Holiday Gift Guides

The Best Gifts for Travelers, According to Someone Who Basically Lives Out of Hotels

There's a good chance you'll end up buying yourself a few of these things.

Thrillist | Grace Han
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Traveling is a bit different than it's been in the past, but safe travel is still possible and many are still taking to the skies—as evidenced by the TSA's travel numbers.

One of those people is Matt Meltzer, a freelance travel writer who spends more time in the sky than some bird species. He's traveled the world, lived out of hotels, and lives a relatively nomadic existence. Because of this, he has the inside scoop on the best gifts and gear for the globe-trotters in your life.

Here are 13 excellent gifts for travelers, according to someone who literally gets paid to do it.

Thrillist | Grace Han

Sony's Wireless Noise-Cancelling Headphones

Price: $350
Why it's a great gift: "If you’ve got a few hundred bucks to spend on a traveler, these things are invaluable. Not only do they block out the guy three vodka-tonics deep before takeoff, but good ones give your music, show, or movie phenomenal sound quality."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Nice laundry bags

Price: $15
Why it's a great gift: "On a COVID-friendly budget this year but still wanna get them something they’ll use? Mesh laundry bags are around fifteen bucks for the really fancy ones, and make sorting your clothes infinitely easier while traveling."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Multi-use shirts and socks

Price: Varies by brand
Why it's a great gift: "For light packers, these are clutch. I was highly skeptical about these alleged “shirts you never have to wash,” and even more skeptical about socks that made the same claim. Because that's kinda gross, right? But I’ve had a shirt from Unbound Merino for two years now which allows me to bring, literally, one t-shirt on any trip under a week. Ditto for my odorless MP Magic Socks, which cut my traveling socks down to two pairs per trip."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A purifying water bottle

Price: $69.95
Why it's a great gift: "This serves the double purpose of 1) saving you from hours of stomach issues because you brushed your teeth with tap water in Bangalore, and 2) keeping lots and lots of plastic bottles out of landfills. It’s also useful on long, hot hikes where your only water source is a mountain stream that may or may be a favorite bathroom spot for local animals."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A set of SleepPhones

Price: $100
Why it's a great gift: "Noise cancelling headphones may be the crème de la crème of blocking out other people’s noise, but trying to sleep with them on can feel like dozing off with small rodents on your ears. SleepPhones, however, are basically headbands with tiny, thin earbuds inside that wrap comfortably around your head. Pump in some spa music and you’ve basically transported yourself from the window seat to Bali."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A lounge membership

Price: Varies
Why it's a great gift: "Ok so this one isn’t so much a gadget, but may be the best gift you can give someone who spends half their life in airports. Most airport lounges have open bars and free food, so it’s basically like buying your friend drinks and lunch for an entire year. If they have a preferred airline, buy one for its lounge. If not, Priority Pass is in a lot of places too."

Thrillist \ Grace Han

A durable rolling carry-on bag

Price: Usually around $150 - $250
Why it's a great gift: "Once you’ve realized that a high-quality, hard-sided roller bag actually keeps your clothes in better shape than a large suitcase—because there’s less empty space for stuff to get moved around—you’ll really never go back. Check out Away or Delsey."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A portable phone charger

Price: $50
Why it's a great gift: "Sexy, right? Look, nobody’s gonna take pictures of their cool Anker portable charger and send it to all their friends saying how awesome you are. But they will use it every day—and think of you every time."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Lightweight, collapsible running shoes

Price: $60 - $100
Why it's a great gift: "I have size 13 feet and nothing complicates packing more than trying to stuff clown shoes into a backpack. But lightweight running shoes like the Nike Frees take up less room than a T-shirt, and make working out on the road a much simpler proposition."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A high-quality backpack from Carhartt

Price: $70
Why it's a great gift: "Carry-on aficionados know that the term “personal item” means “as much as you can stuff in a soft-sided bag that doesn’t have wheels.” A high-quality day pack from Carhartt, REI, or somewhere similar can carry all the casual wear one needs for a long trip along with a laptop, sunglasses, and 3oz bottles of vodka. And it can last decades if cared for correctly."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Multi-USB port wall charger from Anker

Price: $26
Why it's a great gift: "Travel enough and you’ll realize that sometimes a Motel 6 is actually better technologically equipped than a five-star. Older hotels often have no USB ports and, like, two outlets that are always hidden behind lamps. So a plug with multiple USB ports—or multiple plugs—comes in handy all the time."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Solid hiking boots

Price: $100+
Why it's a great gift: Assuming your traveler likes to do inexplicable stuff like “explore nature” when they’re away, a quality pair of hiking boots makes the difference between a magical experience in nature, and something that feels like a scene from Platoon. Bonus points if the boots can pair nicely with a pair of jeans."

Thrillist | Grace Han

A solid pair of compression socks

Price: $39
Why it's a great gift: "Though I’m a big fan of doing high-knees and barre routines to keep the blood flowing on long flights, well, sometimes other passengers frown on in-flight calisthenics. Compression socks keep blood from pooling in your legs and some—like these nifty Vive Wear ones—even have nanometals in them to promote electrical circulation through your legs."

Thrillist | Grace Han

Packing cubes

Price: $21
Why it's a great gift: "Theoretically, these help a road warrior keep all their stuff in nice, neat cubes so they can find clothes easily and they always stay folded. Just note, they also need to be an already-organized person to get any benefit from this. Otherwise you just end up like me, with a bunch of cubes filled with unfolded, random stuff."

Matt Meltzer is a freelance writer who probably lost another charger in the time it took you to read this. Follow him on Instagram @meltrez1.
Alex Robinson is a writer & editor for Thrillist. The best gift he ever bought himself was a durable carry on. Follow him on Instagram @alexanderrobinson.
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