23 Christmas Gifts in 2023 for the Traveler in Your Life

Now that Dover is no longer with us, we have started traveling again.  I thought for this year's suggested Christmas gift lift I'd share with you some items we really like when we travel.  

On a train to Ghent, Belgium October 2023

By the way, I think there is a difference between going on vacation and traveling.  When I'm on vacation, I don't pack very lightly.  I care about what outfits I wear and I bring conveniences with me so that I can just relax and unwind.  If I'm traveling, I'm usually on the go most of the time and want as little with me as possible.  More stuff means more things to haul around.  I rarely go on vacation; I much prefer traveling.  

We can spend 2 months in Europe with just a carry-on and a personal item.  Here's how we do it.  I've categorized my suggested gifts into different categories: Luggage, Wardrobe, Toiletries, Tech, and  Accessories. 

Note: While I provide links to find them online, you might find them cheaper somewhere else.  I am not affiliated with any products and receive no money from the purchase of any items. 


#1 AWAY Carry On $315

I learned about this luggage when the company was still really new.  It initially had a few kinks but they eventually replaced mine with a better model and I've used it for years.  I absolutely love my Away.  I know it's pricey, but it will last you a long time.  

If you decide not to get this carry-on, make sure you get something that is super high quality and most importantly has four 360-degree wheels. This is a critical feature. 

#2 Diaper Bag $70 

One time I was on a cruise talking to one of the staff members.  We found out that we both travel with a diaper bag as our personal item.  We both thought we were the only ones who had thought of this.  Diaper bags are great for storing food, drinks, medication, and other things you want to have by you all the time. Look for one with lots of pockets so you can find what you need quickly.  If it has a baby wipe dispenser, fill it with facial or sanitary wipes instead.  You'll also want one with stroller clips so you can attach it to your luggage. I've had my Eddie Bauer diaper bag for years. 

#3 Hanging Travel Organizer by Vera Bradley $65 (cheaper at outlet stores)

My girlfriend bought this for me and I love it so much, I have since bought them for my daughters.  I don't lose any of my stuff in this thing and it can hang just about anywhere.  All the fabric can get quite bulky, but it's perfect for road trips where space isn't as critical. 

#4 Luggage Tags $12 

We have learned the hard way you want to be able to spot your luggage easily and quickly as it passes you by on the carousel.  These tags wrap around the handle and make it super easy to spot among all the other dark-colored suitcases.  It also has a pocket where you can include your contact information in case your luggage is lost. 


#5 Thrift Store Gift Card up to $250 

This might seem like an odd gift for the traveler in your life, but hear me out.  Clothes are heavy and bulky.  They take up a lot of room in a suitcase.  If you donate your clothes at the end of a trip, you've got tons of space to bring back items from your travels (in my case it's European chocolate, jams, teas, and spices).  If you purchase your travel wardrobe at a thrift store, it will be cheaper and not as hard to donate afterward. Look for a vintage store, community center, or church to drop off your clothes.  If you can't find a place to donate your clothes, you can try a bridge.  I've noticed lots of people seek shelter under bridges, and I'm sure they'd appreciate your donation.  

#6 Yoga Pants $31

When I travel I want comfort and I want a pocket to hold my phone.  I like these pants because they come in multiple lengths, colors, and styles.  I can exercise in them too! 

#7 Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Rain Jacket $99 (might find it on sale) 

When my brother worked at Columbia Sportswear he told me, "There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing."  He's exactly right.  If you have a good rain jacket, you can still enjoy your travel even on the "bad weather" days. 

A certain Englishman and I have been purchasing our outerwear from Eddie Bauer for over two decades.  Their consistency in quality is something we have come to trust and expect.  But if you have a brand you like, go for it.  I just warn you to make sure you get something that is really high quality, you'll regret it if you don't.  Here are the features I need when traveling. 
  • Lightweight (I want to be able to fold it up in my purse if I need to) 
  • Waterproof zippers 
  • Adjustable cuffs (this is a deal breaker for me, if I can't tighten the cuffs over my gloves, I don't want it) 
  • Over the hips (I want it long enough to cover my waistband, but not so long that I can't walk easily; I have a tall-sized jacket even though I'm short so that I can get the extra length I want) 
  • Adjustable hood (I'm short and have a little head, most hoods are way too big for me. If I can't adjust the hood I have problems staying dry and being able to see) 
  • Generous cut (I want to be able to wear a scarf, sweater, or another jacket underneath for extra warmth if I need it) 
  • Pockets that zip close 

#8 The North Face Paramount Trail Convertible Pants for Men $69

These pants have been a certain Englishman's absolute favorite.  They keep the water away, have lots of pockets, and are super durable.  If you can't find these pants specifically, look for something that is meant to withstand fluctuating temperatures and rain.  

