Give Someone a Chance
As a microfinance non-profit serving 80 countries, Kiva’s mission is “to connect people through lending to alleviate poverty.” We just made our 30th loan (yes, these aren’t donations, every amount we’ve leant has been paid back so far, and the entire org has a 96.9% repayment rate). Celebrate Giving Tuesday by sharing Kiva with your loved ones and changing lives together! Through Nov. 27, when you buy $50 in Kiva Cards to give as gifts, Kiva will give you a $25 bonus to make your own loan. Your gift recipients get to choose who and what causes to support (education, environment, arts women, etc.) and you choose which to support with your bonus!
Jumpstart Your Road Trip
Ever taken an RV road trip and thought, I could get used to this? That’s what happened to us after a campervan journey around New Zealand and now we’re proud owners of a 1985 Toyota Camper. Both us and fellow vanlife bloggers Explorist wish we had a copy of Living the RV Life before we set out of on our own multi-year journeys. Full of inspirational and practical information, this book, written by the savvy Marc and Julie from RV Love, is a must-read for anyone looking to live on the road—be it for a summer or years to come.
For our first two years around the world, we carried a huge PacSafe, a wire net we wrapped around our backpack and locked to a fixed object for safe keeping. It offered excellent peace of mind while we abandoned our bags for a glacier hike in Patagonia or when we stored them at a cafe while we motorbiked Siquijor Island, Philippines, but it was too heavy to schlep everywhere. Adventurous Kate, a friend and blogger who specializes in solo female travel, takes a lot of pride in recommending products to make her readers feel safer on the road. Her pick is the sleek 1.25lb version of our old clunker, and something she says, is her “#1 item that I recommend to travelers.” This steel-wire-lined bag doubles as an in-room or on-the-go safe. Plus it slips into a backpack and provides extra padding for your laptop.
The Keys to Free Lodging
Housesitting is one of the greatest skills we’ve honed to access free lodging and immersive local experiences around the world. More and more people are catching on to this ingenious travel method, making it very competitive to land the “good gigs.” Learn how to crack this nut from the housesitting gurus and our dear friends Nat & Jodie who founded the House Sitting Academy. If you’ve considered becoming location independent or just want to find a way to spend three weeks at a chateau in the south of France for $0, then this is the time to dive in. A lifetime membership gives you weekly live masterminds, a private referral network for secret sits, training, and support for every step of your international housesitting journey. And if you snag it before Monday night (11/26), they’ll throw in the following for free: Roaming Income Membership, Affiliate Marketing Masterclass, and House Sitting Summit videos with wisdom from 60+ international housesitters (ourselves included).
Get a Bird’s Eye View
Having a drone has elevated not just our coverage of a region but our understanding of it. If we’re debating a hike or a kayak in a remote area, we’ll send the drone up to scout it out. When 1,000 beluga whales are swimming up the Cunningham River, we’re gonna need some aerial footage. That said, it’s a pricey item that needs some practice to make it worth your while. If you’re looking to dabble in drone photography, grab yourself the highly portable and totally capable DJI Spark for $434. If you want a big upgrade in footage and features without the Mavic Pro price tag, our friends Heather & John at Roaming Around the World suggest you step up to the Mavic Air ($655 this week). If you are going to use the footage on your blog or are a discerning photographer, spend the extra grand and get the brand-new Mavic 2 Pro. With a Hasselblad camera mounted on the front, the images and videos are heads are straight incredible. Just pull the trigger, watch the amazing footage roll in or send it straight to Facebook Live or Instagram TV. That’s a wrap!
Shoes to Walk the World
The crew over at Conquest Maps knows a thing or two about geography-inspired design, and while you should definitely check out their pin boards, framed art, and decals, we love their gift-guide pick from Bucketfeet. A Brooklyn-based watercolorist designed these cool slip-on shoes with continents spread across the tops. Being predominantly white and splashed with a rainbow of colors, they’ll go with any travel outfit and be comfy enough for global adventures.
Road Trip Sidekick
Whether in our camper or a rental car in a foreign county, we always bring 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 adjustable plastic thing to fumble with, and you can release your phone with one hand. Hop in a rental car and instantly set up your GPS, music, and hands-free phone.
