Travel in 2020 has looked very different than any other year, so the most useful travel gifts might just be the ones that your favorite travel-lover can use even closer to home. We’re all spending more time exploring our own backyards and finding renewed passion for outdoor activities.
So without further ado, here are our top picks for useful travel gifts for families on the move – and you’ll also find inspiration for each family member including the best travel gifts for kids, gifts for female travelers and even travel gifts for him!
- The most useful family travel gifts for families with little kids
- Best travel gifts for kids
- Travel gifts for outdoorsy families
- Best gifts for frequent travelers
- Best travel electronics to gift
- The best cheap gifts for travelers
- Gifts for female travelers
- Best travelling gifts for him
- Win $100 from our partners at Rakuten!
The most useful family travel gifts for families with little kids
A great travel stroller – and accessories!
Every family needs a solid, practical stroller and for families who travel we think the best stroller for travel is the Baby Jogger City Mini (also check prices here). We also loved its slightly beefier sibling, the GT version (also check prices here), that we owned as a double. Ours traveled the whole world with us and always miraculously came back in one piece, but it’s just a great when you’re using it in the neighborhood or even on local paved or packed dirt trails.
It has a huge canopy to keep kids protected from even tropical sun, handles cobblestones like a champ, lies flat for diaper changes in a discreet corner of the piazza (because there are never changing tables in restaurants and museums when you need them), and sits upright enough for those late-night highchair-unavailable dinners in Spain.
It’s also light and compact enough that I once jumped off a train that was about to leave the station with the City Mini’s handle hanging from my pinky – clearly a great lightweight stroller for travel!
For families who will want to keep focusing on exploring the outdoors with kids even as the weather turns, nothing beats a high-quality stroller muff. It’s basically a toasty-warm sleeping bag that’s specially designed for your stroller. You can still use the straps to secure your child and you have the option to open or close it partway depending on the temperature.
You can also help baby’s parents stay warm out on the trail with these awesome stroller gloves. I wish we’d had them for some of our frigid winter trips!
There’s also a whole new generation of ultra-compact travel strollers that make the perfect baby gifts for traveling parents who can’t wait to get back to flying later next year. They fold down small enough to fit in the overhead bin on many flights, so parents won’t have to worry about strollers being lost or damaged – or hanging out at the top of the jetway for twenty minutes with cranky kids. Some of the most popular ones in our Tiny Globetrotters Facebook group are the Mountain Buggy Nano, Zoe XLC, Babyzen YOYO+ and Uppababy Minu.
Even more awesome baby gifts for traveling parents
The coolest travel tricycle
This is one that I wish had existed when my kids were little! For growing toddlers who don’t need a stroller full-time anymore, make their dreams come true with the Doona Liki Trike. You can start using it as early as 10 months with the included harness, sunshade, and reclining seat and arm rests – and the all-important parent steering bar!
As your child grows, you can gradually remove and swap out different components until it becomes a fully-independent high-quality tricycle for kids up to 3 years old.
So why is it on a list of travel gifts for kids? Because this thing is so rad that folds down small enough to fit in the overhead bin of a plane! That means your toddler who claims he’s too old for a stroller but still really needs one can happily bring his Liki Trike along for your next family vacation – even if you’re the one who’s in control.
An awesome baby carrier
While we love our stroller, there are times when you need a different weapon in your arsenal. Whether you’re hiking in Panama or exploring little towns in Tuscany, your family deserves a great baby (or toddler) carrier to help you through your travels. Most travelers prefer a “soft structured carrier” and our recommendation after trying many brands goes to Tula. They’re extremely supportive, they’re stylish, and they come in a range of models to fit your families needs, no matter which stage. This is one of the best travel gifts for parents who like to get a little off the beaten path.
You can also look for great deals on Tula carriers at Target this season – they’re often included in big sale events.
