| |

Unique travel gifts: a short-but-sweet gift guide

I know I’m not the only one who loves to travel. Lots of us do. Now that people are beginning to venture out again, you might be looking for unique travel gifts for someone with wanderlust. Look no further!

Text: Unique travel gifts that any traveler will love! (and the Rachel's Ruminations logo). Image: a coloring map with a box of markers.

This short-but-sweet list contains carefully chosen unique travel gifts that either I have or I’d like to have. Most of them are useful at home as well as away. I’ve chosen items from a range of prices to suit everyone’s budget.

I hope this list helps you find the perfect gift for the travel lover in your life!

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. If you buy an item through an affiliate link, I will receive a small commission. This will not affect your price.

Tray organizer

If you’ve ever fallen down the rabbit hole of reading horror stories from flight attendants, you know that people do some pretty disgusting things on planes. Without going into detail, let’s just say the tray tables aren’t always so clean, and the seatback pockets even less so.

That’s why the tray organizer by Serenity appeals to me. It would be useful on a bus, train or plane – anywhere with seatback tray tables. You just slip it over the tray, close the tray back up, and you have plentiful pockets. When you want to use the tray to eat, leave it on and use it like a tablecloth. When you get home, you can clean it to your standards!

Back of a tray table with cloth pockets hanging on the tray table, stuffed with things like a magazine, headphones, etc.

When it’s empty, the organizer folds up small. It comes in a range of colors.

The Travel Book

When I left my job as a teacher to focus on blogging full-time, my colleagues gave me The Travel Book, by Lonely Planet, as a going-away present and I love it! It’s huge, so it’s not something to take along, but it has a pretty two-page spread on every country in the world with all the basic information. For me, it’s a great way to dream about the next trip and to help me decide where to go next. It’s a perfect gift for a traveler! My copy, as you see in the photo, is hardcover, but it’s available now in paperback.

The book lies on a table: large and hardcovered, with a blue background, the words "THE TRAVEL BOOK." Under that, a row of small colorful photos, and then at the bottom, the words "A JOURNEY THROUGH EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD."

If the person you’re shopping for is already planning or considering a trip to a particular place, a guidebook is always an excellent gift too.

LastObject reusable travel products

LastObject produces items that everyone uses every day: cotton swabs, for example, and makeup pads, tissues and sanitary napkins. Here’s the thing, though: they’re all built to be easily reusable! One “LastSwab,” the company claims, can replace up to 1000 disposable swabs. What a great idea!

Each item comes with a colorful box: either recyclable silicone or plant-based plastic. When it’s finally used up, which will take a while, you can buy refills rather than getting an extra box you don’t need.

The company doesn’t make these products specifically for travel, but they make so much sense for travel! Why pack a whole box of cotton swabs when you can just bring one? These are truly sustainable alternatives to disposable products!

A long purple container with the words "Last Swab" along its length. The top is partially swiveled to show the single swab on a stick that is mounted inside the box. It looks like a normal cotton swab with a white tip and a purple stick.

As far as unique travel gifts go, look for their travel packs of products, or choose a gift certificate so your traveling friend can choose themselves.

Use the code rachelsruminations for a 10% discount!

Ekster wallet

This one isn’t really specifically for travel, but everyone needs a wallet, right? And this wallet is unlike other wallets.

On the left, the box the wallet came in: It is black, with shiny letters that say Ekster and crossed symbols that are not very clear. On the right, a brown leather wallet, but with a black plastic knob in the left-hand corner. In the right hand corner, the letter E inside a crest shape is embossed on the leather.

Note: I received this wallet as a gift from Ekster, along with a Chipolo to carry in it (more on that in a minute). I was thinking about giving it to my husband, but then when I received it I liked it so much I had to keep it!

You know how, when you have a pile of cards in your wallet, it’s sometimes difficult to find the specific one you’re looking for since they’re all squeezed in together? The Ekster wallet makes it extra easy to access your cards. See that black thing at the bottom left of the Ekster? All you have to do is push on that, and your cards pop up at the top, staggered so you can see each one separately.

The wallet is open in this photo, and the knob on the lower left is visible, with a person's finger pushing it. At the top of the wallet, the tops of 4 cards peek out, each a bit further out than the one in front of it so all 4 are visible.

It doesn’t hold very many cards – maybe four or five – depending on how thick the lettering is on the cards. Some of their models can hold more cards than that. There are some normal pockets too, so I’ve used them for the cards I’m least likely to need. I carry cash in my pocket, but the elastic band is intended to hold folded paper money instead of carrying a separate money clip.

The optional Chipolo is a device the shape of a credit card but a bit thicker that serves as a tracer. Download an app and you can signal the Chipolo to ring, helping you find your wallet if you misplace it. It also shows you where it is on a map. You can set it to alert you if you leave your wallet behind and move away from it.

Travel scarves from Waypoint Goods

I received two scarves from Waypoint Goods as a gift, and I love them.

Here’s the thing: this isn’t just any scarf; it’s a travel scarf. Hidden in its seam is a pocket with a zip closure. It’ll fit your passport, cards, and other small items.

