These 25 ideas for small travel gifts are perfect for the traveler who wants to keep it light. They are travel tested, insanely useful and fairly cheap travel gifts that your road warrior will absolutely use.
(Most of the links below are affiliate links. This means that if you chose to purchase, I’ll get a small commission.)
The airlines keep increasing their baggage fees, so any frequent traveler is motivated to keep it light. Everything that goes into my suitcase has to earn a spot there by being insanely useful and able to handle multiple tasks. All of the small travel gifts listed below fit that bill by being practical and (with a few exceptions) pretty inexpensive.
Cheap Travel Gifts for the Practical Traveler
Sometimes you just need to carry a small hardware store with you in order to handle the small problems that arise from hard fought wear and tear. These items are tragically practical and cheap, so you should not only buy them for others, but get extras for your own travel bag as well.
A TSA-approved luggage lock will only set you back about $6. It’s a sad fact that theft happens and this cheap travel gift that can save a lot of money in stolen goods.
These bendy gear ties are like extra-large baggie twist ties. They are a very small travel gift and they are super useful for hanging laundry, closing an overstuffed bag and for hanging water bottles and other detritus off of a carry-in. (~$4)
Mini rolls of duct tape are surprisingly useful for repairs, sealing up food packages and killing scorpions. It might seem weird to give hardware store items for a cheap travel gift but this tape is a life saver. Just this summer, I used mine in the Dallas baggage claim area to make an emergency repair on a broken suitcase wheel. (~$8)
The TSA-friendly Gerber Dime multi-tool has everything that a Swiss Army Knife has…but for the knife. The TSA might want to look at it, but they won’t confiscate it. It has ten tools in it, making it a great deal for under $20.
Travel Stocking Stuffers for the Clean Freak
Travel can be a messy business and these compact items can help keep your traveler clean and smelling fresh.
These GoToob bottles are the only way that I warry shampoo. lotion and conditioner. They are TSA-friendly and come in 1.5 and 3 oz sizes. They squeeze easily and they don’t leak. ($16)
The Trek & Travel laundry wash is a super concentrated formula that works remarkably well for hand washing laundry on the go. This small bottle will last for over two months of nonstop travel. ($5)
Shampoo bars skirt the TSA liquid ban altogether and can also be used for washing clothes and the body. ($16)
The Steri-Pen makes a great travel stocking stuffer if your traveler goes to locations with a dodgy water supply. It uses UV light to sterilize water from harmful microorganisms, including Giardia, bacteria, viruses and protozoa. ($65)
For more ideas, check out this packing list for Europe. It will help you survive a three week trip of hiking and sightseeing.
Small Travel Gifts for Keeping Electronics Organized
I travel with an iPhone, DSLR camera, laptop and sometimes an iPad, so my bag is a jumble of chargers, adapters, batteries, SD cards and so on. You can help your traveler stay organized with these practical tools.
Get the Anker Quick Charge with two USB ports. This small travel gift packs a ton of power with a 39 watt, 1.5 amp output and two ports. It allows your traveler to charge up their devices quickly and also extend the usefulness of the (frustratingly limited) power outlets on airplanes and airports. ($26)
Get wireless air buds. I just purchased these and am happy to report that I no longer damage my ears and drop my phone because of wired ear buds catching on door knobs. They are small enough for a travel stocking stuffer and yet make a very valuable gift. ($145)
Help your traveler stay organized with this Bagsmart cable organizer. It will hold five USB cords or other wires, a mouse, some batteries and a charger. ($20)
If your traveler also has camera gear and laptop chargers, then consider getting the small Eagle Creeek packing cube. It’s perfect for storing larger chargers, extra SD cards, your Guerilla pod and other random electronics. It’s also a pretty cheap travel gift for under $13.
Small Travel Gifts for the Expert Packer
I can cram six days of clothing into my trusty Briggs & Riley carry on. The bag itself is pretty roomy for a carry on, but the real trick is packing my clothing as efficiently and densely as possible. You can help your traveler with one of these gifts that roll, fold, stuff and cram their clothing.
Ultra light packable backpacks are a perfect lightweight bag for carrying water, a jacket and a camera while on a light hike or walking tour. They are also great for holding laundry. They are only a quarter pound and they pack down smaller than a sandwich. ($18)
The larger Dry Creek packing cubes are great for keeping clothes neatly folded and well-organized. ($28 for three)
The Sea to Summit dry bag was designed for hiking and camping, but it’s also very useful as a compressible stuff sack for bulky clothing items. You can squeeze down a fleece pullover or puffy vest to about half its size. ($15 for the 4 litre size, which is what I use)
My mom was a veteran traveler, and her packing tip was to use airplane barf bags for storing her shoes in order to keep the dirt off her clothing. Great idea! Buy these novelty barf bags as a gag gift. ($17 for 50 bags, bad puns cost extra.)
Small Travel Gifts for Readers
Don George’s The Way of the Wanderlust is a best-of collection with stories from his decades-long career as a travel writer. ($8 Kindle, $16 paperback)
The Best American Travel Writing series is an annual essay collection drawn from the year’s best travel writing. The 2018 edition was edited by Cheryl Strayed. ($10 Kindle, $12 paperback)
Twain said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice”. He learned that lesson on his grand tour of the world and wrote about it in Innocents Abroad. This is also one of the cheapest gifts on this list at a whopping $3.99.
The Carry-On Traveller is a practical guide for traveling with everything you need… but nothing more. ($0 Kindle Unlimited, $5 Kindle, $12 paperback)
Give the gift of Amazon Prime. Reading e-books is the ultimate in packing efficiency. Some of the books mentioned here, most of the Lonely Planet guides and a ton of other titles are available for free on Kindle Unlimited with an Amazon Prime account. Get more information on Amazon Prime or purchase it here. ($39 for 3 months, $119 for a year)
Crafty, Cute and Customizable Small Travel Gifts
The above gifts for travelers all focus on the tragically practical, but sometimes you just need to buy something pretty. These Etsy travel gifts are all pretty, inspirational and customizeable to one degree or another.
These hand crafted leather luggage tags and passport holders come in ten colors and have options for monogramming, names, letters and symbols. ($20)
Get stone coasters decoupaged with hand-torn vintage maps from your choice of many different locations. ($48)
Wear the world on your wrist with aluminum cuff bracelets etched with maps. The store offers hundreds of different maps to choose from. ($31)
Or go for neck jewelry with this customizable map pendant. ($12)
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