Are you shopping for gifts for people who love to travel, and you’re not sure what to get? Here are the top gifts for travelers in 2018; a collection of items ranging from less than $20 to over $100.
Included this year is a way-cool ultralight backpack, clothing (for men and women), custom sandals/insoles (also for men and women) – that changed my life(!), tripods, passport wallets, and even a collection of travel experiences that will definitely be remembered by the avid traveler in your life.
(And if you’re anything like me, you’re reading this post as much for yourself as you are looking for gifts for travel lovers. That’s okay, I won’t tell.)
How did I pick these items from the enormous selection of unique travel gifts and gear available? From personal experience, is how.
Every year, I test-drive a variety of travel-related products and services. Most of them I receive for free or for a discount, and the best of them (or most noteworthy, for better or worse!) I review here.
Below is a collection of everything noteworthy that I tested out in 2018. In a few cases, if you click through and make a purchase using the links here, I will receive a small commission. It doesn’t affect your cost, but it certainly does affect my life and livelihood, and my ability to continue to produce high-quality content for you, for free. Thank you in advance for your support!
On with the show! Happy shopping.
Wiivv was the find of the year (and possibly the decade) for me. After months of suffering from plantar fasciitis followed immediately by fallen arches, every single step of every day involved varying degrees of pain. (And when I’m on the road, I’m all about discovering my destination by walking it. So this was the kiss of death). Luckily, just before succumbing to expensive and clunky orthotics, Wiivv “stepped in” to save the day.
There’s so much I can say about these puppies. Let’s cover the basics:
- After using their app to take pictures of your feet, Wiivv digitally maps your feet to 200 points and 3D prints your custom sandals/insoles.
- The sandal straps are seamless, cushioned, and adjustable, and the toe thong is soft-knit instead of hard plastic. I normally chafe or blister with new sandals; this didn’t happen.
- You can select your custom colour scheme/design. (They even print your name on the sandals and insoles; it’s super cute).
- The arch support is unreal. (It actually takes some getting used to, but now….omg).
- The deep heel cup stabilizes your heel and absorbs shock.
- They are free to try for 30 days, and there’s a 1-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Wiivv’s close-loop recyclable footbeds mean they don’t have to end up in landfills/oceans. Wear them out and send them back to be made into future sandals. Yay for the environment!
- Wiivv makes sandals and insoles for both Men and Women.
I could go on. In fact, shall I? I shall. Here’s why Wiivv’s technology is important for you and your feet:
- Improperly supported feet lead to not only foot fatigue and other foot-related problems, but it triggers a chain causing further pain and complications in the ankles, shins, knees, hips, and back. It all starts with the feet.
- Suffer from plantar fasciitis? Wiivv insoles and sandals just might be the antidote.
- Wouldn’t it be nice to finish a big day of travel involving miles of walking without having tired achy feet? Yes, it is nice.
- Got flat feet? Wiivv’s Biomechanic Smart Filters identify flat feet and map a supportive arch to help you better align and reduce uneven loading/pressure.
- High arches? Wiivv has you covered here too, providing weight distribution and pressure across your entire foot’s surface.
If it’s sandals you’re specifically interested in (and you’re not convinced yet), I encourage you to read about some more specifics in my epic Travel Sandals post (like, a guy actually ran the Boston Marathon in them).
But sometimes you just have to put on actual shoes, and that’s what Wiivv’s insoles are for. I got the 3/4 length insoles so they can fit into absolutely any shoe, from heels to runners.
So between my sandals and insoles, I have a new spring in my step…..literally. They saved me from debilitating foot pain, and from having to get expensive custom orthotics. As long as I have my insoles, I can wear whatever shoes I like! Not a day goes by when I’m not grateful to have Wiivv’s custom sandals and insoles, on the road and at home.
If you’re not sure what to get the traveler in your life, but you want something that will make an impact, then head over to Tinggly. They’re not in the travel gear business, so much as travel experiences.
It’s a unique way to provide a travel experience for somebody while still giving them the ultimate choice to pick their perfect experience and location. Tinggly currently has 19 gift collections (with more added regularly), each collection containing hundreds of experiences available around the world. From diving with sharks, to the world’s highest bungee jump, to the world’s oldest yoga retreat centre, to a gondola ride in Venice, there’s something for every type of traveler.