A photo of me from the waist up. Wearing a black sweatshirt with a scarf around my neck that is patterned in shades of orange and pink. My skin is white, my glasses are red-framed, and I have short brown hair. Behind me is an apple tree.
Waypoint travel scarf.

You might think that it would be obvious that you’re carrying items in your scarf, since the weight would pull it down, but it’s not. The scarf is long enough to double or even triple: put the pocket in front on your chest or up next to your neck. Twist the scarf once and wind it a second time around your neck. The top loop of the scarf covers up the bulge in the lower loop.

What I love about this scarf is that I can use it instead of a handbag so my hands are free for my camera.

I keep my phone in a jeans or jacket pocket since I use it so much. That leaves room in the scarf pocket for my passport, my wallet, my migraine pills for just in case, and a couple of spare camera batteries. I’d suggest, though, that you use a small card holder and just carry necessary cards – a credit card, a bank card and a driver’s licence – and leave the store cards and such at home.

The scarves are pretty too! They come in two weights and lots of patterns or solids. Click on the banner below to go look at the whole range and to order.

The lightweight ones are made of bamboo and cotton; the heavy ones are polyester and significantly warmer. I can see wearing the lightweight scarves pretty much all year, and the heavier ones only in the winter. Both have a nice soft feel.

Waypoint has some other travel-related products too: candles with scents based on particular cities, for example, travel journals, jewelry, and more.

PacSafe bags

A travel bag of some sort is always a good gift for a travel lover. PacSafe makes quality bags in all shapes and sizes: backpacks, daypacks, laptop cases: you name it. They pay particular attention to anti-theft devices: anti-slash fabric, RFID safe blocking pockets, lockable zippers, and so on, so they’re great for travel or, for that matter, everyday life.

I received the Unbox Therapy X Pacsafe 25L Anti-Theft Backpack as a gift from PacSafe and I’ve used it on every trip since then to carry my laptop and as my under-seat bag when I fly.

I’m very impressed with PacSafe’s attention to detail. The material has a wire mesh inside it, making it impossible to slash and grab. It has a fancy locking system for the zippers, even the one on the outside that is most likely to be targeted by a pickpocket. No one could open these without you knowing.

The backpack sits on the ground, leaning on a pole. It is grey and rectangular.
My Pacsafe bag.

The two side pockets on the outside make it handy to carry a bottle along – I can take the bottle out, have a drink, and put the bottle back in without having to take off the backpack. The shoulder straps are padded and comfortable, so they don’t dig. If I’ve fully packed it, of course, it’s going to feel heavy after a while: I like that it has two wide elastic bands on the back so I can attach it to the handle of my wheeled suitcase.

On a related item, I’ve been pleased to see that fanny packs have made a comeback. They were never pretty, but they’re oh-so-convenient. And they feel safe because all your stuff is right there, attached to you and within sight. Nowadays they’re referred to as “waistpacks” and they’re often worn as a cross-body bag instead, with the bag itself across your chest, instead of around the waist. They might be a good gift for someone who needs to carry only a few small items.

Explore Pacsafe’s range of bags to see lots of other unique gifts for travelers in your life:

Grayl bottles

Nowadays it’s very common for travelers and also people at home to carry a water bottle. Travelers to countries with unreliable water treatment systems often carry a filter of some sort so that they can clean the water as they go. It’s also distinctly more economical and environmentally-friendly than constantly buying bottled water.

My worry with filtration systems for travelers is that the filters have to be replaced. The instructions might say, for example, “good for 200 liters.” But who keeps count? I know I wouldn’t be able to keep track. I also don’t feel like I can be sure if that last liter, number 200, is going to be as well-filtered as the first liter was.

The way the Grayl filter works is this: you fill it with water – from a stream or a tap – and then you push the filter down through the water. As the filter gets older, it will take longer to push through.

Now here’s the beauty of this system: if it takes 25 seconds to push the filter down, it’s time to replace it. Nevertheless, it will still filter the water, just more slowly. That confidence – that the filtration still works – combined with that signal – the increased time – is why I particularly like this water bottle with filter.

The Grayl filter promises to remove 99.9% of viruses, bacteria and protozoa and to filter for particulates as well as various chemicals and heavy metals.

It comes in two sizes. The bigger one (Geopress) holds more water and the filter lasts longer. My son used this one the year he lived in London because he didn’t like the taste of the water. The filter gave it a more neutral taste.

The smaller one (Ultralight) is specifically designed for travel. The filter won’t last as long, but it’s easier to pack and carry.

Universal adapter

This may not be such a fun gift or a particularly unique gift for the traveler in your life, but every world traveler needs a universal adapter. I have one much like the one pictured, and it does the job.

These days it’s not just your phone that you need to charge; you might also have a portable modem, a smartwatch, an e-reader, or a tablet that needs charging. This adapter can charge three devices at the same time: one plugged in with its electric cord, and two plugged into the USB slots.

The adapter is white and more or less in the shape of a cube. It has a number of holes at the near end, where a plug from anywhere in the world can be inserted. The USB ports are not visible in this photo.

