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Published Nov 21, 2022 5:15 PM
You don’t have to be a frequent flier to come up with the best travel gifts. The first rule is to choose useful gear that will enhance wanderlust rather than hinder it. A few questions to ask: What will make them feel more at home when they’re far from home? They can buy their own souvenirs, so they’ll appreciate something that will remind them of what they’re leaving that will be useful where they’re going. Next, think portable, packable. The best gifts for travelers are ones that travel easily and can fit into their luggage without taking up a lot of space. Lightweight is key, especially when you’re looking for gifts for someone who often travels by air. You don’t want to weigh them down with travel gifts that will cause them to have to pay extra for excess baggage. Picking out the best gifts for travelers can be pretty easy once you’ve narrowed things down, and our list of the best travel gifts is here to save some time and trouble.
Best noise-cancelling headphones: Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2
Whether for keeping your sanity or keeping in touch, a good pair of noise-cancelling headphones is essential for travelers who want to drown out the sounds of babies crying, engines whirring, or chatty passengers exchanging life stories. Bowers & Wilkins’ Px7 S2 Bluetooth headphones are those headphones. The Px7 S2s sound phenomenal, offering a surprising amount of sonic depth whether you’re listening to the latest singles, throwback jams, or spoken word content like audiobooks or podcasts. Similarly, their active noise cancellation performance is excellent, blocking out unwanted sound without impacting your audio quality very much. And, with their integrated microphones and sleek profile, you can join in a video conference with friends, family, or coworkers from anywhere, and look and sound great doing so. The Bowers & Wilkins Px7 S2 headphones sound so good you’ll wonder how you ever traveled without them. And, if you want to go all-in on luxe listening, the B&W Px8 flagship ANC wireless headphones extract that extra ounce of sonic extension and engagement, while also doubling down on style and comfort.
Best noise-cancelling earbuds: Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II
Not everybody likes over-ear headphones, so if you’re shopping for a traveler who loves earbuds, you’re in luck. Bose’s newly released QuietComfort Earbuds II have noise-cancelling performance that’s similar (or in some ways superior) to an over-ear pair. Bose’s tuning blocks out so much noise that you may not need to listen to audio at all if you’re trying to block out a consistent sound, like an airplane engine. They may not be able to match the audio quality of Bowers & Wilkins’ headphones, but they sound excellent for a pair of earbuds and should please even a traveling audiophile temporarily away from their home system.
Best gift for frequent travelers: MLVOC 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow
Sleeping in coach can be super uncomfortable, and those tiny pillows most airlines provide don’t help. A frequent traveler can always use a pillow to rest on, particularly when stuck waiting forever at the departure gate. If they don’t want to lug one of the memory-foam headrests on their bed at home through airports, a neck pillow will serve as a good substitute in a pinch. This travel pillow is curved to fit your neck and stop your head from falling forward while you’re drifting off into dreamland. It comes with a sleep mask and earbuds to ensure a comfortable slumber.
Best gift for world travelers: Safest Travel Adapter Kit
There are few inconveniences of international travel more frustrating than arriving in a new country and not being able to use your electronics in your hotel or Airbnb because the plugs won’t fit into the wall outlets. This travel adaptor kit has six different adaptors that cover pretty much the entire globe, as well as a main unit that can accommodate two USB and two plug items so you can use one kit to power four different devices. The adapters fit into an opening in the main unit. Surge protection and a voltage indicator protect your electronics from unexpected acts of electricity, and it’s usable with most kinds of electronics, as long as the devices are dual voltage. A travel pouch keeps everything in one place, and the set is lightweight, so it won’t add much bulk to carry-on luggage.
Best gift for business travelers: Wooden Pens Set with Pen Gift Case
Even those who are not letter-writing types and aren’t inclined to buy postcards, much less write messages on them and mail them, will find themselves in situations where they need a pen. They especially come in handy when it’s time to fill out the landing card upon arrival in a new country. This three-piece set includes a ballpoint, gel, and fountain pen, as well as refills. They all come in a stylish wooden box designed to make business travelers look extra classy and professional.
Best gift for tired travelers: Loftie Sleep Mask
If you can only sleep with ambient noise in the background, you most likely love taking a quick snooze on the plane. And, it’s hard not to when you have that gentle whirring happening for six hours total. An eyemask is great for daytime flights or at night when someone has their reading light on. This one from Loftie—the same company behind our favorite sunrise alarm clock that doubles as a lamp—is made out of orange silk and includes interior eye pockets to relieve eye pressure and protect eyelashes. The head strap is comfortable, very stretchy, and won’t fall off while you’re sleeping. Getting some shut-eye on your red eye never looked so good.
Best hardside luggage for travelers: Samsonite Omni PC Hardside Expandable Luggage with Spinner Wheels
Hardside luggage may add more weight to check-in allowances than a fabric suitcase (6.8 pounds in the case of this suitcase), but it’s more durable and less likely to be ruined by airport personnel who load and unload luggage. In addition to the durability benefit, this Samsonite suitcase, which comes in multiple hues to suit different tastes, also looks incredible. It features 360-degree spinner wheels to ensure easy mobility, a push-button handle, and a TSA-compatible lock.