We have personally used and loved the original standard size (fits approximately 6 months to 2.5 years) and the original toddler size (fits 2.5 – 5 years, but in a pinch I could probably still give Jacob a ride) – we have this one with us for our family gap year! There are also two newer models available: Explore (fits newborn to 2.5 years with three different seat width settings) and Tula Coast Explore (same sizing as the Explore, but with a mesh panel to keep parent and child cooler on hot days). If I was buying now for our family, I’d also consider a new toddler-sized Lillebaby CarryOn Airflow!
A lightweight travel car seat
Do you want to really make your favorite jet-setting family happy? Given them the gift of not lugging 25lbs of car seat through the airport (along with 25 or 30lbs of kid). Get them the best travel car seat for their family’s needs – our favorite is the awesome, lightweight Combi Coccoro, but you can find even more recommendations by age and stage on our sister site Travel Car Seat Mom. Or grab another amazing travel gift for parents like the Ride Safer travel vest (min 3yo, read full review here) or the Bubblebum inflatable booster seat (min 4yo, read full review here).
Best travel gifts for kids
You can find tons of great ideas in our bargain gift guide for kids! Here are a few that we’re loving right now.
Mess-free art supplies
If your family is doing a lot of road tripping or taking long flights, check out this awesome on-the-go art kit from Crayola. It’s from their Color Wonder line, so there no mess! It offers a hard surface for drawing and easy access to both paper and markers. You need to use matching Color Wonder markers (I recommend the mini marker size so you can fit more) and Color Wonder coloring books, but the markers won’t draw anywhere they aren’t supposed to. There are tons of options for coloring books to appeal to all kids, or you can get them some blank papers for free-form art. Even when you’re at home, this is a great way to keep kids occupied when you’re on a Zoom call!
Tegu travel sets
Our kids are just getting into Tegu blocks, but they’re bigger than LEGO and magnetic so they’re less likely to get lost. They also work our kids’ brains in a different way! We’d love to have some of these travel sets to bring along for flights, road trips and restaurants (and they’re often marked waaaay down for Cyber Monday!). I especially love the new Tegu jet plane in their Travel Pals line up.
Fortunately Tegu is such a high-quality toy that it’ll have a long lifespan for both travel and home use. Some kids even like to fidget with them for a “brain break” during online school.
Clip-on book light
Now that we have an avid reader, we love giving him a way to stay entertained screen-free during our many long flights and road trips – or even to read at night when he’s sharing a room with his little sister. Grab one of these adorable book light/bookmark combos for your bookworm and we promise it’ll be a big hit in a small package!
Travel puzzles and games
We picked up a few small puzzles, each in its own tin, in Target’s dollar section and they’ve been great for the whole family! The ones we have range from 24-48 pieces and they’re themed to all of the kids’ favorite movies. Likewise, an UNO deck has gotten us through many slow meals abroad – check out this new double-dury version. One of our favorites, a gift before we left the country for our gap year, is Table Topics – they definitely get the kids engaged in conversation and have even inspired us to come up with some questions of our own!
The best kids headphones
We’re devastated that we finally abused the kids’ headphones enough that they broke, but that’s on us rather than them – one pair lasted a solid 4 years and dozens of flights. What makes these the best headphones for kids?
First, they actually fit kids. You wouldn’t believe how many pairs we tried that were just too big, even though our kids aren’t even babies or toddlers anymore. Second, they sound good and they’re loud enough. Some kids’ headphones have serious decibel limiters that are lovely in theory but make them inaudible on flights where the airplane engine noise can get in the way.
We prefer the wired version so that we don’t have to remember to charge them or worry about them dying during flights to the other side of the word; if your flights or shorter or you think your kids will be irritated by the wires, there’s a bluetooth version available for just a few dollars more. I know what our kids will be receiving for the holidays!
Now that we spend a lot more time at home and the kids are spending much of that time online (Hello, Zoom school!) we’ve added a pair of wireless headphones to their rotation. They fit a little bigger than the headphones above and are best for elementary school ages.
