These 30 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 cheap.
Cheap Travel Gifts for the Practical Traveler
Sometimes you just need to carry a small hardware store with you in order to handle the problems that arise from hard fought wear and tear. These gifts are tragically practical and cheap, so you should not only buy them for others, but get extras for your own travel bag as well.
1. Luggage Lock
A TSA-approved luggage lock won’t set you back much. It’s a sad fact that theft happens and this cheap travel gift that can save a lot of money in stolen goods. ($5). You can also find a variety of luggage locks, including ones with cables, from REI.
2. Gear Ties
These bendy gear ties are like extra-large baggie twist ties. They are a very cheap 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)
3. Mini Rolls of Duct Tape
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. I recently used mine in the Dallas baggage claim area to make an emergency repair on a broken suitcase wheel. ($10)
4. Gerber Dime Multi-Tool (TSA Approved)
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 super useful small travel gift for $20. This is also available from REI.
Travel Stocking Stuffers for the Clean Freak
Travel can be a messy business and these compact stocking stuffers for travelers can help keep them clean and smelling fresh.
5. Pack Towel
Microfiber pack towels are useful for so many things: bath towels for when staying in a hostel, impromptu beach towel, picnic blanket and more. This one comes in six different sizes. ($7-$21). They also have a variety of sizes and colors at REI.
6.GoToob Travel Bottles
These GoToob bottles are the only way that I carry 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. ($14+). This product is also available from REI.
7. Laundry Wash
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. ($9). This product is also available from REI.
8. Solid Shampoo
Shampoo bars skirt the TSA liquid ban altogether and can also be used for washing clothes and the body. ($20)
9. Steri-Pen Water Purifier
The Steri-Pen makes a great travel stocking stuffer if your traveler will be going to a destination with a dodgy water supply. It uses UV light to sterilize water from harmful microorganisms, including giardia, bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It’s not a particularly cheap travel gift, at $99, but it beats having a trip ruined due to intestinal distress. This product is also available from REI.
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.
10. Fast Charging Multi-USB Outlet
Get the Amazon Basics dual USB port charger. This small travel gift packs a ton of power with a 24 watt, 2.4 amp output and two ports. It allows your traveler to charge up their devices quickly and it also extends the usefulness of the (frustratingly limited) power outlets on airplanes and airports. ($13)
11. Wireless Air Buds
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. ($160)
12. Cable Organizer
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. ($17)
13. Photo Gear Organizer
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. This product is also available from REI.
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, 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.
14. Packable Backpack
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)
15. Dry Creek Packing Cubes
The larger Dry Creek packing cubes are great for keeping clothes neatly folded and well-organized. Be sure to get the Dry Creek brand, the cheaper brands aren’t as sturdy. ($26 for three)
16. Stuffable Dry Bag
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. ($19 for the 4 litre size, which is what I use). These are also available from REI.
17. Barf Bags for Storing Shoes
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.)
Travel-Themed Gift Cards
Gift cards make the best kind of travel stocking stuffer because they are small, flexible and you can control how much you spend.
18. AirBnB Gift Card
AirBnB gift cards are great because they can be used for either lodging or experiences. So your traveler can use them while abroad or they can even book a fun tour in their own hometown when on a staycation. ($50 and $100 denominations)
19. Hotels.com Gift Card
Gift the gift of a night in Paris (Rome, New York City or wherever) with a gift card for Hotels.com. (any denomination above $25 is available)
20. Uber Gift Card
Get your friends to the airport with an Uber gift Card. (any denomination above $25 is available)
21. Columbia Outdoor Clothing Gift Card
Send your family members well outfitted for their outdoor adventures with an Columbia gift card. I like Columbia because they have quality adventure clothing at reasonable prices and they offer a good fit for curvier women. (Available from $25-$500)
Small Travel Gifts for Readers
Reading inspires travel and these bookish stocking stuffers for travelers will inspire them to get off the couch and out into the world.
22. The Way of the Wanderlust, Don George
Don George’s The Way of the Wanderlust is a best-of collection with stories from his decades-long career as a travel writer. ($13 Kindle, $15 paperback)
23. The Best American Travel Writing
The Best American Travel Writing series is an annual essay collection drawn from the year’s best travel writing. The 2020 edition was edited by Robert Macfarlane. ($10 Kindle, $16 paperback)
24. Hotels of North America, Rick Moody
Have you ever found yourself marooned in some dodgy hotel asking yourself, “Now what?” It happened to me in New Orleans in 1997. And if your traveler is a road warrior, it’s probably happened to them too In Hotels of North America you meet Reginald Morse, the top reviewer for a hotel booking site. As his life spirals away from him, his hilarious hotel reviews reveal the blow-back from his terrible life choices. ($7-9)
25. Innocents Abroad, Mark Twain
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. Currently available for free using Kindle Unlimited.
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 as a gift. ($39 for 3 months, $119 for a year)
Buy more books: Trigger your friend’s travel aspirations with this list of inspiring travel books and these destination-specific reading lists for Scotland, Cuba and Sri Lanka, Iceland, Colombia, Paris, Ireland and the Camino de Santiago.
Crafty, Cute and Customizable Small Travel Gifts
The above travel stocking stuffers all focus on the tragically practical, but sometimes you just need to buy something pretty. These Etsy travel gifts are all pretty, inspirational and some are even customizeable.
26. Custom Luggage Tags and Passport Holders
These hand crafted leather luggage tags and passport holders come in ten colors and have options for monogramming, names, letters and symbols. ($18)
27. Map Coasters
Get stone coasters decoupaged with hand-torn vintage maps from your choice of many different locations. ($34)
28. Metal Adventure Bracelets
These metal bracelets are perfect for a world adventurer. They feature phrases like “Live Wild”, “Seek Adventure” and “Wanderlust”. ($18).
29. Dopp Kits and Gear Bags Made of Recycled Bike Tires
These handsome gear bags are made of recycled bicycle tires and available in various sizes. This makes them not only sustainable and useful, but also waterproof. The gear bags would be especially useful for electronics cords, jewelry, make-up and small tools. ($12-$30)
30. Small Travel Journal
This leather journal holds 80 pages, is customizable and comes in 11 different leather colors. It’s perfect for poetry or sketching. ($23).
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