All you have to do is order one of these collections to be delivered as a physical gift box or e-voucher. Then, the recipient can choose whatever experience within the collection they want to do!
While it does seem to me that some of these experiences are a wee bit overpriced, that’s what you get for providing somebody with a travel experience in some far flung destination without actually being there to book it. It’s not like you could scour the streets of Thailand to personally find the best cooking course. So….all things considered, Tinggly provides good value, and great gifts.
Do you want to be there in spirit with your traveling friend and give them something to remember you by? Then Tinggly might be just what the doctor (er….traveler) ordered.
This post has been financially supported in part by Tinggly. While I haven’t personally used their services, I think it’s a fabulous idea for a travel gift that will allow you to vicariously travel with your loved one(s).
The Free Spirit is the latest amazing piece of travel gear that the folks at GobiGear have churned out. (I’m their biggest raving fan of the Hoboroll, which I use every single day on and off the road).
This ultralight packable backpack fits easily in your luggage while you’re in-transit, and serves many purposes at your destination. With segmented insides you can organize your stuff multiple ways (and if you don’t need/want to use the segments, they don’t get in the way – a little bit of design magic in itself).
While ultralight, it’s still made of a sturdy water-resistant material with a reinforced bottom. There are two side pockets for water bottles, and a Camelback pocket as well (but since I don’t have a Camelback I use it for other purposes – embarrassingly, I initially thought it was a poorly designed laptop sleeve).
My Free Spirit 30-litre has replaced my former 36-litre packable daypack, and while my former pack was host to a series of aggravating design flaws, I did prefer the size. I used to take my 36-litre pack on multi-day backpacking adventures into the wild (carrying food, clothing layers, and personal necessities) – a task that would tax the Free Spirit to its limits.
However it’s hard to find larger summit sacks these days, so perhaps my needs are isolated. I have managed to use the Free Spirit to carry all my accoutrements for side trips (of the vanilla travel variety, rather than backcountry travel) of up to a week in duration. And for day trips and adventures around town? I adore my Free Spirit 30L Adventure Backpack.
Want to see the Free Spirit in action? I recorded this video just to show you:
Click here to watch this video on YouTube.
If you’re even remotely interested in taking high-quality photos, you need a tripod. This is common sense for anybody with an advanced SLR or mirrorless camera; but even point-and-shoot cameras and smartphones go to the next level with a tripod.
Personally, I have the kind of camera that also makes phone calls (a smartphone), and I also have a wee tripod that allows me to set up advanced shots including longer exposures, group photos, and time lapse. And for video? I wouldn’t know what to do without my tripod.
Because everybody travels with a different kind of tripod, and because I haven’t test-driven any travel tripods worth mentioning, I’m going to direct you to this most excellent collection of tripods for travel that cater to a range of budgets from under $25 to over $300.
Note: This post has been financially supported in part by Omnicore Agency. Many thanks to them for creating this great travel tripod resource, as well as helping The Professional Hobo to keep things operating efficiently.
I’ve been a (vocal) fan of passport wallets dating back to 2013 when I featured them in my travel gifts review that year. Thus, I do abuse them, and I was in the market for a new one when Kinzd approached me to try out their “Waterproof Travel Neck Belt Bag”. While it’s not exactly a name that rolls of your tongue, it does illustrate that it’s certainly more than a plain ol’ passport wallet. Here are a few things I love about it:
- RFID Blocking
- Lots of pockets, many of which are zippered for extra security
- Adjustable strap so you can wear it around your neck, or across your body as a sling
- You can also strap it through your belt loop
My biggest complaint could be somebody else’s accolade: it’s big enough for a lot more than a passport. Personally, I tend to keep only my passport, boarding pass, and random extra currencies left over from places I’ve visited (and may return to). As such, this passport wallet has more than enough space. So, for me? It’s not as low-profile as I’d like a passport wallet to be.
BUT. In the name of travel gear being multifunctional, this does become a selling point, because you can use it as a full-on travel bag/purse in a variety of travel scenarios, should you choose.
Kinzd specializes in making travel-friendly wallets (mostly leather) that can be personalized in various ways. As a company, they’re all about how you carry your money – on the road, and at home too.
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Money (as in, how to carry it, access it, and use it)
Given that so many of the clothing companies I end up reviewing are female-focused, I’m very pleased to introduce a unisex clothing company that uses some pretty amazing performance fabrics to combine style with functionality.
