Thrifty Traveler’s Holiday Gift Guide: The Best Gifts for Travelers in Your Life
Stressing over what to buy your jet-setting friends or globetrotting family members this holiday season? Don’t worry, we got you.
Behold, our annual Holiday Gift guide. We’ve rounded up our favorite travel gear, technology, and wanderlust-worthy gifts that will improve anyone’s adventures. Gift the gift of better travel at any price point with these favorites, spanning from under $10 to $350.
We’ve tried almost every single product below – and in most cases, we use them on each trip we take. We’ve divvied up our master shopping list into five categories: Travel; luggage, bags, and gear; electronics and gadgets; accessories; and miscellaneous.
The Gift of More Travel
Thrifty Traveler Premium
We saved the best for first.
What better gift to give someone than a full year of the best flight deals we find? Read up on our Thrifty Traveler Premium service, and you’ll see that it means you get the best international flight deals we find directly to your inbox. We’re biased, but we think there’s no better way to help someone travel for cheap.
You can give someone – including yourself, lucky you! – a year of this service for just $40 (normally $45). The one-year membership will be activated on Jan. 1, 2020. This is not a subscription and will end on Dec. 31, 2020.
Read more and buy it for $40 for your loved one, then print off this image to stuff in their stocking!
Thrifty Traveler University
Know someone that’s spending too much on travel? Have a loved one who wants to learn more about points and miles, but doesn’t know where to start? Have a young traveler or recent retiree in the family that wants to learn how to book cheap flights and save on accommodations?
Give the gift of our best thrifty travel hacks to save hundreds (and even thousands!) on travel. We’ve brought our popular travel hacking course online this year, and now you can gift Thrifty Traveler University!
Give the gift of Thrifty Traveler University for $75 and the recipient will get access to 10-plus hours of lessons. They’ll be a cheap travel guru in no time!
Luggage, Bags, & Packing Essentials
Away Carry-On Luggage
Nearly every member of the Thrifty Traveler team is a proud owner of an Away carry-on bag. Away luggage is sleek, durable and functional. It comes with a built-in battery to keep your phone and other devices charged. These carry-ons have an unbreakable polycarbonate shell, a TSA-approved combination lock, and a hidden laundry bag.
Pick from the Carry-On, the Bigger Carry-On, the Expandable Bigger Carry-On, and more. Select from several classic and sleek limited edition colors. Away allows you to test the piece for up to 100 days with a money-back guarantee. And best of all, the bags have a lifetime warranty. We love these carry-on pieces!
Buy from Away from $225
Away “The Mini”
If your friend or loved one already has their beloved Away luggage, feed their Away fanaticism with “The Mini.” This adorable little guy is made of the same sturdy material as the Away suitcases, but in a much smaller version.
It’s perfect for holding electronics, toiletries, or other travel must-haves. Like its larger brothers and sisters, The Mini comes with a 100-day money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty. The Minis come in the same wide array of colors as the suitcases, so of course, you have to have the matching set!
Buy it from Away for $45
Calpak Ambeur Carry-On Luggage
Calpak may not have the same explosive brand power as Away, but their luggage is just as stylish and sturdy. The internal organizing system is perfect for any trip, the wheels glide like butter, and the four aluminum corners on the suitcase make it look far more pricey than its actual cost. The Ambeur carry-on comes in four colors: Rose Gold, Gold, Silver and White.
Buy it from Calpak for $165
Delsey Aero 25” Expandable Rolling Luggage
We encourage all travelers to fly with just a carry-on bag, but sometimes you just need some checked luggage. The Aero 25” Expandable Roller is made from 100% polycarbonate which makes it lightweight yet durable. Within the suitcase, there are two full packing compartments with a handy divider to avoid your items moving around. There are also tie-down straps and a smaller pocket for safe storage of your accessories.
Buy it on Amazon from $125
eBags Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Backpack
Looking for a backpack that can fit a week’s worth of travel necessities, but doesn’t look it? This backpack can do it all: pack a ton while carrying with ease (and can even sneak through as a personal item!)
