20 gifts travelers will actually want
By Tara Donaldson, CNN
(CNN) — Holiday shopping follows much the same pattern each year: November quickly turns into December, and you still have no idea what gifts to buy.
If you’re shopping for a traveler, though, we’ve got you covered.
They typically fall into two camps when it comes to travel gear: They’re either looking for all things chic to tote on their adventures, or they’re more keen on paring down to the essentials and finding only practical gadgets to pack.
Either way, get them the thing they won’t be able to leave home without.
Here are 20 cool gifts to choose from for every wanderer on your list.
Not your grandma’s compression socks
There’s something to be said about arriving at a destination with ankles the same size as they were before takeoff.
For some people, long flights are synonymous with swelling and the compression socks usually reserved for combating that problem aren’t always of the most attractive ilk.
But VIM & VIGR has changed all that. The company’s compression socks come in stylish stripe patterns or argyle and could easily be mistaken for a designer sock from traditional brands. The socks apply therapeutic pressure that starts at the ankle to improve circulation, which can also help stave off fatigue.
This will do wonders for those running-to-catch-connecting-flights moments.
Paravel’s shape-shifting carry-on
This may look like a standard carry-on, but it’s actually the traveler’s new — and very chic — best friend.
Paravel’s Stowaway, a throwback to vintage grips but with more modern materials, conveniently accommodates the traveler who loves to shop.
The classic collapsible case can be stored flat and packed into another bag, and then, when the marketplace haul needs a home, unfold it, slide the solid sides into place and fill it with loot. It’s also helpful to grab and go for mini excursions within bigger trips instead of dragging everything along.
Cotton canvas keeps the Italian-made Stowaway light and easy to clean, and the leather trimmings keep it luxe and easy to love. Personalize the piece with the traveler’s initials or a kissy-face emoji to keep things fun.
‘The World Atlas of Street Food’
Everyone loves a gift that keeps giving.
If anything could inspire someone to take up more foodie travel, it’s “The World Atlas of Street Food,” a book that details the best spots in the world for street food fixes and dishes up some of the recipes to go with them.
Divvied up by world region and then broken down by cities, the photo-heavy eater’s atlas outlines where to go, what to taste and serves a little background on the vibe of the place. It’s equally good for both inspiration and reminiscing.
But it should come with a warning that says: Don’t read while hungry.
$39.95, utpress.utexas.edu; also available on Amazon and at bookstores
Meem’s multitasking charger
For those known to snap 700 new photos by day one of a trip, there’s Meem.
It’s a two-for-one deal with the Meem, really. The smart cable serves as a phone (or tablet) charger and a back-up device all at once.
So anytime Meem gets plugged into a power source on one end and an iPhone or Android on the other, all the photos, videos, contacts and calendars get backed up, all while the battery life gets replenished, too. That means if a phone falls into the river when canoeing in the Amazon goes wrong, Meem can be plugged into a replacement phone to restore everything to its original state.
It’s like a little elf that makes memories safe while the world — or at least the snap-happy traveler — is asleep.
From $59.99 for 32G, meemmemory.com
A scratch map to track travels
Most travelers fancy themselves explorers, even though they’re most likely not staking claims and charting maps anymore. But that doesn’t mean crossing countries off bucket lists doesn’t offer the same winning feeling.
So give them something that reminds them of what they’ve conquered — a scratch-off map.
This one from Earthabitats comes in a matte black background and travelers can scratch off gold foil to reveal colored countries they’ve been to and the flag at the map’s base, too. The bonuses? A guitar pick for simplified scratching, memory stickers to mark extra special experiences and an eraser to minimize mess.
The giftee will soon be saying: been there, scratched that.
A smarter essentials bag from Birdling
Birdling’s Essentials Kit may be the bag to oust all toiletry bags.
Simple but stylish, the kit is big enough to fit most full-size shampoo bottles, an entire toothbrush without the handle sticking out and oodles of makeup, if need be.
Beyond its size, what’s best about Birdling’s bag is the organization. There are two zipped pouches on the outside for easy-access stuff, four pockets on the inside and a center zip pouch that separates the bag into two neat, separate sections.
Now all they’ll need is TSA to let up on the liquid limitations.
A sub for selfie sticks
Selfie sticks are so last season. Or two seasons ago. In fact, some places have even taken to banning them altogether (Milan, Disney World, the Colosseum).
