The Best Unique Travel Gifts for Your Globetrotting Friend
Every friend group has that one buddy who can compare the coffee from coast to coast, drop the names of obscure cities in the Ozarks, and has probably made out on an Emirates flight. They’re busy. They’re worldly. They’re a lot of things, but they’re mostly always traveling.
What do you give the person who spends half their week in transit? When your world is whatever space your Amtrak cabin allows, you have to be choosy with your schlepping; when you’re moving in between airports, metros, and everything else on wheels, it’s hard not to turn into this guy:
We want to help, because either you’re the one reading this on a JetBlue flight (IYKYK) who deserves a silky eye mask, or one of your pals is about to fly down to the Men in Music Business Conference, down in Orlando, and they’re only 19, so they’re going to need a better roller suitcase. Whether you’re looking for the best travel gifts for men, women, boyfriends, bosses, moms, doms, or space-exploring billionaires (a reality check, perhaps?), here’s a list of our top picks for the best and most unique travel gifts. Bon voyage.
The best luggage gifts
If your traveling friend is still using the athletic bag they were issued in high school as their primary luggage situation, it’s time for some zhuzhing. Away makes arguably the dopest bags in the game right now, with an emphasis on taking the “lug” out of luggage. The Everywhere Bag and F.A.R Duffle 55L are swoll with compartments for safely stashing all of their stuff as they dash to their gate.
Away’s signature carry-on comes in 11 colorways, including this deep electric blue rolly from its Y2K-inspired collection, which makes a sassy nod to “the frost and gloss of the early 2000s.” It has a durable exterior, a compression pad for clothes, and wheels that spin out in every direction (so your giftee won’t have to).
Is your traveler always busy sipping something, and looking to charge their phone? Wrangler makes some super-affordable smart luggage, which has not only a USB port, but also a cup holder for your airport Starbucks oat milk chai. And you can snag it for under a hundred bucks, in non-boring colors like burnt orange and olive green.
This slick little carry-on is one of Amazon’s best-sellers, and it boasts a 4.5-star average rating from over 9,000 reviews. As one fan writes, “Bottom line, this is an excellent option for the money,” because it’s lightweight, expandable, and equipped with multi-directional double-spinner wheels.
Can you have a crush on a suitcase? July’s luggage is a 1970s dream. Just look at that bright green shell and those slick wheels.
The best packing cubes
We’ve all tossed random items into our suitcases to catch a morning flight. But it’s almost 2024, so it’s time to get our sh*t together. Packing cubes organize everything and make it possible to fit more stuff into your luggage by condensing it. Just think about skipping bag check for the rest of your life! Calpak’s five-piece set comes in 18 different colorways and patterns to pack smarter—and in style. Need an extra cube? Away has a six-piece waterproof set in case of an impromptu lube spill.
The best luggage tags
Your pal could always use another snazzy luggage tag to help them spot their precious cargo. Opt flames, neon, or any pattern that will stand out at baggage claim/whilst they pound down a margarita at The Filling Station at LAX.
Stay comfortable while in transit
It’s nearly impossible to enter a deep REM slumber when you’re hitting turbulence every five seconds, but you can at least stay comfy with this eerily realistic 3D shrimp neck pillow.
Nobody likes paying $7 for a bottle of Evian at Hudson News, but it’s very easy to get dehydrated up in the friendly skies, where there’s lower humidity. Solve this conundrum by bringing your own adult sippy cup—the ultra-popular Stanley Quencher—and filling it up post-security.
The best portable umbrella
Nothing puts a damper on a trip more than getting soaked before a four-hour Amtrak ride (been there, done that). The Samsonite Windguard Auto Umbrella withstands aggressive winds, keeps you dry as a bone, and is very compact at only 12 inches when folded. It’s an editor fave and has survived being turned inside out way too many times.
The best travel toiletries
The free bar of soap in the hotel bathroom is the definition of sad—as well as a recipe for dry, vacation-ruining skin. Elevate your friend’s hotel stay with an Aesop travel kit featuring luxe skincare essentials in the brand’s iconic scents.
The inability to do laundry while away is a struggle, especially when you spill marinara sauce on your only Going Out shirt. Tide’s Liquid Travel Sink Packets save the day when there’s no access to a washing machine.
They’re a bookworm
Why bring a hard copy of War and Peace when they can bring a truckload of their favorite titles with an ultra-lightweight Kindle? The OG model is the most compact of the lineup, which means it can easily be toted around, given it weighs less than six ounces.
The best compression socks
Walking up and down the aisle trying to shake off a Charley horse is embarrassing and annoying. Avoid this humiliation ritual by boosting circulation with a pair of compression socks. Bombas is already a sock lord, so we have high hopes for these to relieve achy legs during your nine-hour flight to Italy.
The best portable alarm clocks
Look, we know you’re about to remind us that wE cAn JusT uSe ThE onE oN oUr PhoNes, but look at how sick these are! Plus, you’ll give your giftee peace of mind knowing that these will still ring if you fall asleep without charging your phone. Maybe it’s the seafoam green colorway, but this Peakeep Battery Travel Alarm Clock feels like it would be a comforting thing to see on your nightstand when you rise and grind.
