Finding practical gifts for travellers can be challenging. They’ll want something that is light enough to lug around, adds comfort on those long bus or train rides, or comes in handy to safeguard their belongings while they wander off the beaten path. Above all, down-to-the-basic travellers want something useful. Here’s my list of the top ten practical presents for travellers for under $50:
1. Ear plugs
Ear plugs come in a few different types – ones that help you equalise ear pressure on planes, ones made of foam, or reusable ones made from silicone. All will come in handy for the traveller braving loud engine noises or vicious snorers in shared dorm rooms. They’re cheap, light and practical gifts – you could jazz them up by including a carry case, or alternatively pick up a set from Ear Peace, which comes in a set of three (for that inevitable moment when one goes missing) in an aluminium box for $13.
2. Digital luggage scale
Excess baggage charges are every budget backpackers’ worst nightmare. Help your favourite traveller dodge the airlines’ high fees with a digital luggage scale that is small, light and will save him or her hundreds of dollars in overweight fees. Korjo does a fancy version () for $50, with a choice of three colours, but you can find other, cheaper options available.
Forget about the traditional three-legged collapsible tripod. Joby’s GorillaPod is far more versatile, rugged and to top it all off, is also lightweight and compact. Photography enthusiasts will be able to wrap a camera around a tree trunk, take self-portraits and capture otherwise impossible angles. They come in various sizes for digital cameras, SLRs and focus cameras, and start from $19.95 for the smallest size.
4. Travel journal
The travel journal used by the likes of Hemingway, Joyce, Matisse and van Gogh, a Moleskine notebook is a stylish and practical gift for scribbling down contact details of new found friends, making notes of recommended hostels or restaurants, and capturing transient thoughts while on the road. With a sturdy sewn spine, coated paper cardboard covers, ribbon bookmark, handy inside pocket and an elastic band to hold it all together, the Moleskine is a hardy travel companion. There are ruled, squared and blank options, which will suit both doodlers as well as writers. The classic black, ruled softcover Moleskine pocket journal costs $12, with varying prices for different sizes and covers.
5. TSA locks
TSA locks are essential for anyone travelling through the US, where custom officers have the legal right to inspect luggage – when faced with a non TSA lock, security agents will simply cut through it. A pair of TSA combination locks at $22, will come in useful for travellers wanting to secure their packs or lockers while on the road, whether or not they plan to travel around the US. Other options include cable locks, which are handy for securing items to posts, street fixtures or furniture.
6. Universal travel adaptor
Imminently more practical and easier than juggling a different power adaptor for every other country, the Lifesystems Universal travel adaptor (£20, or around $30) is one piece of fuss-free gadgetry that enables the travellers’ laptop, hairdryer, and phone charger to work in over 150 countries. The adaptor also converts voltage to suit American-made equipment, and comes with a USB attachment.
7. Stainless steel water bottle
Available pretty much everywhere both online and off, a stainless steel water bottle is a great gift for travellers, both city-side and in the wilderness. Having a reusable water bottle saves travellers money, is good for the environment and lessens exposure to BPA chemicals found in plastic bottles. Plus, with the plethora of design and colour choices, you’re bound to find something that your recipient will like. One Bottle, a website based in Australia, offers quirky designs and free delivery. Their products range from $20 to $25, depending on size and come with a handy carabiner to help keep bottles in place on backpacks.
8. Passport pouch or money belt
Much maligned, the travel passport pouch slash money belt is still used by travellers to keep passports and other valuables safe. The Go Travel Passport Pouch has lots of handy compartments with the additional security of zips to deter nimble-fingered pickpockets. It’s not a very glamorous gift, but it will come in useful.
Can opener, bottle popper, nail file, handy blade, snipping scissors – what can’t a Swiss Army Knife do? The Minichamp version is the most basic, and clocks in at about $23 online. As a nail file, pen, blade, peeler, tweezers, screwdriver, rule, and wire stripper, this gift will come in useful in all sorts of circumstance. Most importantly, they’re made to last and will go the distance – perfect for all types of travellers.
10. Global talking translator
No, really. This gift frees up precious luggage space – gone are the travel dictionaries, replaced by this handy gadget, with thousands of phrases in over 11 languages. You can also pick up key phrases quickly using the translator, which speaks phrases aloud. Amazon is selling the nifty Nyrius translator for under $10. An added bonus – it doubles as an alarm clock, which will come in handy for travellers who want to be on time for bus, train or plane departures.