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Christmas presents for travellers

The holiday season is nearing; you’d have to live under a rock not to be aware of the traditional shopping frenzy that takes place every year at this time.

It’s often hard, though, to find the right gifts for all the people on your list. If you’re looking for Christmas presents for travellers, though, it gets even harder: travellers don’t usually want a lot of “stuff.” We definitely don’t want something that will just sit on a shelf or hang on a wall. A book is nice, but heavy to carry along.

What we want is useful things that will help with what we enjoy most: travel.

If you’re choosing gifts for frequent travellers, you’ve come to the right place. Below is a list of things that I have used (and a few that I’d like!) and that would be good Christmas presents for travellers in every price range. (Or birthday presents or just-because-I-love-you presents or whatever!)

(Disclosure: this article contains affiliate links. If you order through any of these links, I’ll get a small commission, but your costs will not increase.)

A tracker of luggage

(Another disclosure: I was given this product to try out, but all opinions are my own). The Trackimo GPS Travel Tracker Slim 3G, at about the size of a thick credit card, is a clever tool for keeping track of your luggage. You just charge it up, turn it on, pack it in your luggage, and you can track it on the internet.

My Trackimo, safely returned from our trip to Scotland. Christmas presents for travellers.

My Trackimo, safely returned from our trip to Scotland.

I tried it out on my recent trip to Scotland and, sure enough, it knew where my luggage was. The accuracy isn’t perfect if the luggage isn’t outside; if it can’t connect with GPS, it uses other means, like GSM masts and WiFi. Nevertheless, it’s pretty accurate, and it seems to me that it would be more than enough if your luggage doesn’t show up in baggage claim at the airport: just check Trackimo’s website or their app and you’ll know if they’ve delivered it to Beirut rather than Berlin!

It also struck me that this could be quite useful in other ways: hanging from your dog’s collar, for example.  If your dog got loose outside, you would get accurate GPS tracking and be able to find it easily. Just make sure to charge the Trackimo’s battery occasionally. Another use for the Trackimo would be to attach it to your drone so you could locate it if it failed. Hidden under a bicycle seat or in a car, it would help you track them down as well.

You can set the Trackimo so that it will send you a text when it exceeds a certain speed or goes outside whatever “fence” you’ve defined. You can even set it to alert you if it senses sudden light, as when your bag is opened. It comes with 12 months of coverage, and after that it costs $5 per month, which includes 10 text messages per month. 

Luggage for travellers

Speaking of luggage, obviously every traveller needs it, and solo travellers need to pack light. I travel with a carry-on size Eagle Creek convertible bag (Here’s the review I wrote a few years ago.). That means it’ll convert into a backpack, but I almost always use it in wheeled mode. I’ve used it for years and it’s held up beautifully. The exact model I have isn’t available anymore, but here are two similar ones:

This Eagle Creek bag, at 78 liters capacity, is bigger than the one I have, but, like mine, it has both shoulder straps and a hip strap, which makes it comfortable for use as a backpack.

This one, also from Eagle Creekis closer in size to mine, but it’s a combination of a rolled bag with a day backpack, which means giving up some space inside:

Packing cubes

Eagle Creek also sells packing cubes, which are very useful. I’ve been using another brand’s version, Vasco compression packing cubes. What I like about these is that they’re not just good for keeping organized, like any packing cubes, but they also let you compress their contents. You pack the cube and zip it closed. Then, using another zipper that goes all the way around the edge, you press it even smaller.

A holiday gift for travellers who like to read

If your frequent traveller likes to read, don’t buy him or her a book, buy an e-reader. I use a Kindle, and I’m very happy with it, but to be honest I’m not sure which model it is. Never mind, there is a whole range of Kindles available with a variety of capabilities and prices.

If he or she already has a Kindle, then the choice is easy: buy a gift card from Amazon. You could personalize it by writing up a list of books you’d recommend for reading while travelling. Or if you have a particular book in mind for them (a travel guidebook, for example), just look it up on Amazon and click on “Give as a gift.” The recipient will get an email with instructions.

Electronics for travellers

I use a multi-USB plug both at home and when travelling because I have a number of things to charge: my phone, my smartwatch, and, occasionally, my Kindle and my Trackimo. Keep in mind, if you’re from the US and traveling overseas, you’ll likely also need an adapter because the pins have a different shape. That means that the plug will stick out from the wall quite a bit, which can be a problem if the outlets are hidden behind tables or beds. Take my word for it, I’ve spent far too much time crawling around peering behind furniture to find outlets, then moving the furniture to accommodate a fat multi-USB plug plus its adapter. On the left below is a flat dual plug, which allows you to charge two USB devices at once, and it’s likely to stay in place if you have to use an adapter with it.

