7 travel gifts our editors can’t live without

Published November 16, 2023

6 min read

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This year set new records for travel, a trend that isn’t expected to change anytime soon. As more people than ever take to planes, trains, and automobiles, there’s a good chance that someone on your holiday gift list will be joining the crowds. Whether they’re heading out for the first time or the fiftieth, here are the road-tested—and wallet-friendly—products we’d happily wrap up for any traveler.

Travel gifts under $50

Black Diamond Spot 400 headlamp

My kids haze me about my old-fashioned technology until their phone battery dies, and then it’s “Dad, can I borrow your headlamp?” Whether you’re exploring a cave, reading a book on an overnight flight, or changing a tire in the dark, a headlamp saves the day. My favorite is the Black Diamond Spot 400—it’s backcountry tough, takes either AAAs or a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. It’s in my bag for every trip, whether it’s Miami or Mongolia. — Peter Gwin, senior editor

Find it now at REI and Amazon.

Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil day pack

Lightweight, durable, and squishable down to a storage bag that fits into the palm of my hand, this day pack has gone everywhere with me for years. I’ve used it to store my sunscreen and towel on an Outer Banks beach, my water bottle and snacks on a hike up a mountain in the Marquesas, and my impulse-buy bottle of duty-free perfume at the Vienna Airport. It’s even my backup reusable grocery bag that I keep in my jacket pocket, ready to whip out when needed. — Amy Alipio, assistant managing editor

Find it now at REI and Amazon.

Nite Ize Runoff waterproof phone pouch

I love to kayak and take photos while I’m paddling—I got some amazing shots of a bald eagle in New York State as well as snaps of the Sydney Opera House in Australia. This pouch on a lanyard is like a wet suit or raincoat for my smartphone; it keeps it dry and even floats a little (trust me, I know). I even submerged it to take a video on the Great Barrier Reef earlier this year. — Jennifer Barger, senior editor

Find it now at REI and Amazon.

Knockaround Classic polarized sunglasses

After scratching up a new pair of pricey Ray-Ban aviators in Alaska, I knew I needed something affordable that could withstand my clumsiness for a trip to Abu Dhabi. True to their name, these sunnies (14 unisex styles, plus customizable options) are hardy yet featherlight, easily surviving a drop in desert dunes. And the polarized lenses let me take in the dazzling white marble of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque without squinting. — Anne Kim-Dannibale, senior digital editor

Find it now at Amazon.

(These are the best digital cameras for travelers, according to Nat Geo photo engineers.)

Travel gifts under $25

Philips One by Sonicare battery toothbrush

Although I strive for minimalism in my life, when it comes to toothbrushes, two are better than one. At home, I use the bulky, powerful electric toothbrush my dentist recommended. When I’m traveling, I take this sleek model from the same brand. It works just as well but takes up much less space. The sturdy travel case lets air circulate so the brush can dry out. That was especially nice on a recent vacation through three regions in Turkey that had me packing and unpacking several times. — Maura Friedman, senior photo editor

Find it now at Best Buy and Amazon.

Ben’s Wilderness Formula tick & insect repellent

It’s an unconventional gift, but I would 11/10 recommend giving your outdoorsy friends this spray as a stocking stuffer. I was gifted a travel-size bottle for my recent trip to Botswana, and despite the swarms of mosquitoes, I survived without a bite. Now, I take a bottle with me everywhere. Bonus: It’s TSA carry-on approved and doesn’t leave a sticky residue on the skin. — Starlight Williams, editor

Find it now at REI and Amazon.

Smartwool Hike Classic Edition Full Cushion Second Cut crew socks

The best pair of socks I own are made of yak wool and were knitted for me by a Tibetan woman who worried I’d get frostbite. You can’t have those. My second-best pair come from Smartwool. I’ve worn them everywhere from mountains to deserts. In the snow, the merino wool stays warm, even when wet, and in the scorching heat, they breathe. After days of grinding, they don’t stink! Hang ’em up to air in the tent or hotel room and put ’em on the next day to conquer the world. — Peter Gwin, senior editor

Find it now at Smartwool.

(Here are seven video cameras we love for every kind of traveler.)

*By clicking on the featured links, visitors will leave and be directed to third-party e-commerce sites that operate under different terms and privacy policies. Although we are sharing our personal opinions of these experiences or products with you, National Geographic is not endorsing these experiences or products. It has not performed product safety testing on any of these products, did not manufacture them, and is not selling, or distributing them and is not making any representations about the safety or caliber of these products or experiences. Prices and availability are subject to change from the date of publication.

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