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 is sending you a check for $300) or when your bags get lost en route to Aspen and you recieve $2,000 to replace your stuff. We’ve had the AllTrips Annual Premier Plan since 2015 so whenever we travel, we are automatically covered for emergency medical care, trip delays, cancellations, lost luggage, trip interruption, rental car damage, and lots more. If you take more than two flights per year, it’s time to stop rolling the dice and get some year-round insurance.
Double Duty Travel Adapter
An plug adapter is essential for anyone traveling abroad, but we always felt it should be charging more than one device at a time. While we pair ours with a Belkin power strip, Kristin and Tom of Travel Past 50 say this adaptor with USB and Type-C ports is “our new fave item in the electronics bag!” Juice up your computer, Go Pro, tablet…and your friend’s phone too!
City & Summit Trekking Pants
Most bloggers go on treks, but Dan and Audrey of Uncornered Market have hiked the Balkan peaks (125 miles), Camino de Santiago (600 miles), and many more outdoor adventures in these very pants! “And, they still are in good shape even after five years of use,” says Audrey. “We really like all the pockets and zippers that keep our valuables (e.g. smartphone, wallet, passport, keys) safe and secure whether we’re on a mountain trail or a city street.” Plus, Clothing Arts’ Pick-Pocket Proof travel pants have stretch fabric, UPF 50+, and are actually attractive enough to wear in public (unlike those “I’m a tourist” zip-off pants)
The Best Point-n-Shoot Money Can Buy
Whenever we need camera advice, we go to our friends Dave and Deb of The Planet D. They are award-winning photographers but they’re also adventurers who know a camera needs to be practical on the go. “We love this Sony. It’s small, lightweight, and easy to use,” says Deb. “We often leave the bulky DSLRs behind for the day and use this as our camera to capture amazing travel photos.” It’s got a Carl Zeiss lens and 20.1 mega pixels so images look pro without the heft.
You can picture the scene, you’re waiting to get to your seat on the plane and there are 100 eager beavers behind you. You’ve got 30 seconds to situate before that huge guy comes barreling past. But you’re not stressed, you’ve already pre-organized your flight essentials with this great recommendation from family travel blogger, Eric Stoen of Travel Babbo. “The cover slips over your airplane tray and gives you pockets for all of your things – iPad, Kindle, headphones, pencils/crayons, magic wands, stuffed animals, etc. Then when you arrive you simply take the entire thing off and slip it into your bag…without the risk of leaving something behind in the plane’s seatback pocket.”
The Ultimate Shelter
Designed by Burning Man veterans who understand what it’s like to camp in the dusty, freezing cold, and blazing hot “Playa,” Christian Weber and the SHIFTPOD team came up with the ultimate shelter. Made of a high-tech seven-layer fabric that insulates from heat/cold/wind/dust/rain/sun, this spacious pole-free tent is super easy to set up (like in under 30 seconds), plus, it’s portable and stylish enough for even the most discerning camper.
A Portable Party
“I love this thing,” says Matt from Expert Vagabond. After trying a slew of portable speakers over his eight years on the road, he can honestly say, “This Sony simply has the best sound quality for its size, and the battery lasts 12 hours! It’s easy to watch movies with other people on your laptop, throw an impromptu hostel party, or play your favorite songs on the beach.” It packs 10 watts of amplification into a super portable 3.4″ x 4.3″ cube.
An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders
Travel with Love
Of course, we think you’ll love our couples travel book, with our best tips and 75 favorite destinations, but that might sound better coming from someone other than the authors…like, the AP who put it in their top 10 “Travel Books to Inspire Trips or Give as Gifts” or Forbes.com who said, “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.” We’re also quite proud it recently cracked the top five Amazon Bestsellers in all of “Travel Writing,” next to our author heroes, Bill Bryson, Johh Krakauer, and John Steinbeck! So we have a good feeling that you’ll like it too. Pick up a copy on Amazon or we’d love to sign you a book through the HoneyTrek shop.
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