#9 Women's Granite Trail™ Waterproof Shoe $90 (might be cheaper at outlets)  

You know how every travel pack list includes "comfortable walking shoes"? Well, there's a reason why.  If your feet hurt, you are miserable, everyone traveling with you is frustrated because you are slowing them down, and it just makes for a hard trip.  I bought these shoes for a trip to Iceland and wore them every day for 6 days.  They have now become my go-to shoe no matter where I'm going.  

Here's why I like my trail shoes: 
  • Super lightweight 
  • Very waterproof (my feet stay dry in puddles) 
  • Good ankle support 
  • Good arch support (I didn't even have to put in my orthotics!)


#10 Shower Cap $10 

When I travel, I don't like to spend much time doing my hair and makeup.  I'd rather use my time to go exploring and meeting new people.  What I like about this shower cap is it keeps my hair totally dry--no water seeps in ruining my curls.  It can double as a sleep bonnet too. 

#11 Dry Shampoo $1.49

This also helps me extend days between washes.  If I'm doing a weekend trip I can avoid having to bring all my hairstyling supplies by just bringing this little can.  

#12 Travel Bottles $10

When it comes to travel bottles, two things are important to me: easy to refill and leakproof.  I also like that these come in different colors so I don't get them confused.  


#13 Portable keyboard $50 

This bluetooth keyboard is awesome! It is super easy to sync to your phone, laptop, or other mobile device and type your emails, texts, or whatever.  I have found it really easy to use and it makes such a difference.  It's lightweight and folds up tiny.  

#14 Portable Monitor $220

Fortunately, we got this free with work, but man oh man, is it awesome! It makes such a difference if you have to work while traveling.  We love it! 

#15 Travel Surge Protector $12 

When we travel it seems like we never have enough outlets, especially when traveling internationally.  This is compact and gives us all the outlets we need to charge our devices. It means fewer adapters if you are traveling internationally. 

#16 Wireless ACN Headphones $100 

The trick to finding headphones for travel is they need to be able to cancel noise and plug into the monitor on the airplane seat in front of you so you can watch movies, live TV, etc.  This headphone does both and is comfortable with good sound quality.  


#17 St. Christopher Medallion $14

 My girlfriend got me one of these years ago when I developed travel anxiety.  St. Christopher is the patron saint of travel, particularly safety while traveling.  I wear it whenever I travel.  

#18 Cooling Blanket $46 for a twin

I get hot at night when I sleep.  At home, I have a fan that blows on me all night long.  When I travel, I like to keep cool with this blanket.  Why does it work? I have no idea.  FYI, this is a road trip item, I don't take it on plane flights because of its weight and bulk. 

#19 Sleep Mask $10

I'm honestly not too picky about my sleep masks, but I do make sure I have one.  It accomplishes two purposes: first, it helps block out light, and second it keeps my seatmate from talking to me.  Mine doesn't look like this, it looks like I'm a koala bear. 

#20 Messy Bun $10 

This might seem like an unlikely travel item, but I love that I can just throw my hair in a ponytail and slap this on and it looks like I have styled hair--especially when I'm in high humid places. My flat hair loves dry desert air, the humidity not so much.  

#21 Kipling Wallet $25-34 (depends on color) 

 I bought my wallet 9 years ago at an outlet store in Roubaix, France. I'm not even sure they make it anymore, but this is the closest thing I could find.  For me, what's important is that the wallet has zippers, I especially like the internal zipper.  This just makes it harder for things to fall out, or for pickpockets to be tempted to lift something out of it.  Whatever wallet you decide to get, make sure it's as small as possible and as lightweight as possible.  All those extra slots and closures just aren't needed.  

In fact, when I'm running around Lille doing daily errands, I don't even take my wallet.  I have a tiny zippered pouch just big enough for some coins, my metro pass, and two credit cards.  I attach my house keys to the corner of it with a key ring.  The nice thing is I can scan my metro pass without having to take it out. It scans through the fabric.  I bought this at a souvenir shop in Belgium nine years ago.  

#22 Crossbody Phone Purse $65 (cheaper at outlets) 

I don't have this exact purse, but I have something from Vera Bradley that's really similar.  If I want to carry more than my keys and a couple of credit cards, I wear a crossbody phone purse.  It's small and fits inside another purse if needed.  It's easy to keep my hand on it when I'm in a crowded place to make sure it stays with me.  I also clip on a hand sanitizer and have a package of tissues inside, just in case I have to use a poorly stocked restroom (quite common in Europe). 

#23 Crossbody Bag $80 (cheaper at outlets) 

Sometimes I need a larger bag for a purse.  I want something that will fit an umbrella, scarf, and gloves, or purchases.  I really like this bag because it has zippers.  If I'm extra worried about pickpockets, I'll clip the zipper pulls together with my hand sanitizer, but normally I don't worry about that.  


Whether you purchase any of these items or not for the traveler in your life, I hope you found these suggestions helpful.  I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't travel.  It is like a muscle, the more you do it, the easier it is.  What items are your must-haves when you travel?