In addition to a wire-free experience, they offer really nice padding to keep kids comfortable even through house of continuous wear. The charge lasts through an entire school day and they fold up pretty compactly, so these are a solid choice for long travel days. You just have to remember to charge them! In case you forget, you can use the included 3.5mm cable and connect them as you would a wired headset. Overall, we’ve been very impressed.
Kids travel backpack
What should your kid put everything in? Today’s school backpacks are usually way too big for most young kids to carry, so many kids will be thrilled to have their very own dedicated travel backpack. There are two top contenders to look at: the REI Tarn series and Osprey Packs’ new kids options.
Our kids have been using the REI Tarn 12 and REI Tarn 18 since they were 3 and 6, respectively. It’s a really solid series, offering just the right amount of storage and organization for young kids. They don’t include hydration bladders and hoses but you can add them on (as we’ve done). Compared to the same-capacity Osprey backpacks, they’re a little shorter and wider so they fit better on more petite kids like mine.
The other venerable options in kids travel backpacks are made by Osprey Packs. The lineup has changed a little in the past year, but the two main options now are the Osprey Daylite Kids (10L) and Osprey Jet 18. These two couldn’t be more different! The Daylite Kids is a fairly simple pack that’s geared toward the preschool and early elementary set, while the redesigned Jet 18 is a top-load hiking backpack complete with a hip belt and attachment points for trekking poles or carabiners. Both can accept a hydration bladder, though based on reviews I’d stick with this one rather than Osprey’s offering.
Our kids are total divas about their sunglasses and can never have (or lose) enough pairs. Grab them a cool looking pair (plenty of color choices!) without paying a premium – with the added benefit that the polarization cuts glare and makes it easier to see rainbows, swimming creatures and more.
Inspiring travel books for kids
Reading books about other kids who travel is an awesome way to prepare your kids for a life of adventure, even if they can’t go far for a while. Whether the books are about the specific places you’re visiting or travel in general, travel fiction books are a great way to inspire and open their imaginations. Check out some of our favorite travel book series for kids:
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Travel gifts for outdoorsy families
National Parks Pass
Experiences over things, right? Give your favorite outdoor-loving family an America the Beautiful National Parks Pass to keep them exploring all year long! We guarantee they’ll be surprised and delighted. The is one of our favorite family gift ideas for the whole family since it really encourages experiences over things.
See more great gifts for National Park lovers!
A good pair of binoculars
We find that a good pair of binoculars makes so many activities more fun! Bird watching, hiking, and eco-tours are all more engaging for kids and adults when it’s easier to see the action like it’s right in front of you. We have this pair and they’re great for the whole family to use.
Out kids love having their own right-sized Camelbak to get them through hikes and long outings! It’s both practical and fun. Check out all the great colors here! You can often find excellent sales here too.
Travel towel set
I bought my first travel towel when I started traveling over a decade ago, and somehow as a backpacker in my early 20s I managed with something that is only about the size of the aforementioned packing cubes.
Bully for me.
Now that we’re grown ups, I bought us a family set of travel towels and they have been extremely handy during our family trip around the world! Like our stay on a remote tropical island, or that time our rental apartment didn’t include linens or towels. This set that we bought includes one huge towel, one that’s perfect for kids, and a third that’s small enough to take anywhere and just the right size for carefully wiping sand out of preschool-sized eyes. Ask me how I know.
Best gifts for frequent travelers
Packing cubes for organization
Packing cubes must be one of the best travel innovations of all time.They make it easy to keep the whole family’s clothing organized, see who’s running low on underwear, and get unpacked and repacked quickly at each destination. The eBags medium packing cubes are our favorite size and we’d consider these as essential gifts for someone traveling. Since we tend to pack light, for a normal two-week trip the kids and I each just need one medium (Ronnie usually needs a bit more space since men’s clothing tends to be bulkier).
