Travel gear and gadgets to give–and get–this holiday season

Key Points
  • Great holiday gift ideas that will help the travelers on your shopping list stay on course and find new adventures in the coming year.
  • Pocket notebooks, travel-inspired books and calendars and unique gifts from airlines are among the suggested items. 
  • Eatwith, Traveling Spoon and Meal Sharing offer gift certificates to dining-with-locals programs. 
  • Gifts for Good helps companies and corporate gift-buyers find and create gifts that give back in some way to a wide variety of social causes.
Source: Airportag

Pack light. Avoid jet lag. Stay safe, but choose adventure.

These are the oft-repeated mantras of frequent travelers and buying gifts for them is often a challenge.

To get you started on your holiday shopping, we gathered some gear, gadgets and great gift ideas that will help travelers stay on course and find new adventures in the coming year.

Help track great ideas on the go

Source: Field Notes

Yes, smartphones and tablets are great for taking pictures and notes, but what about keeping track of feelings, impressions, sketches, perfect one-liners, overheard snippets of odd conversations and great ideas that arrive out of the blue when you're on the road?

That's why frequent travelers usually carry some sort of pocket notebook and why new and cool ones are great gifts.

In addition to classic and themed planners and notebooks (many of which can be personalized), Moleskine has city-specific notebooks, passion journals and a line of limited-edition pop culture notebooks celebrating David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and others.

Inspired by the promotional memo books seed, tractor and agricultural companies would give away to farmers, the modern-day Field Notes line of small notebooks are loved by detail geeks and hipsters alike. Give a Field Notes e-gift card, a limited-edition set celebrating National Parks, Space expeditions or the band Wilco, or a year-long subscription ($110) that delivers four quarterly mailings with the two sets of the newest limited edition designs and bonus surprises.

Daily travel inspiration

Source: Workman Publishing

Books that inspire and inform travel or offer historical or political context for a planned trip are always great gifts, as are calendars that can serve as daily reminders of favorite destinations and those places still on "want to go" lists.

Here are two books to consider for frequent travelers. The latest edition of Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders (Workman; $37.50) by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, is filled with even more odd, entertaining and must-see spots around the world. Meanwhile, Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design, by Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts (Penguin Books: $30), offers a richly illustrated and detailed story of the development of airline flight maps over a century.

E-calendars are useful, but for marking the days until the next trip, travel-themed calendars are far more fun. Look for the 2020 wall or page-a-day versions ($14.00-$16.99) of "1000 Places to See Before You Die," "Atlas Obscura" and "Rick Steves' Europe."

Delight those devoted to travel

Source: Southwest Airlines

Many airlines, hotels and cruise lines offer plastic, paper or virtual gift cards and certificates that can be used towards booking flights, adventures and stays. The cards are super convenient but be sure to check for restrictions and any expiration rules if you go this route for gifts.

Find special gifts for aviation geeks and travelers devoted to certain airlines on airline company store websites. Southwest Airlines may no longer serve peanuts, but it does sell a retro-style lunchbox with the airline's peanut-pack image on the outside and two 10-ounce bags of peanuts (honey-roasted and lightly salted) inside; ($29.00).

Fans of the new custom-designed uniforms fashion Seattle designer Luly Yang created for Alaska Airlines can purchase Yang-designed socks, sunglasses, scarves, shoes and handbags and weekend bags online at the Alaska Airlines Company Store.

Source: Airportag

Over at the Airportag aviation and travel gift shop, the choices range from travel bags and bedding to fashion, gear, gadgets, art and housewares that all have airport, airline and travel-related themes. Bonus: much of the gear is customizable.

Travel-sized gifting

Source: Travel Pakt

Need to fill some stockings? Travel-sized versions of lotions, potions, snack foods, personal care items and first-aid staples can do the trick. And a box or bag filled with a dozen or more hand-picked travel items makes a great gift.

Travel PAKT creates customized kits of travel-sized toiletries with an eye to sustainable sources, natural ingredients and recyclable or compostable packaging. carries more than 2,500 travel-sized items as well as premade sets, including an Eco-Traveler gift set, an Avid Traveler Essentials Gift Set ($65.48; 60 items), a Business Traveler Kit ($24. 24; 15 items) and a Carry-On Caddy for men ($16.72) or women ($16.10).

Interesting eating

Source: Traveling Spoon

Finding a great restaurant on the road is a treat, but a variety of dining-with-locals programs connects hungry travelers with amateur chefs.

"These programs follow the Airbnb model of connecting travelers with locals worldwide," says Seattle-based travel writer Carol Pucci, "not with a room but with a shared meal in a private home."

Eatwith, Traveling Spoon and (by Dec.15) Meal Sharing are among the programs offering gift certificates that will send your favorite traveler on a tasty new adventure.

Gifts that do good

You feel good giving a gift. The recipient feels good getting a gift. But it doesn't have to end there.

The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic species adoption kits ($55 and up) that include a plush version of one of 100 animals (search by popularity or threat level: extinct, endangered or near threatened) as well as a photo, adoption certificate and a species information card. Gift a "virtual" adoption of animals ranging from African elephants and hammerhead sharks to honeybees and zebras. The funds go to saving animals that travelers may get to see in the wild.

Gifts for Good helps companies and corporate gift-buyers find and create gifts that give back in some way to a wide variety of social causes. Travel-related gifts include everything from socks adorned with world maps ($14.95) to stainless steel water bottles ($25) and upcycled backpacks made from old vinyl billboards ($68). Some, but not all, items on this site have minimum orders.

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