Their styles are designed to cover off a broad range of possibilities from outdoor hiking to office loitering (though it would need to be a pretty casual office). Being a Colorado-based company, I would surmise that Western Rise slants more heavily to the outdoorsy look than the office look.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that Western Rise is primarily a menswear company. While they are developing their women’s clothing line, at the moment men have more selection, and possibly better fits (more on the fit shortly).
Regardless, their clothing is very well made, and their attention to detail shows with sturdy seams and thoughtful design features.
I was most excited about receiving a (complementary) pair of the Women’s AT Slim Rivet Pants to review. On paper, these pants rock. This five-pocket pant with a simple slim-fit design is made of a specially-designed nylon canvas material. It does everything. It’s lighter and more durable than denim, water repellant, stain resistant, flexible, abrasion resistant and more.
But. These pants failed me – dramatically – in two ways.
1) They aren’t comfy, and the material is downright unpleasant to the touch. Granted, after a few months, they are much comfier than when they arrived (and I’m promised that with subsequent washes the fabric’s softness will increase). But they don’t hold a candle to denim in the comfort department, nor are they particularly stretchy. See the chick in the photo above? Yeah – there’s no way I could do that wearing these pants. There’s simply not enough give.
2) The fit is terrible. Now, I will preface this by saying I have no idea how clothing companies design pants for women, with such a massive variety of body types to accommodate. Unfortunately, the measurements they based these pants on are the measurements of some very fit Telluride women, who quite frankly, do not represent women well. (I’m not a fat person by far, but when I visited nearby Boulder, I felt fat). These pants also made me feel fat, from the fact that I barely fit into a size 12 (when accustomed to a size 8-10), to the fact that 12 is their largest size available. Beyond the self-esteem-crushing sizing, the fit is bizarre. The waist is too big, and there’s an excess of material at the front around the pelvis. Like, I can grab a handful of material at the front of each hip.
I have also been assured that this was their first stab at making women’s pants, that they had some challenges with the factory’s first run, and that they will restructure the sizing.
While this is obviously not my favourite pair of pants, I will also say that if you are a small fit woman looking for a pair of outdoor-gear pants that can take a beating, the AT Slim Rivet pants are ideal. While I rarely wear mine out on the town due to my challenges with fit and comfort, they are definitely my go-to for rugged outdoors stuff.
By comparison, the Women’s Liberated Hemp Band Collar Shirt shone. Western Rise has a nice collection of women’s shirts, mostly made of hemp and merino wool, and I’ve got my eye on some of their merino shirts, which look very comfortable.
I like hemp products for their environmental friendliness, and this shirt is made of a combo of hemp and recycled polyester (which keeps it from wrinkling like hemp and other linens), that is eight times stronger than cotton. I chose the uniquely-styled band collar (pictured above), but there are also shirts with a traditional collar.
I wear my shirt open or closed at the front, and it is comfortable and fits nicely. I get a lot of compliments on it!
Looking for more travel gifts ideas?
Check out my Travel Gear archives.
Plus, help yourself to these posts:
Best Travel Gifts for 2017 (The Ultimate Travel Dress, expandable packing cubes, Eagle Creek compression sacs, Chipolo tracking device, Fat Chick Goes Awol (book), and Flexiroam global data micro-SIM card)
Giant 2016 Travel Gear Roundup (Ultimate Travel Jacket, ROLO and TUO packing aids, Tieks, Revolve Dress, Anatomie designer travel clothing, Sudio Sweden wireless earbuds, RFID tools, J-Pillow, IP Vanish, VPN, and more)
9 Perfect Gifts for Travelers (2015 Edition) (Kinivo blutooth headphones, SteriPEN Ultra, Best Travel Pants ever, Ambronite, Hoboroll/SegSac packing tools, Encircled Flipside Leggings, and more)
Awesome Travel Gear, Gizmos, and Services (2014 Edition) (Ultralight filter water bottle, ion5 Solar Ionic Toothbrush, Tunnelbear VPN, Evolve Top, Compression Socks, and more)
Perfect Travel Gifts (2013 Edition) (Hoboroll, Passport Wallet, Adventure Towel, Travel Adaptor, Headlamp, Packable Daypack, Wheeled Backpack, Chrysalis Cardi, and more)