It's that time of year again — the time of year when you scratch your head, scrunch up your nose, and think futilely about what to buy the travel addict in your life who either a.) doesn't want anything because of his/her minimalist lifestyle, or b.) already seems to have everything a travel lover could possibly need or want.
I know it's tough. Each year it gets tougher for ME as a traveler to give my family suggestions on what to buy for me; usually I resort to asking for money, or for things I really don't need.
To help you out, this year I've come up with a list of a few things that I think any traveler would love to find under the Christmas tree.
1. Pacsafe Slingsafe 300 GII Anti-Theft Backpack
I've never been a huge fan of backpacks — be they backpacking backpacks, hiking backpacks, school backpacks, or otherwise. There's something so bulky and annoying about them. But I have to take all that back now, because I've finally found my ideal travel backpack. This little day pack isn't very big, but boy does it pack a punch. Not only is the Pacsafe Slingsafe 300 adorable (and available in multiple colors), but it will also help keep your things safe. This water-repellant little backpack is also slashproof, and would be fairly difficult for a pickpocket to get into with its secure zippers and RFID-blocking capabilities.
It's not big enough to hold a full-sized laptop, but I've packed my 11-inch Macbook Air, my iPad, and my Kindle into its tech pocket all at once before. It's bigger than you think!
2. Eagle Creek packing cubes
Whenever anybody asks me for packing tips, I only ever answer with two words: packing cubes! These meshy zippered compartments are the secret to my packing prowess. They allow you to organize your things inside a backpack or suitcase without taking up any extra space!
I travel with up to 5 of these babies — 2 larges ones (1 for tops, 1 for bottoms), 2 medium ones (1 for underwear, 1 for pajamas/miscellaneous other things), and sometimes 1 long skinny one that I use for socks. It makes it so easy to organize everything, and it saves me from digging through my entire backpack/suitcase for a specific t-shirt or bra.
Price: $10-$20 each, depending on size
3. Kindle Keyboard 3G
I used to be vehemently against e-readers of any sort. (I like REAL books, damnit; I like to feel the pages and smell the words!) But then I got a Kindle about a year ago, and I became an immediate convert. This little bit of technology weighs next to nothing, takes up hardly any space, and yet can hold thousands of books. These books can often be purchased in electronic format for cheaper than what you'd pay for a paperback, and you can buy them while laying in bed. BONUS.
The particular model that I have (the Kindle Keyboard 3G) comes complete with free 3G and wi-fi wherever Amazon's satellites roam (read: just about everywhere), meaning I could *technically* do everything from purchase books to check my e-mail from anywhere in the world — perfect for a traveler! (Though I will note that the browser is incredibly slow and clunky; however, it DOES work!)
4. Olympus Pen E-PM1 camera
At least once a week, I get a question from a reader about what kind of camera I'm using. The answer? I'm using an amazing little micro 4/3 camera by Olympus — the E-PM1. The smallest (and cheapest) in Olympus' micro 4/3 line, the E-PM1 (AKA the “Pen Mini”) is a big step up from a point-and-shoot camera, and only a little step down from a more professional DSLR.
It is small enough to still fit easily into my everyday purse, yet I can swap out lenses like you would on a bigger, bulkier camera. And the best part? It takes fantastic photos for a camera of its size.
- 12.3 megapixels
- Full 1080 HD video
- 3-inch LCD screen
- Image stabilization (in the body)
- Face detection
- Detachable flash
- In-camera art filters
- 5fps Sequential shooting
If your giftee would like to upgrade their camera, this is an option worth considering.
Price: $400 (includes camera body and 14-42mm lens)
5. Map-related fun
Looking for a slightly cheaper gift option? Well, every traveler loves maps! Here are a few map-related items guaranteed to please anyone with a case of wanderlust.
Wall maps and push-pins
A big wall map is such a simple gift — and yet, coupled with some colorful push-pins or gold star stickers, can turn into one of the best gifts you will ever give. I have 2 giant maps at home — 1 of the world, and 1 of the United States.
Price: $5-$20 (I bought my set at Wal-Mart for about $8)
Scratch-off world map
I don't actually own one of these myself since I have those above-mentioned maps. But I LOVE the idea of a scratch-off map to show off where you've been in the world!
World map shower curtain
Who wouldn't want to dream of travel while in the shower or on the toilet?! I bought one of these about 3 years ago, and will never go back to a conventional shower curtain.
NatGeo iPhone skin
I got this skin for my iPhone 4 about a year ago, and have not removed it since. Essentially, it comprises of 3 stickers that you put on your phone (1 on the back, 2 on the front). You also get e-mailed the image you can use for your background. (I then also purchased a clear-backed protective case to use over top of the skin.) I can't tell you how many compliments I get on this!
6. Digital guidebooks
Most travelers, at some point in their globe-trotting careers, have used a guidebook. They can actually be useful (I use them myself), but they can also be bulky and impractical to carry along on the road. Thank goodness for the digital age! These days, you can purchase guidebooks in PDF format (usually cheaper than a physical copy) and download them right onto your computer. If you have a travel-lover to buy for, why not purchase a few PDF guides, download them onto a USB drive, and slip the drive into your recipient's stocking? Perfect for later uploading to a computer, netbook, or iPad!
Some guides I would recommend are the PDF ones sells, and the FREE digital city guides by , which cover many European destinations. (The In Your Pocket guides can even be downloaded straight from the Apple App Store!)
I could have added loads of other things to this list — things like noise-canceling headphones for those long-haul flights, or a Go Pro camera to capture all those adventurous endeavors. But I didn't because I don't use them myself. Everything on the above list is a personal recommendation from yours truly!
(But yes, there are Amazon affiliate links also included… you can't blame a blogger for trying to make a few dollars around the holidays!)
Will you be adding any of these items to YOUR travel wish list?