I’m usually so practical that I wouldn’t spend a ton of money on something like a toiletry kit, but I recently realized that our family’s toiletry kit is nearly 20 years old. And it still works perfectly and looks almost new. So three cheers for Tumi for making products of exceptional quality. They no longer make the exact model (and I’d have no idea what it’s called anyway, as Ronnie received it as a high school graduation present) but this one is pretty similar in its features and materials. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly gift for a traveler, this eBags model offers lots of great features at a bargain price tag.
I am sadly not a scrapbooker, nor am I especially good at printing photo albums. When I saw this cork globe at my brother’s house, covered in tiny pictures they’ve attached to each location with a push pin, I knew it would be a great addition to our list as one of the more unique travel gifts but still with a dose of practicality. These make absolutely perfect gifts for travel lovers!
Looking for more ideas? Check out these other gift guides:
–10 unique travel-themed home decor gifts
–Best gifts for National Parks lovers
–Romantic gifts for travel lovers
–Our favorite travel essentials
–Inspiring books for travelers
Best travel electronics to gift
Amazon Fire tablets
You will have to pry our tablets out of our cold, germ-infested, jet-lagged hands… and you still probably won’t be able to get them away from us. They make flights with the kids extremely easy and give us even more resources for roadschooling the kids during our extended family travel.
There are lots of models available these days, but we think the sweet spot balancing features and cost is the new Amazon Fire HD8 – great screen, long battery life, fast performance, decent storage, and only $80! Perhaps our favorite feature of Amazon’s tablets is the library program, which is a relationship between most public library systems in the US and Amazon’s free Kindle reading app.
We also love the breadth of free Kindle Fire apps for toddlers – you can check out the best apps for toddlers (and why we think the Fire is the best tablet for toddlers) here. Us grown ups love them because, in addition to the free library books, we can download all of our favorite Amazon Prime video content to take on long flights. Not a Prime member yet? Try a month for free!
Subscription to Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Music
If you’re looking to a great gift for a book-loving traveler who already has a tablet, why not give them as many books as they want? The Kindle Unlimited subscription costs $10 per month and grants access to over a million books, magazines and audiobooks. Try a month for free… for “research”.
Amazon has also launched a subscription version of their popular music streaming service and we love it. There’s a huge catalog of songs and we can stream it on any of our devices where we’ve installed the Amazon Music app.
The best feature? You can download your favorites to listen when you’re on a plane or road tripping in areas without internet coverage. Amazon Music Unlimited served us in good stead during our 6000 mile cross-country roadtrip, whether we wanted adult music or the kids’ favorite Disney soundtracks. Now that we’re more settled, we love having a huge catalog of music around the house with our Amazon Echo Dots.
You can opt to gift the individual plan ($79 per year) or the family plan ($149 per year, but streams on up to 6 devices at a time). Try it for yourself free for a month!
GoPro or other action camera
I’ll admit that the current generation of action cameras look amazing. The results are just stunning. I didn’t have the stomach for the price tag (which can get hefty once you add in accessories) or the space to take it all along on our big trip, but a GoPro and underwater housing would make an amazing gift for adventurous travelers. There are also some great budget action cameras you can check out that seem to work almost as well at a fraction of the price! Check out our hands-on review of one of the best cheap GoPro alternatives.
Unless you’re a professional photographer, chances are you’d rather carry a compact camera than a multi-pound digital SLR rig. There are some amazing options available now! The two primary options are “bridge” cameras, which have are one-piece (fixed lens) but lots of manual options and great zoom capability, or mirrorless system cameras with interchangeable lenses but smaller bodies than DSLRs. We have a mirrorless Olympus OMD EM-10 and we’re really impressed with the breadth of the lens selection (I’m hoping to add this one next), but the newer Olympus PEN is even smaller and packed with great features. If you prefer the best compact bridge camera, check out the Panasonic Lumix ZS70K.