Thankfully for solo travelers the world over, there’s a discreet alternative that doesn’t simultaneously scream “tourist.”
Mooni’s selfie remote shutter uses Bluetooth to sync with smartphones so photo takers can get shots without holding their phones at all. With Mooni, users can set their phones on something, step back as much as 30 feet and press the little shutter button to take a picture.
It’s the end of the awkward photos with arms in the forefront.
FaceTime for the front door
No longer is being home a requisite for answering the door.
With Zmodo’s Greet Pro doorbell, when a visitor rings, it rings on the phone like an incoming call. Once alerted, the smartphone user could answer and tell the UPS guy to hide the package behind the fence. Or they could leave a pre-recorded message saying they can’t come to the door right now.
What makes this more than just a way to keep track of packages, though, are the safety features. With Greet, users can see who’s in the front of the house when the doorbell rings, or get an alert anytime it detects movement, which could keep burglaries — and daughters’ boyfriends — at bay.
The best travel pillow around
It may look like a cozy scarf, but it’s actually what might be the most ingenious travel pillow that’s yet been made.
Thanks to some science, some sleep experts and some ergonomic design sensibilities, Trtl has created what feels a lot like a hammock for your neck. They took an internal neck support system, wrapped it in cuddly fleece and added Velcro to make the whole thing stay comfortably in place.
Plus, the pillow is smaller than the average travel pillow so it packs small. And it doesn’t require inflating either.
Now people can sleep on planes without becoming bobbleheads.
A really smart suitcase
Here to render all other carry-ons unfit is G-RO.
The G-RO carry on — also known as the most successful crowdfunded luggage ever — does more than most travelers imagine their suitcases will do.
It charges smartphones up to four times. It can be tracked via Bluetooth to avoid baggage claim confusion. It can even hold three pairs of shoes, three pants, one pair of sweats, one gym shirt, four pairs of underwear and socks, three T-shirts, six dress shirts, one blazer, one puff coat, two sweaters, a laptop and toiletries.
Needless to say, it’s spacious.
The big wheels draw the most attention, but they’re meant to be more durable, feel lighter and roll easier. Especially over things like cobblestone streets.
It’s the next best thing to a personal assistant.
A Flint roller
An homage to granddaddy lint rollers that never seem to travel well, Flint has designed an on-the-go version that makes removing pesky fibers from clothes look classy.
The pocket-size retractable lint roller just needs to be twisted up, sort of like a lipstick, to reach its full size, then rolled to rid garments of lint before being pushed back down into place. It comes with 30 sheets — and in almost as many colors — to start but can be endlessly refilled.
It’s the first lint roller that only sticks to what it’s supposed to.
From $7.99, meetflint.com
There are wallets, and then there are wallets that charge phones.
Thinking of everything for the savvy minimalist traveler, Hello Nomad has turned the classic bifold wallet into a device that can revive a smartphone when it winds up listless. And don’t think the wallet skimps on design in favor of functionality; it’s made from vegetable-tanned leather out of one of America’s oldest tanneries.
The wallet fits bills from anywhere in the world, plus cards. The cord, which holds one full charge, sits discreetly at the fold without adding much extra bulk. It also promises to pass all airport security checks. The only thing that would make this wallet more convenient is if it came with money in it.
It’s man’s new best friend.
A to-go yoga mat
The first clue that YoFoMat is not your normal yoga mat: It’s meant to fold.
Instead of being rolled and turning out too long to fit in most luggage, YoFoMat has designed a sticky mat that lets mindfulness happen whenever the moment strikes. About the size of an iPad (just thicker) when folded, the mat opens out to an extra long size to accommodate any yogi.
The folding lines aren’t arbitrary either — they’re placed to help with proper alignment. When folded, it also doubles as an ideal meditation mat.
Scorpion pose in the Sahara? Lotus in Lagos? There’ll be no FOMO with YoFoMat.
From $37, khataland.com
A drone that changes everything
As with all things drone related, jaw drops come with the territory. Especially where DJI’s snazzy Spark mini camera drone is concerned.
Flying the Spark is like waving a magic wand — except without the wand.
All it takes is hand gestures to get the drone to do what it does, which is take off from the palm of your outstretched hand and hover above your head to snap the most epic aerial selfies. It also takes cinematic quality travel videos using preset flight paths, flying straight up, backward or circling a subject to capture the best of everything.