Which leads to the next point. If you want to charge your USB devices and also your laptop, you’ll need two adapters, two wall outlets, and however many USB ports. That is, unless you bring along an extension cord with several plugs. The portable power strip on the right above can charge up to 4 USB devices and accommodates two regular plugs at the same time. It also comes with a universal adapter.

This extension cord would work for US residents travelling overseas; I tried to order it but it wasn’t available to us Europeans, unfortunately. A warning, though, to pass on to any US resident you buy this for: only use it for electronics! You can’t, for example, use an American hairdryer in this plug; for that you’d also need a power converter.


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And speaking of adapters, most of them are pretty chunky. I have an earlier version of the one on the left below. It’s improved in that, unlike mine, it has two USB charging slots. What I like about this design is that the pieces pack up very small in their case. I also can just choose to take the piece I’ll need. On my recent trip to Scotland, I only took one little adapter, saving a bit of luggage space.

I can’t vouch for the adapter kit on the right, but it looks like it fits together into a small tidy package. It’s also one that allows you to take only the part you need on your travels.

If the traveller you are shopping for is planning a road trip, chargers for in the car come in handy. The charger on the left fits into the cigarette lighter and charges two USB devices. I haven’t tried the one on the right, but a friend tells me it’s very useful to be able to charge a laptop in the car.

Security for frequent travellers

Many suitcases have built-in locks, but many don’t. Especially in transit, it’s smart to lock your bags. There have even been incidents with carry-on bags in overhead compartments: people stealing from them while passengers are asleep. While any lock can be broken, even a small lock will slow people down. I use the combination locks below on the left, and the ones on the right are a variation on those; I have trouble sometimes with seeing the numbers to open the lock.

Another issue with security comes up if your travelling loved one is a budget traveller. In that case, he or she might stay in shared accommodations: Airbnb, couch-surfing or hostels. In these situations, a lock isn’t enough, since a person could simply steal the whole locked bag. I carry a stainless steel cable along. When I’m concerned about theft, I can lock my bag closed at the same time as locking it to something: a bedframe, for example, or a desk. Again, any cable can be cut, but the more difficult it is, the more likely the thief will try elsewhere.

Christmas presents for travellers so you can stay in touch

A real splurge, but one of the best presents for frequent travelers, is a dual-SIM phone. With a dual SIM, they’re always reachable on their regular number, but they can also pick up a local SIM on arrival in each new country: generally a cheaper option than roaming. You could also help by getting them an international SIM card.

Cosmetics

I don’t use many cosmetics: just soap, shampoo and conditioner. Most hotels, even the cheaper ones, will usually provide soap or shower gel. Many, though, don’t provide shampoo, and only the high-end ones provide conditioner. And I absolutely hate those all-in-one concoctions: shampoo and shower gel in one.

At the same time, I like to avoid carrying liquids because I usually travel with only a carry-on. A great solution for both these problems is solid shampoo and conditioner. They tend to be pricey, but last much longer than liquids. They also can’t break open in transit and smear all your clothing! (Yes, that’s happened to me!)

Either of these sets of shampoo and conditioner bars would make an excellent gift for frequent travelers:

Great stocking-stuffers for travellers

Doing laundry on the road is an issue if you’re packing light. I generally pack enough clothing for one week. If the trip is longer, I have to do laundry, either in a sink or, if I’m lucky, a washing machine. I’ve had to buy laundry detergent and then leave the remainder behind, which is a waste of money. These 3-in-1 laundry detergent sheets are a smarter option, and take very little space; just pop a few in a plastic bag. I’d suggest cutting them in four pieces ahead of the trip so you can wash smaller amounts of clothing in the sink. Then use four of them for a full wash if you’re lucky enough to have access to a washing machine. There are plenty of other brands; I like this one because it’s unscented and you can buy a small amount: just 10 loads.

If your travellers are going to be hand-washing clothes on the road, they’ll need a travel clothesline too.

Another great present for travellers that will fit in a stocking is protection from the rain. You’ll find lots of disposable rain ponchos out there, made of extremely flimsy plastic and intended to be thrown out after one use. That just seems wasteful to me, and not a good idea for travelling in countries with poor garbage services. The rain poncho below will last longer and folds down to fit in its little mesh bag. If you prefer a jacket over a rain poncho, as I do, this rain jacket on the right is similarly light. It folds down into a small bag attached to it.

This last suggestion may seem a little strange, but it’s something I take with me every time I travel. My back itches sometimes, and I use the backscratcher on the left, below. I bought it something like 25 years ago in San Francisco’s Chinatown. If I needed a new one, though, I’d choose a telescoping one like the one on the right, because it would pack more easily.


Choosing gifts for travelers isn’t easy, so I hope this list has helped give you some ideas for Christmas presents for the travellers in your life. If it has, could you please do the following for me?

  1. Do you have any other ideas for gifts for travellers that you think I should add? Please let me know in a comment below.
  2. If you liked this article, please share it on social media!

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