The best cheap gifts for travelers
Even if you don’t have much to spend on each recipient, you can still find travel-inspired gifts they’ll love! These all make great stocking stuffers for travelers.
An inspiring book
There’s no better way to start off a new journey than with an inspiring travel book, whether memoir or fiction. Check out these top travel books that are on my personal reading list. One of the best gifts I received before embarking on our gap year was this incredible travel-adventure memoir. The good news is that most of these books are inexpensive enough that they won’t break your holiday gifting budget!
Adorable (and affordable) luggage tags
We are forever running out of luggage tags! We change up our backpack/suitcase configuration all the time based on the needs of each trip, but we always seem to show up at the airport with at least one lonely, untagged bag. Give your favorite traveler (or yourself) the gift of never running out of them. At just over $1 each in this set, you can afford to gift one or two to every traveler in your life.
If you’re giving a travel stocking stuffer to someone with more of a vintage flair, they’ll love these 1950s vintage valise-inspired luggage tags!
Packable grocery bags
We always try to save money when we travel by staying in apartments through HomeExchange or Airbnb, and buying our own groceries to cook at home is a big part of the budget travel equation! But as good little global citizens, we always try to bring our own fold away shopping bag to eliminate waste. In many countries, it’s not even optional – an unexpectedly large grocery run in Chile resulted in a huge box of groceries placed in our trunk! We love to travel with this awesome foldable shopping bag in a pouch.
USB power strip
Put this on the list of things I wish we had brought around the world. In this day and age, every family member has at least one (or two or three) device that needs to be charged, and of course always at the same time. You could buy four plug adapters for each region you’re visiting, or just bring one really good global power adapter and a tiny USB powerstrip that allows you to connect everyone’s devices at the same time.
This version is is even more robust – it offer surge protection and better power output. And see that slot in the middle? It’s a stand for your phone or tablet to watch a movie quietly once the kids are tucked in. Genius.
External battery pack
We use our phones for everything these days when we travel. Google Maps, Tripadvisor, Skyscannner, Instagram and of basics like snapping photos and videos along the way. My phone battery is pretty much always having a near-death experience. I would be totally sunk without our external battery packs – we brought four different ones on our round-the-world trip. My favorite (and the most giftable) is this high-quality, durable model from Anker. It’s tiny, it works great and the fit-and-finish can’t be beat. We have the compact version that’s good for 3350 mAh, but there’s also a slightly larger 5000 mAh version. Don’t forget a short cable to plug into the phone.
Find more awesome gift ideas for the whole family at Gifting Genie
Gifts for female travelers
Top-secret cell phone case
So often when traveling abroad, I’d rather not cart around anything extra like, you know, a wallet. One of my favorite finds before our gap year was this awesome cell phone case that can secretly stash two cards in the back compartment. From the outside it’s hard to tell that there’s anything unusual about it! So many times, I was able to travel light and secure. Ronnie has one too, which allowed us to easily separate our cards to make sure we were covered if something happened.
What could be more qualified as a “useful gift” than socks? But these are no ordinary socks – high-quality merino wool socks keep your feet dry and stink-free even after multiple wears thanks to their anti-microbial properties. SmartWool makes awesome wool socks for every need – from thick, cozy hiking socks to the best no-show socks around. For our gap year I brought two of these to wear with my TOMS Avalons, two of these to wear with my hiking shoes (the higher coverage is nice to protect my foot from the tongue of the shoe) and one warmer pair for hiking in Patagonia.
“Mary Poppins” bag
I love my Lo&Sons OMG! This bag is so great that it traveled halfway around the world with us! Sometimes it feels bottomless – it holds my 15” MacBook Pro, my Amazon Fire tablet, camera gear (including another lens), an emergency med kit, my makeup case and so much more. The updated large OG 2 would also make a perfect bag for a solo weekend away if you travel light like I do! The quality is excellent and I can’t recommend this bag enough.