Best carry-on luggage for travelers: Monos Hybrid Carry-On Traveler
If all goes well, a carry-on bag will be with you from the moment you depart to the moment you arrive, which is why it’s critical to use the right one. Monos’ Hybrid Carry-On Traveler can spin in 360-degrees, and we’ve had no problem zigging and zagging around while testing it out. The bag’s reinforced corners will come in handy if you’re carrying something fragile and need to gate-check your bag. Even little details, like how easy it is to extend and collapse the bag’s handle, feel great. We’re also pleased with the Hybrid Carry-On’s locking mechanism, which is easy to open when you have the code and secure if you don’t. Simply put, Monos’ Hybrid Carry-On Plus offers the perfect balance of elegance and engineering, which makes it a fantastic gift.
Best luggage tracker: Apple AirTag
Apple developed AirTags to help you track down lost items, and this is particularly handy for travelers whose luggage has gone missing. The small tracker can fit into any small pocket and will allow you to track your luggage as it moves from one place to another (or doesn’t). Apple hardware is often locked down to their platform but not in this case: The AirTag can be set up and managed with Apple or Android devices.
Best luggage strap: Cincha Personalized Luggage Strap
Cincha’s Personalized Luggage Strap is a simple-but-necessary travel accessory that makes going through airports, train stations, or bus terminals a lot more comfortable. The seatbelt-like strap allows you to attach your backpack or shoulder bag to the handle of your luggage, so it stays put while you move around. Moving weight from your body to your bag can be very helpful, especially if you’re coming off a multi-hour plane or train ride. Cincha lets you personalize its straps with a couple of initials, which is a nice touch for gifting.
Best weekender bag: Plambag Canvas Duffle Bag
The perfect bag for short-term trips can be an elusive find indeed. How large is too large and how small is too small? Only the travel gods know for sure, but this expandable weekender bag can accommodate short and longer-ish journeys and is able to extend from 20.8 inches to 24.4 inches in length. It comes with four different side compartments to fit smaller essentials as well as the main area for clothing, shoes, a laptop, and other larger items. The body is made mostly of high-density cotton canvas that’s sturdy enough for camping and hiking adventures. For weekends not spent in transit, it can be used for trips to the gym.
Best backpack: TIMBUK2 Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe
Every traveler needs a good backpack regardless of whether they’re adventuring through land, air, or sea, and we highly recommend the Authority Laptop Backpack Deluxe from Timbuk2. Its shoulder straps are well padded, which makes it easy to carry for extended periods of time, and there are plenty of pockets for a laptop, tablet, chargers, accessories, snacks, and anything else you might need to bring with you. We’re also pleased that backpack is largely made from recycled materials without sacrificing durability.
Best travel toiletry kit: Convenience Kits International Assembled Necessities Travel Kit
Packing can be a drag, especially when you have to shove oversized toiletries into a miniature bag. A 21-item kit that comes with a selection of sampler-size toiletries packed and ready to go can take that particularly annoying ritual out of the travel prep process. This fabulously unisex, toiletry travel kit, which makes an excellent travel gift for men as well as women, includes everything a person might need to remain well-groomed while away for a few days. It’s all TSA-compliant, too, so if they stuff this into their overhead luggage, they won’t have to worry about size restrictions. Of course, they’ll have to replace the items when they run out, but this kit, which comes with a stylish travel bag, will give frequent jet setters a good start.
Best “travel alarm clock”: Echo Dot w/ Clock (5th Gen)
High-impact sound can be hard to come by on the road, and the Echo Dot can give music lovers great tunes and excellent audio with just a simple “Hey, Alexa” command. As an added bonus, it includes an alarm clock so travelers with early departure times won’t have to depend on wake-up calls or the natural body clock. It’s way better than your tinny phone alarm(s). And, back home, this device also can be used to control compatible smart devices. While rocking out to a favorite playlist and getting dressed for dinner, just issue a command to Alexa to turn on a light so your house doesn’t appear to be vacant all night.
Best battery pack: Anker 733 Power Bank
Nobody wants to realize their phone, tablet, or game console is about to run out of juice in the middle of a trip, which is why the traveler in your life needs Anker’s 773 Power Bank. The 10,000mAh battery pack can fully recharge a smartphone once, and extend the life of a tablet or computer for a couple of hours. Power banks are ubiquitous at this point, but the 733 stands out because it’s also a multi-port charger that can be used to top up to three devices when it’s plugged into an outlet. These two functions are what make Anker’s 733 a great gift for travelers when they’re at home and on the go.
Best travel gift for movie lovers: This Was Hollywood: Forgotten Stars and Stories (Turner Classic Movies)
Movie history buffs, rejoice. If they’d rather read than kill several hours with the in-flight entertainment section, here’s a book that won’t take up any space in their carry-on. This well-reviewed trek through Hollywood history features vintage stars that time forgot and prominent performers of yesteryear that even the most ardent movie buffs might have never heard of. The digital version can be downloaded on any device, and if you really want to splurge on your traveling movie buff, throw in a Kindle reader to make bingeing it even easier.
Final words on shopping for the best gifts for travelers
Shopping for the best gifts for travelers doesn’t have to be daunting if you know what to look for. Even if you can’t think of the most unique travel gift, there are so many options to make logging countless frequent flier miles more comfortable. Think small-ish and portable, lightweight and useful. It will also be a reminder of you that your favorite frequent traveler can carry with them, so even when you’re out of sight, you won’t be out of mind.
PopSci is here to help you find the most useful and expert shopping recommendations for the best gift ideas. Searching for more unique gifts? Check out more of our guides to the best practical gifts, best tech gifts for fitness junkies, and best eco-friendly gifts, among others.