TT team member Mikhala swears by this backpack for travel. If you prefer to travel with a backpack and don’t need a three-month backpacking behemoth, this is a perfect fit. For a smaller version, get the Mother Lode Junior.
Buy it on eBags for $79.99. Use Code EXTRA at Checkout.
Read up on how to save big on all your eBags purchases!
eBags Professional Slim Laptop Backpack
This bag is officially Thrifty Traveler approved! Most members of our team use it for work and travel.
It’s got a dedicated sleeve for a laptop, another spot for a tablet, and room for whatever clothes or accessories you need. A zip-up front flap is perfect for your passport, paperwork, pen, and anything you can imagine. We’ve even used it as a weekend bag in a pinch. All this in a compact bag that can fit underneath the plane seat in front of you.
Buy it on eBags for $69.99. Use Code EXTRA at Checkout.
eBags Hyper-Lite Packing Cubes
Once you use packing cubes, you never go back. This set of four packing cubes are the perfect way for travelers to stay organized without adding bulk or weight. eBags does offer slightly cheaper sets of packing cubes, but these ultra-light ones are worth the upgrade. They’re available in different colors, too!
Buy them on eBags from $26.99. Use code EXTRA at Checkout.
4monster Packable Daypack
Sure, you’ve got your luggage and a personal item, but a daypack will come in handy for hiking, day trips, and exploring. This packable bag is perfect to bring the necessities without weighing you down. This 4monster Packable DayPack is made of some magical, stretchy and water-resistant fabric that is up for any job. But the best part is that it folds into itself, stuffing into a tiny, fist-sized pouch. That means you or your favorite traveler can throw it into your luggage and break it out only when you need it. It’s available in two sizes and four colors.
Buy it on Amazon from $11.04
BagSmart Electronics Cable Organizer
Nothing clutters up luggage quite like a tangled mess of cords. This bag is the perfect stocking stuffer and helps travelers keep their electronic chargers and cords organized. It comes in five colors and can hold just about any cord, battery or electronic accessory you can think of.
Buy it on Amazon for $15.29
Pockit Lightweight Stroller
Welcome to the wild world of family travel. What better way to show the new parents in your life that their days of travel don’t need to be over than giving them this ultra-compact stroller?
Thrifty Traveler co-founder and new dad Nick Serati uses this one and swears by it.
Buy it on Amazon for $149.00
J.L. Childress Ultimate Backpack Padded Car Seat Travel Bag
Here’s another favorite for the traveling parents out there. It’s no breeze bringing a car seat with on your travels, but this bag makes it easier. When it comes time to haul the seat around or check it, this bag is a lifesaver.
Buy it on Amazon for $39.95
Electronics and Gadgets
Anker PowerCore Lite High Capacity Portable Charger
Talk to any frequent traveler, and odds are they have an Anker portable charger — or need one. Anker portable chargers are a lifesaver and a mainstay in all of our backpacks. This model will provide more than three full charges for an iPhone 8, or 2 1/2 full Galaxy S8 charges before it needs to be recharged.
Buy it on Amazon for $29.99
Even book lovers have to admit it’s not always practical to schlep around books in your suitcase. The Kindle is the perfect solution. And the Paperwhite is the best, as the adjustable backlight allows you to read in any conditions. This version is waterproof and comes with at least 8GB of storage. It’s a travel must-have for Mrs. TT!
Buy it on Amazon for $84.99
You can never count on having movies to watch on your flight. As more and more airlines are pulling seatback entertainment out of their planes, it pays to bring your own device.
The latest iPads are out for just $249 for a 32GB model. That should be plenty to save a few shows or movies on Netflix to watch during a traveler’s next trip. Traveling with kids? Get them an easy-to-carry case (pictured) and provide hours of entertainment on travel days.
Apple AirPods Pro
AirPods will definitely be one of the big items under the tree this year, and it’s likely the traveler in your life wants some… bad.