Never lose luggage again
Did Spirit Airlines lose your pal’s suitcase yet again? If only they’d had one of Apple’s insanely popular AirTags, they could take matters into their own hands and track their bag without waiting on hold for answers about its whereabouts.
The best clip-on camera lens
Two bummers in life: looking like shit on video calls, and realizing how quickly camera phone photos feel dated when you revisit shots from your 2014 trip to Tokyo and realize they look like pixelated garbage. One solution to rule them all: a clip-on lens that you can use on both your webcam and your cell to instantly widen perspective and improve image quality.
The best sleep masks for travel
The right eye mask will help you sleep in a train, plane, automobile, hotel bathtub, or floor of your friend’s apartment on a particularly noisy block of Bed-Stuy. A massive chunk of the VICE shopping team owns the Brooklinen eye mask. It’s so silky, that you might try to drink it, but just coddle your peepers with it to pretend you’re still in bed when you’re on your second layover.
Blissy makes an equally smooth Mulberry mask in silver that says, “Take one breath in, and one breath out.”
The best crossbody travel bags
We don’t know about y’all, but we lose, like, four water bottles and at least one pair of earbuds a year—and we’re not proud of it. Who knows where our items of the past lie? Not us. Anyway, a little crossbody bag is the ideal way to keep even more of your stuff strapped to your chest and within reach without bringing (another) carry-on on the plane.
The best lightweight personal bags
No one is asking, but if you want a hot tip from our team that is based on years of schlepping around JFK with bags that are heavier than their contents: go for a lightweight “personal item” bag. Your back will thank you. Those gift-with-purchase tote bags are fine, but not ideal for withstanding spilled water bottles and getting hoisted through security. That, my friend, is what über lightweight and easily packable puffer material is for. We’re down to clown with anything on the P Train, and are especially smitten with the Eillys puffer shoulder bag that is pure softboi Minecraft sorcery.
The best portable face misters
Getting your face Jungle Cruise-levels of misted and moisturized feels amazing, but no one tells you that water, for all of its literal wetness, will just end up drying out your face even more. The French skincare brand Caudalie, however, has made a mini mister that uses antioxidant-rich grape water instead to keep you looking as glowy and fresh as Dionysus on a spa day.
If you have especially oily skin, Tower28’s refreshing facial spray uses hypochlorous acid, which your body naturally creates to fight skin flare-ups and bacteria. The SOS spray has also received the National Eczema Association’s Seal of Acceptance, so you know it will still be gentle.
The best portable chargers
We won’t talk later, Brad. We’re finishing this conversation right now because we gave you not one but two portable chargers in this bundle, which is the JUICE. As one reviewer writes, “These charged a total of four cell phones quickly off a single charge. Plenty of battery left for us to be able to take pictures of the fireworks at the end of the evening.”
You may not be able to lend your boo a hand when they’re traveling out about in the world, but you can lend them a paw. Cheers to a unique—and adorable—travel gift.
The best tech travel bag
Chargers, power banks, cords, dongles… does it ever end, people?!??!?! Probably not [sobbing emoji] which is why this smart tech case can help a traveler save a lot of time in hunting down converters and cables.
The best noise-canceling wireless headphones
There are a lot of great headphones and earbuds out there, depending on what you’re looking for: booming bass, a soundtrack for running, a steady stream of white noise (or nothingness). This set of wireless headphones is not only affordable but approved by VICE editor Hilary Pollack. As she writes in this VICE article, “I truly love that they show you how much battery life you have left right on the case, and that they pair so easily with my phone, computer, and even gym equipment (and to reiterate, they’re THIRTY-FIVE BUCKS!). No wonder they have 57,000+ reviews on Amazon.”
If you’re ready to splurge on your traveling gnome, AirPods Pro are the best on the market right now. They’re spensi, sure, but your giftee will be using these every day.
Of course, if you’re on a tighter budget (or this is a more casual relationship), you’ve still got unique travel gift options that feel swanky but don’t cost a lot of money—like this combo headphone eye mask, which is pretty much genius and has more than 8,000 enthusiastically positive reviews.
The best travel cocktail kit
Whether your friend needs a stiffener because they get a little nervous in the air, or they just like to knock one back to help them drift off before they hit cruising altitude, each of these W&P Design Carry-On cocktail sets is TSA-compliant and contains everything you need to mix two top-shelf drinks without getting a beverage cart smashed into your knee.
The best discreet sex toys
In case you haven’t been paying attention, we’re huge stans of traveling with sex toys. Anecdotally, TSA has never whipped out any of our big ass dildos whilst we go through airport security, but sometimes, you don’t have space in your luggage for Big Bertha. That’s where discreet sex toys cum in handy—take this Dame Fin finger vibrator, for example. It’s the size of your pinkie, and comes with an optional tether that attaches to your finger for added control. Or, perhaps you’d rather bring along the We-Vibe Bond Remote Vibrating Penis Ring for some spank sessions in the local Marriott? After all, it’s waterproof, rechargeable, and has 10 intensity levels that’ll get you off before continental breakfast, with time to spare.
Ava’s compact but powerful wand is also perfect for solo or partner play so you join the mile-high club.
The Rec Room staff independently selected all of the stuff featured in this story. Want more reviews, recommendations, and red-hot deals? Sign up for our newsletter.
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