Whether you’re a traveler looking for ideas for your Christmas wish list or a shopper in search of holiday gift ideas for your favorite traveler, you’ve come to the right place. From luggage and clothing to gadgets and water bottles, this list of the best Christmas gifts for travelers 2012 is full of excellent picks. We even have ideas for kids who like to travel. Read on and get your holiday shopping finished early!
Small Travel Backpack
I’m an advocate of packing light and a good backpack can make that easy. I traveled in Argentina for 6 months with only a small travel backpack and an even smaller school backpack. Opt for a front-loading backpack because top-loading ones make organization difficult. Look for a backpack that’s comfortable, compact, attractive, and has lots of pockets. Our pick: Osprey Farpoint 40 ($149). (Read our Osprey Farpoint 40 review.)
Lightweight, Rolling Carry-On Suitcase
A well-made carry-on suitcase is a gift that can last decades. Opt for a lightweight suitcase that will make travel a breeze, so the recipient won’t have to worry as much about going over the airlines’ allowed weight. With airlines charging steeper fees for luggage, every ounce counts. Our pick: Atlantic Ultra Lite 22” Carry-On ($68). (Read our lightweight luggage reviewfor more ideas.)
A pack-it bag is a great way to stay organized while you travel. Plus, it minimizes wrinkles, making it perfect for the business traveler. The Eagle Creek Pack-It holds between 8-12 shirts or pants and fits into most carry-ons. Our pick: Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder 18 ($27.50).
I always thought tablets were unnecessary if you already had a laptop and a smart phone. But this summer we won a Google Nexus 7 and I have to admit it’s life changing. It’s far easier to quickly look something up online on the tablet than it is on a phone or computer. Plus, it’s portable. Bringing it on the plane or train is much less cumbersome than a laptop and I’ve really enjoyed watching movies, drafting documents, or reading on it. Our picks: Google Nexus 7 ($224 for a budget) or Apple iPad ($419 for those who can splurge).
While tablets are great, for the truly avid reader, eReaders are just a bit better. The batteries last longer and they don’t put quite so much strain on your eyes. Plus, when you’re traveling a lot they are much lighter and easier to carry. Our pick: Sony Reader ($139).
Noise Canceling Headphones
As the folks now with the fussy baby on the plane, I’m a bit more sympathetic when it comes to other crying children. But, air travel is stressful enough and there’s really no comparison between a flight with noise canceling headphones and one with out. You can read our full post on noise canceling headphones here. Or just buy Our pick: Bose Quiet-Comfort($299).
While the iPhone may take great pictures, there’s no substitute for a DSLR camera. If you have an aspiring photographer, avid traveler, or wildlife enthusiast in your life buy him or her a DSLR. Our resident photography expert, Katie, detailed a full explanation about the best digital DSLR cameras for budget travelers here. Our pick: Rebel T3i($749).
Dry Case for Cell Phone
Travelers who love their gadgets and the beach are the perfect recipients of a cell phone wet bag. These bags keep phones dry while still allowing you to use them. They are recommended by active kayakers to poolside loungers as a great way to keep phones from getting wet. Our pick: Dry Pack Cell Phone Case($8).
Giftcard for ebooks
If your traveler already has enough stuff to carry around, buy him or her an Amazon giftcard to buy ebooks or music.
Clothing & Shoes
Travel Jacket or Fleece
A travel jacket isn’t just for keeping you warm. A good travel jacket makes getting through security a breeze. It can dress up an outfit or serve as a pillow on a long plane ride. This year, we’ve discovered Scottevest jackets and I love them. They’re stylish, versatile, and have tons of pockets. Our picks: Scottevest Chloe Fleece Hoodie or Scottevest Molly Jacket. (Read our Chloe hoodie review and our Molly jacket review.)
A Pair of Hiking / Travel Sandals
A high-quality pair of sandals is great for walking, hiking, and travel. I love my Chaco Unaweep sandals and wear them all summer. The model I have is a bit bulkier than the alternatives, but I like that because it makes the sandals so comfortable and supportive. When you’re picking out a pair of travel sandals, make sure they’re comfortable to wear for long periods of time, high quality, adjustable, and versatile. Our pick: Chaco Unaweep sandals ($75-100). (Read our Chaco Women’s Unaweep review.)
A Pair of Vegan Walking Shoes
What’s the most practical item you can buy a traveler? A pair of excellent walking shoes. Vegan shoes (not made out of leather) are a must for sustainable travelers and there’s a short list of vegan walking shoes here. Our pick: Jambu Barefoot ($99).
Besides the practicality of have your child have his own luggage, kids carry on luggage makes a great gift because it helps kids anticipate and get excited for an upcoming vacation. Encourage your child to pack her own bag in the weeks leading up to a trip and see what they decide to include or exclude. And for kids who aren’t quite old enough to know what to pack, they’ll have fun either climbing in the suitcase (as our child does) or just carrying it around the house with them. See Amy’s choices for the best suitcases for kids. Our pick: The Eagle Creek Switch-Quick ($275).
Kids need to stay hydrated just like adults. Travel water bottles for children come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and for babies my son likes this Pura Kiki Stainless bottle. Either use a water bottle as a stocking stuffer or for extra fun use the bottle to hide another holiday present in. Our pick: Camelbak Kids($10).
iPad or iPod Touch
What makes an iPad an indispensable travel tool? Its ability to be all things to all kids (and parents!): on one device, you can download movies to watch in the backseat, play music, listen to audio books as a family, play games, and read books. You can also map your route, check for nearby restaurants and parks, do some light work from the road. If multiple iPads are not in your budget, consider purchasing an iPod Touch (from $125). Essentially, it can do everything an iPad can do, albeit on a smaller screen. Our pick: Apple iPad (from $415).
Portable DVD player
If you don’t have an iPad, or have very young children who like to watch the same movies from your DVD collection over and over, a portable DVD player for travel is essential. They’re cheap to buy, sturdy, and easy for kids to operate. Our pick: Philips 7″ Portable LCD Dual DVD Player ($164).
Handheld Video Game Device
Young kids have an easier time navigating and manipulating a handheld gaming device than an iPod, and games tend to have more value. We travel with a used Nintendo DS for our seven-year-old; the battery lasts a long time, it can take a beating, and leaving it in a hotel room won’t set us back too far. Our pick: Nintendo DS Lite ($120).
Collapsible Water Bottle
Collapsible water bottles are the newest trend and Amy put together this top guide to collapsible water bottles. These are great for travelers because of their size and portability and the fact that they easily attach to packpacks, daypacks and camera bags. Our pick: The Platypus ($14).
Glass Water Bottle
We wrote about glass water bottles for the first time over two years ago. They’ve only become more popular since. While not the best item for the frequent traveler as they are slightly heavy, they are perfect for use at home, in the car, or at work. I’ve been using one nearly every day for the past few months and can’t say enough about how much I love it. It’s sturdy and the water tastes amazing. Our pick: CamelBak Eddy 0.75L Glass Bottle ($25).
Need more holiday gift ideas?
- 10 Awesome Stocking Stuffers for Travelers
- Best Holiday Gifts for Travelers 2011
- Best Technology Gifts and Gadgets for Travelers 2011
- 5 Travel Gift Ideas for Everyone on Your List
- 10 Christmas Gift Ideas for the Traveler Who’s Not Traveling
- 21 Gift Ideas for Green Travelers
What’s on your wish list this holiday season? What’s the best travel-related Christmas gift you’ve ever gotten?
Photo credit: jayneandd
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