The brand new, noise-canceling AirPods Pro make tuning out during travels a breeze. Of course, you can always pick up a pair of regular AirPods for about half the price, but the Pro version has the noise-canceling technology. A few TT team members just got these, and swear by them!
Buy it on Amazon from $234.98
Bose QC35 Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones
There’s simply no better travel accessory than a good pair of noise-canceling headphones. And for over-ear headphones, nobody does it better than Bose. These are perfect to shut out the world – and drown out engine noise – during a long-haul flight. At roughly $350, they’re not cheap. But what a gift this would be for the favorite traveler in your life. Or, opt for the wired version for only $130.
Buy it on Amazon for $349.00
Bluetooth Transmitter for Wireless Headphones
Want to use those new Bluetooth headphones on the plane? Here’s the solution. Twelve South’s AirFly will allow you to connect up to two Bluetooth headphones to the seatback entertainment.
Want a cheaper option that connects to just one set of headphones? Check out the TaoTronics Bluetooth 5.0 Transmitter and Receiver. We’ve used both and they work great for AirPods and other wireless headphones.
Buy it on Amazon for $49.99
Bose Soundlink Micro Bluetooth Speaker
This great little Bluetooth speaker is perfect for travel. It is fully waterproof with a rugged exterior that resists dents, cracks, and scratches. That makes it the perfect speaker to throw in your bag for a day at the beach or at the pool. Oh yeah, and it sounds great, too!
Buy it on Amazon for $99.00
RXSQUL Universal Power Travel Adapter
Long gone are the days when you needed a four-piece system to stay plugged in across the globe. There are plenty of single-unit options that allow you to charge your devices no matter where you rest your head. Our favorite is the RXSQUL Universal Power Travel adapter, a compact cube that offers not just a power port, but four USB ports as well.
Unless if you’re traveling with heavy-duty electronics, this can be the one-and-done solution for staying powered up on international travels.
Buy it on Amazon for $18.99
TRTL Travel Pillow
This goofy travel pillow might look more like a turtleneck or neck brace, but it’s truly a godsend. There’s no better way to help someone survive a long flight in economy than this travel pillow, which the Thrifty Traveler team swears by. In our minds, no other travel pillow comes even close.
Buy it on Amazon for $29.99
Anntrue Collapsible Travel Water Bottle
Just because you can’t get water through airport security doesn’t mean your reusable water bottle should stay at home. This versatile travel water bottle scrunches up into roughly half the size. Help the traveler in your life save on space and stay hydrated without purchasing single-use plastic bottles. This one is 18 oz and comes in six different colors.
Buy it on Amazon for $16.99
HumanGear GoToob 3 oz Travel Bottles
Never have a bottle of shampoo or body wash leak in a bag again. Thrifty Traveler Editor Kyle has these and will never go back to those cheap 99-cent ones. Rather than hard plastic that cracks, these rubbery bottles will withstand whatever you throw at them. Plus, these 3oz bottles are well under the TSA carry-on requirements, so you’ll be set.
Buy a set on Amazon for $18.89
Bidear Travel Pill Case
Whether you’ve got prescriptions to bring on the road or just want to be prepared with a mini-emergency kit of painkillers and antacid, you shouldn’t be bringing full medicine bottles on your trip. This travel case is perfect because it’s compact yet has 10 separate compartments to store your pills.
Buy it on Amazon for $7.12
WiseOwl Travel Towel
Packing a full-size towel is a traveling sin. Your favorite traveler needs a compact microfiber towel instead.
The WiseOwl Travel towel folds up into a hand-size pouch but will dry you off like the plushest hotel towel you’ve ever used. Plus, these travel towels dry fast, too. It’s the perfect solution for travel when you can’t count on having a towel readily available, like camping and impromptu trips to the beach. The WiseOwl Travel towels come in two sizes: Large (think bath towel size) and Extra Large (beach towel size).