When it’s time for the drone to return home, it can be beckoned by making a gesture like the “Y” in YMCA, and it will land safely back in the palm of your hand. And when it’s time to turn all those shots into something shareable, Spark can create edited 10-second short films with just a couple of thumb taps in DJI’s app.
This kicks travel photography — and life, really — up like 79 notches.
From $499, store.dji.com
The sneezing. The coughing. The sticky child hands that have touched everything touchable. It’s all the airplane’s way of testing immune systems just when it’s time to hike the Inca Trail.
In Traveler’s Protection Balm from The Lost Explorer, the cool of eucalyptus is married to multitasking ravinsara essential oil, known for its antiviral and immune-boosting properties and its way with calming nerves. The balm works best when applied near the nostrils as a barrier against the plane’s many plagues.
Because travelers don’t have time for sick.
A genius garment bag
Weekend bags are standard gear for the jet-setting life, but there’s not much standard about this garment bag/duffle bag combo from Hook & Albert.
This Garment Weekender begins as a duffle, but can be entirely unzipped to reveal a garment bag. That garment bag can hold two suits, and once the bag gets zipped back into its duffle state, it has a pocket on either side for a pair of shoes and more clothing can be packed into the center.
Adding to the allure, Hook & Albert’s latest line of weekenders comes from a partnership with basketball star Chris Paul, who’s lent his style to the bag, adding a chevron interior as a nod to his grandfather who owned a service station.
Bonus? Part of the proceeds go to the Chris Paul Family Foundation to support the development of strong family communities.
It’s like a mic drop for travel bags.
An in-ear translator
Blank stares in the face of foreign languages will soon be a thing of the past.
Designed to pair with its Pixel phone, Google’s new Bluetooth Pixel Buds headphones offer a real-time translation feature that’s like an on-hand personal interpreter.
A touch of the right ear bud activates Google Assistant on the phone, and the user can say, “Google, help me speak Mandarin.”
All it takes from there is talking into the phone in English and the app will transcribe the sentence in Chinese and say it out loud. The Chinese speaker in the conversation can also talk into the phone and the buds will translate that back to English. There are 40 languages that this whole exchange could work with.
It’s perfect for those moments when the food menu’s all in unrecognizable characters and no one speaks your language.
Charge to go
Devices don’t amount to much without the juice that powers them.
And inevitably, that juice seems to dry up at the most inopportune moments, like at the base of the Great Pyramids when the smartphone’s camera is the only one on hand.
Don’t let that happen to the traveler in your life. Get them a Nifty mobile charger. It’s small and light and sleek, but most of all it can charge a smartphone two to three times, and it promises to do it two times faster than other chargers.
It repowers iPads and MacBooks, too, for those times when duty calls, and two ports mean two devices can be charged at once.
The best part may be the flat connector cables guaranteed to never need detangling.
The be-all of backpacks
The only thing Lifepack’s backpack doesn’t do is carry itself.
What’s maybe most noteworthy is the solar bank, which can be charged via USB and has enough power to charge an iPhone as many as six to 12 times, and the sun keeps power in the solar panel topped up throughout the day. When it’s not powering devices, the solar bank doubles as a Bluetooth speaker for tunes to go.
The pack also has an attached bike lock-style cable that can lock the backpack’s zippers shut or lock the pack to something else for safety. The end of the lock also doubles as a bottle opener.
Separate work and life sections keep laptops away from clothes, and hidden pockets in the shoulder straps make for easy access to things like metro cards and headphones.
Lifepack could even encourage non-backpackers to backpack.
From $199, solgaard.com
A high-tech window display
Cars could soon be driving themselves, but until then, Hudly has turned smartphone screens into hologram window displays to keep human drivers safe.
The heads-up display projects what’s on a smartphone onto the windshield so there’s no looking down to see what Waze is doing or who’s texting. The driver can even call on the phone’s hands-free assistant to reply to those obviously pressing text messages, and they’ll pop up on the windshield, too.
It can even show the car’s stats like driving speed and what’s left in the gas tank, because it syncs up with the vehicle when plugged into a cigarette lighter or connected to a diagnostic port in newer cars. Hudly makes everything look like it’s magically floating on the road.
It’s perfect for those cross-country road trips.
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