InThe Small Things

Unique Travel Gift Ideas to Buy (and keep!): 2016 Edition

In past years, I’ve put together a clever last-minute shopper’s guide to great travel gifts. Not because I think that last-minute shopping is the way to go (actually, quite the opposite when it comes to the holidays), but because I simply always put off making the list until the last minute. And so to make it seem like it was alllllllll on purpose that I’m publishing a gift guide on the 23rd of December, I thought to coin it as a last-minute shopper’s guide for travel lovers.

Well, not this year. I started shopping for my friends and family at the beginning of October, so it’s only fitting for the Tremendous Times 2016 Holiday Gift Guide to arrive a little earlier (just in time for Cyber Monday, actually!). 

So, what can you expect from this gift guide? Unique, purposeful gifts that will vastly improve travel (and everyday) life of those you love. You won’t find things like packing cubes or a power converter on here because, while quite handy, they’re not particularly interesting gifts and you don’t use them on the reg. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go anywhere without some Mack’s Ear Plugs—they’re a necessity—but it’s somewhat impersonal as a gift under the tree. Also, I’m not going to bombard you with every awesome travel gift idea ever; instead, this is a list of my top 10 for this season.

This list is a little something different with seriously good shit that someone (including you) will want to use, whether it’s while traveling or not.

traveler's journal

1. Travel Journal

You don’t really need a dedicated “travel journal” to write while you travel—you need any plain old notebook you can find, really. But I hate always packing different notebook on my trips, and once I think I’ve found something I like, it’s impossible to find it again in stores. The Miscellaneous Store Traveler’s Notebook is a dream, with refillable notebooks and a sturdy cover (and stickers and extra stuff, if you’re feeling fancy).

matt and nat backpack

2. Trendy day pack

For the urban explorer, check out Matt + Nat—their products are a combination of beautiful fashion and practical function. During my month-long trip to Europe, I used my backpack as my day pack as well as a purse when I went out in the evenings. For a little more ruggedness, opt for an anti-theft backpack from PacSafe that is still good-looking enough to use for everyday or nicer outings.


3. A cool experience

Instead of a physical object, why not give a memorable experience from a site like Groupon, Living Social, or Zozi? You could also enroll them in a workshop where they live or get them a Skillshare membership. Endless possibilities! If you’re stumped, think of things they like to do (art? eat? sports?) and branch out from there.

compass necklace

4. Compass Necklace

Although not many of us actually use compasses when we travel anymore, they still conjure up a lot of fuzzy warm feelings. It can be a reminder of wanderlust, a particular trip, or even an emotional journey. This one is silver- or gold-filled and lovely, yet subtle enough for everyday.

s'well bottle

5. S’well Bottle

Water bottles are water bottles, right? So, so wrong. S’well bottles are insulated and keep beverages piping hot or super cold for 24 hours—really. The first time I used mine I was totally surprised that my drink, which had been in the car for hours, was still icy cold. It’s a total treat  and can keep coffee and tea drinkable for hours, plus you won’t have any condensation for your iced drinks.


6. ~Alcohol~

Not everyone drinks, but for those who do this is actually a really cool way to gift a piece of the world. Check your local liquor store or an online supplier like BevMo to find a beer or wine from a certain location or liquor that is native to a certain place (like cachaça in Brazil or brennivin in Iceland, for example). This is a wonderful way to help someone relive a trip or give them a (literal) taste of a place they’re dying to visit.

audible membership

7. Audible Membership

Travelers love them some Kindles, but as someone who suffers from mild motion sickness, this won’t fly. Enter the world of audiobooks (cue magical harp music). For people who also suffer from motion sickness, have long commutes, or already like podcasts, it’s a wonderful gift. Some of my personal favorites have been Yes Please by Amy Poehler and You’ll Grow Out Of It by Jessi Klein (I’m clearly a memoir fan).

Speakeasy Travel Scarf

8. Speakeasy Travel Scarf

I Love my Speakeasy scarf with a capital L. It provides me the perfect place for my passport/ID and boarding pass, and when I’m not traveling it’s the way I can go out without needing a purse. Scarves are pretty much a necessity when you’re on the road no matter what, but being able to stash important stuff out of sight is so incredibly handy.

Fatboy Lamzac

9. Fatboy Lamzac

Whether it’s camping in the middle of nowhere or a picnic in a local park, these puppies are too cool. They pack up small but with a little bit of swinging them around they fill up with air and create amazing, comfy portable sofas. Basically, you can make any place you’d like your own personal chill space.


10. Travel

Okay, so maybe buying a plane ticket or booking a stay at a 5-star hotel isn’t in your budget. You can, however, get an AirBnB or Southwest gift card in whatever amount works for you. You know any travel lover will enjoy getting this since it will make planning their next trip more affordable!

What item would you most want to put on your wishlist?

Note that some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning I get a small commission when you purchase through that URL. It does not affect your price at all, and I only ever recommend products that I love 110%. 🙂

unique travel gift ideas

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