Keep in mind, if you’re from the US, that if you want to use other sorts of electrical devices, such as a hairdryer, you also need a power converter. If you plug a hairdryer or curler from the US into a 220V power supply, like most of the world uses, you’ll fry it. An adapter like this is only for electronics that can handle 220V.

You can see lots of other travel-related products using this link to Irv’s Luggage or click on the button below for the adapter.

Priority Pass

A Priority Pass would be a great and unique travel gift for anyone who flies frequently. You know those airport lounges that cost an arm and a leg to get into or that are reserved for business or first-class passengers? Well, Priority Pass allows admission to lounges around the world. I have a Priority Pass – it was what I asked my husband for on my last birthday.

It’s lovely to be able to relax in an airport lounge while I wait for flights. The quality of the lounges varies, but they all have comfortable seating and are generally quiet and clean, with plugs for charging devices and good lighting. All offer free drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic – and most offer food. I’ve found that the level of the food varies a lot, from light snacks (here in the Netherlands) to complete, delicious hot meals (Mumbai).

Using the “standard plus” membership plan, which includes 10 free visits, I often plan my travel so that I can eat a meal in the lounge, avoiding paying airport prices for food or gambling on the food on the flight. If you count the free meals and the tea and sodas I drink in lounges around the world, my Priority Pass probably pays for itself.

Packing cubes

I resisted the idea of packing cubes for a long time. I just didn’t see how they could possibly make a difference. But when I received a couple as a gift and realized what they could do, I was sold. I use them every single time I travel now.

Packing cubes don’t just help you keep your clothes organized – I put shirts in one, pants in another, underwear in another, etc. They also help you compact your clothes far more than you normally could. You place the items in the bag, nicely folded or rolled, and zip it closed, flattening it. Then, using a second zipper, you flatten it even more. It squeezes the pile to about half its original size.

Two blue packing cubes. They're not actually cubes. They are rectangular and shaped like a briefcase but smaller, with a small cloth handle at the top.

Keep in mind that, while packing cubes will definitely help you fit more clothing into your luggage, they won’t reduce the weight of that clothing. Warn your travel-loving gift recipient that they should keep an eye on the weight of their luggage so they don’t end up with extra fees from the airline!

Travel maps

Scratch-off maps are very popular gifts for travelers. I’m not a big fan because there’s a bit of a design flaw. Over time, the stuff to scratch off (some sort of coating), hardens. I realized this when I tried to scratch off a country and ended up damaging the map, digging a hole in the backing paper.

Awesome Maps, has scratch-off maps, but it has lots of other really fun items that would make great unique gifts. Is your friend into running or fishing or kitesurfing or diving? Buy them a world map with all the best spots for their favorite activity marked on it! Each map is also available in the form of a towel, so they could even take it with them!

For the more general traveler, try the bucket list map: it shows the 500 best sights to see and things to experience around the world.

Use the “magic code” RUMINATIONS to get a 5% discount!


SCOTTeVEST makes clothing, particularly jackets and vests, with lots of extra pockets, many of which are on the inside, making them very hard to pickpocket and very easy to take through airport security.

Photo of a woman wearing a red hoodie.
Me wearing one of my SCOTTeVESTs.

I won’t write a whole description here because I published a separate review of SCOTTeVEST (Yes, that’s how it’s written.) I’ll just say that these would make a great gift for travelers going to climates that aren’t too hot – Europe or North America in the spring or fall, for example. Make sure to order a size up to allow for the added bulk of the things they carry in all those pockets.

Cards, notebooks, phone cases, etc.

At Redbubble I’ve started a small shop based on my favorite photos. Choose the photo you like and you’ll see a range of different items printed with the photo: a spiral notebook, for example, or coasters for drinks, phone cases or framed pictures to hang on the wall.

When I first set the shop up, I ordered a few items, just to see if the quality is good. It is. In the photo below you can see a spiral notebook and a small picture to hang on the wall. Check out my shop on Redbubble to see lots more choices: more photos and more different items.

On the left, a spiral notebook with an image of brightly colored warehouses on a canal in Norway, a small boat passing in front of them. On the right, a photo of the New York City skyline against a blue sky with fluffy clouds.
Items from Redbubble.

If there’s a particular picture on Rachel’s Ruminations that you’d like to see in the Redbubble shop, let me know and I can add it to the shop very easily.

Please suggest any other special and unique travel gifts that you think should be included in this list!

Pin the image below to Pinterest to save this article for later!

Text: Unique travel gifts that any traveler will love and use! Images: above, me wearing a bright pink and orange travel scarf; below, two items printed with travel photos: on the left a notebook with a photo of warehouses along a canal with a boat passing by, and on the right, a photo of the NYC skyline.
Perfect for pinning!


Never miss the latest travel news, tips, reviews and amazing finds. Sign up for free and be the first to know when I publish something new!

about Rachel

Hi, I’m Rachel!

Rachel’s Ruminations is a travel blog focused on independent travel with an emphasis on cultural and historical sites/sights. I also occasionally write about life as an expatriate. I hope you enjoy what I post here; feel free to leave comments! Read more…
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments