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.
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.
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."
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."
Multi-use shirts and socksPrice: 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."
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."
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."
A lounge membershipPrice: 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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."
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."