Buy it on Amazon starting at $13.99
Burt’s Bees Face Wipes
Staying fresh on a 12-plus hour flight is a challenge to stay the least. However, face wipes like these from Burt’s Bees allow you to easily and quickly clean up throughout a long-haul journey.
They come in a handful of different varieties, from Cucumber Sage to a sensitive skin formulation. These wipes also work great for cleaning up spills or cleaning airplane tray tables.
Buy them on Amazon for $8.97
Mack’s Ultra Soft Earplugs
A good pair of earplugs is a must for any long-haul flight. Planes are loud, neighbors can be louder. We’ve found none better than the Mack’s Ultra Soft Foam Earplugs, which are insanely comfortable while remaining effective at cutting out excess noise. A container of 50 will last any traveler a while. I always bring a few pairs for my hostel stay, train or bus ride, or apartment Airbnb: you never know when you’ll need them!
Buy them on Amazon for $8.99
JOTO Waterproof Underwater Phone Case
Your travel buddy will thank you for saving him or her from having to buy a new cell phone. This pouch from JOTO comes in several colors and seals watertight. You can even take underwater photos and videos with this case: it’s that good. Perfect for the clumsy friend in your life with some wanderlust and a beach, pool, or boat in their future.
Buy it on Amazon starting at $8.99
Miscellaneous Wanderlust Gifts
Scratch the World Travel Map
We love this gift because it’s interactive. Scratch off each country (and its flag) after a visit and travelers can log their progress as they see more and more of the world. This map makes for something stunning to frame and remember trips past. Want a cork and pin version? We love this one!
Buy it on Amazon from $14.97
Travel Listography Diary
Have a friend or family member that’s always got the travel bug? Give them the gift of remembering travels past and dreaming of trips in the future. With over 70 travel topics and prompts, their travel lists will go on and on (literally!)
Buy it on Amazon for $12.99
Carry-On Cocktail Kits
Some people just need a stiff drink at 35,000 feet. These cocktail kits help travelers make it a good one. From a simple Gin and Tonic to an Old Fashioned and even a Bloody Mary, these little kits make the perfect stocking stuffer.
Buy them on Amazon starting at $15.00
Anywhere Travel Guide Cards
These travel cards are the cutest way to enhance a fellow traveler’s next trip! Pull out a card during your travels and do or ponder what the prompt suggests. Step outside your typical travel ways and make lasting memories with these fun and thought-provoking suggestions.
Buy it on Amazon for $10.67
Wooden Neighborhood Map Coasters
Celebrate your favorite city with these impeccably designed coasters. Each set of four coasters is made of cedar and showcases some of the neighborhoods in 15 American cities. From Minneapolis to Phoenix and Manhattan, there are plenty of cities to choose from.
Buy them on Uncommon Goods for $36
Looptworks Airline Upcycle Projects
This could be the best, personal gift for the diehard traveler or avgeek in your life! Looptworks has worked with Southwest, Alaska, and now Delta to upcycle their retired uniforms and retired leather seats to create gorgeous bags and travel accessories.
That toiletry bag below? It’s made from retired Southwest leather seat covers, and conserves roughly 1760 gallons of water and reduces carbon emissions impact by 82%. These unique gifts both reduce waste and gives you a great story to tell about your leather duffel or passport holder.
Buy on Looptworks (pricing varies by item)
Airport Map Wall Art
There are plenty of airport map manufacturers out there, but these from Etsy are our favorite. Whether it’s a home base or a favorite destination, help the traveler in your life commemorate their favorite airport. There are multiple sizes and several dozen airports in the U.S. and abroad to choose from.
Buy them on Etsy starting at $15
National Park Candles Set of 3
Is the nature-lover in your life missing the great outdoors? Give them the next best thing to a trip itself: the smell of these national park favorites. Fill the home with the sweet scent of adventure.
Buy it on Uncommon Goods for $38
Get the traveler in your life these fun travel essentials for the holidays. What travel gifts are at the top of your wish list this year? We want to know!
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.