Another fabulous high-quality brand I’ve been using for years is Logan + Lenora. Their bags’ super power is that every one comes with a built-in waterproof compartment. And we’re not just talking about some thing water resistant nylon, this stuff is heavy duty. We love our Logan + Lenora daytripper for beach days! It’s been in heavy use for five years and still works like new.
Here are a few of my favorite products from the current Logan + Lenora collection:
Ok, so here’s one of a few exceptions to my rule about recommending things I’ve tried. I really really want one of these awesome purses that disguises a mirrorless camera inside! There are so many beautiful options these days and I will have one eventually. Please?
Longchamps LePilage folding tote bag
Notice a theme? What can I say? I enjoy practical bags that look great. As I showed off in my Croatia packing list, It holds enough for a compact carry-on, but doesn’t look so book that it’s out of place for daily wear. Check out all the rich classic colors this season.
My sunglasses were the one thing I forgot back in the US while packing and it was hard to find nice quality shades overseas without spending an arm and a leg.
Shampoo/conditioner bars and tins
We used shampoo bars on our year-long trip and they are amazing for long-term travel. They also smell great. No more leaky bottles in the toiletry kit, and this gift set is an affordable hostess or gift exchange option. Don’t forget a tin to keep it safe!
Best travelling gifts for him
A just-in-case backpack
There have been so many times during our travels when we’ve unexpectedly needed and extra bag of some sort. When our buddies at Tortuga sent us their latest packable backpack to check out, I wondered if it could really be that different than other similar products we’ve tried (and not liked) in the past. The verdict is in: it’s a total winner!
We love the padded straps for more comfortable carrying and the slightly structured back panel that prevents it from collapsing on itself while you’re wearing it. As a small detail, the branding is much more discrete for those of us who prefer not to have cheap screen-printed logos peeling off of our stuff a day after we buy it. Despite the structured back, it still packs down small and light. We both carried it during our travels and found it comfortable and stylish. The $39 price tag is perfect for gifting! Check it out here and pick one up for your favorite traveler.
A life-changing book to read
When I asked Ronnie what he wanted to add to our updated gift guide, this book was the first thing that popped out of his mouth. He read it near the end of our gap year and felt like it helped him focus on what was really important by cutting out other distractions. Putting its strategies in place will hopefully help some of the workaholic dads (and moms) in your life carve out more time for family travel.
This could just as easily go for moms. Indeed, I use our Leatherman more than anyone else in the family so this could be the best travel gifts for him or her. No matter who uses it, if the travelers you love generally check a bag for long trips, a compact Leatherman multitool will serve them well for so many situations. We’ve used ours for opening packages, repairing the stroller (twice) and attempting to fix Jacob’s jacket (one-and-a-half times).
Travelon Heritage/Urban bag
Ladies don’t get all the bag fun, right? Traveling men need a secure place to keep their passports, cameras, guidebooks and water bottles too. Ronnie really wanted one with a slash-proof strap and body, especially for our times in cities where petty theft is common. It was a bit of a struggle to find one that we would both be (mostly) willing to carry, but in the end Ronnie’s heart was won by Travelon’s new line. Check them out!
It seems that growing a “travel beard” is a rite of passage, but that doesn’t mean that Travel Dad has to look unkempt! Ronnie got this cordless electric beard trimmer before we left on our family gap year and he’s been using it almost every day. He told me to put it on this list as one of the best travel gift ideas for him, so it must be one of his favorite travel items!
Win $100 from our partners at Rakuten!
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4 thoughts on “The most useful travel gifts for families”
I keep seeing these travel cubes everywhere. With four kids I really think I need to invest in some, to make packing less stressful
I love our travel cubes! Best investment ever.
What about one of those lap desk things for the kids to color/craft on in the car?? Any suggestions?
Yes! Our kids love this one and I’ve been planning to add it to the list 🙂