The Best (and Worst!) Holiday Gifts for Travelers

I wasn’t planning on writing a traveler holiday gift guide this year, but after seeing so many ridiculous traveler gift guides in splashy magazines I figured I may as well put in my two cents. My list of recommended gifts isn’t huge and is somewhat random, but they are all at least my personal recommendations— I either own myself, have been gifted or have given nearly everything on this list.

But before we get to the best holiday gifts for travelers, I feel like I need to point out some items that you really shouldn’t buy.

Worst Gifts for Travelers:

  • Any kind of home good item with a travel quote on it— these so-called “inspirational” quotes manage to find themselves on home decor items like pillows, plaques and posters. They are mostly Hallmark type quotes about finding one’s own path, not letting anyone clip your butterfly wings– you get the idea. Keep in mind I have nothing against quotes– I actually adore well-chosen, smart quotes from historical figures I admire or even from movies that I love. But even the best quote loses its magic when embroidered on a pillow. Just say no.
  • Moleskin notebooks. I want to point out that there is nothing wrong with moleskin notebooks themselves, I personally have several. But they are cheap and ubiquitous enough that if I want a new notebook, I’ll just buy it for myself. It’s not really a “gift” item. Also, make sure you know your recipient– when was the last time they picked up a pen and paper? If they’re iphone obsessed, this gift is likely to linger in a junk drawer somewhere.
  • “Traveler” clothing. If you aren’t sure what this means, please consult this brilliant post. In my experience, any kind of clothing item that is specifically designated for “travelers” is almost always frumpy and in terrible taste.

Gifts Travelers Actually Want

For the Traveler Girlfriend/Wife:

Guys, there really is nothing your traveling girlfriend will appreciate more than jewelry, period. Even if she buys jewelry for herself, the fact that it comes from you will instantly make it her favorite piece. But you really have to shop carefully for the traveler– jewelry can be a pain to travel with, especially anything too dainty. Those thin chains and delicate earrings are easy to lose on a cluttered, small surfaces in hotel rooms. You also want to avoid anything too expensive for travel– it’s just not worth the stress to worry about theft. I prefer to bring just one or two pieces that are sturdy, striking, and easy to wear.

My friend Amy and I wore our bracelets on our recent trip to Florence– here we are toasting to our truffle dinner awaiting us. My bracelet is the Imperial large link, $285. Amy’s exact bracelet is no longer available, but for a similar look check out the Botticelli stone bracelet, $375. Head to Julie Vos’ website  for her full collection.

For the Boyfriend/Husband Traveler:

Most traveling guys desperately need an upgrade to their dopp kits and carry on bags. Filson is one of my favorite brands for gifting– the bags are made from an incredibly durable canvas, trimmed with leather. They are simple and classic enough that they really work for everyone.



Filson – Medium Duffle Bag (Tan) Duffel Bags

If you want to get your guy something a little more personal and you know that he wears cologne, why not treat him to a splurge-worthy “travel size” bottle. When in doubt you can’t go wrong with a classic Vetiver– I love this one from Creed.


CREED Original Vetiver Eau De Perfum for Men – Small Size 1oz (30ml)   $150

For the Female Traveler Who Packs too Many Clothes: Multi-Use Tees

Smart packing is really about paring down your travel wardrobe to a few multi-purpose pieces that work with everything. While I have a few go-to pieces in my travel bag, my absolute favorites are my Splendid long sleeve tees. Featherlight and thin, they take up no room (I have four, they also come in black and white).

The flattering scoop neckline, stretchiness, fitted silhouette and long length make them great for many uses. I wear mine during the day as a t-shirt, or at night as a going out top, even to work out in. They are so thin enough for layering without adding bulk (I wear mine under short sleeve tees and even dresses, as in the photo below). You can pull the shirt down to wear tunic style, but I like to leave it a little bunchy and wear it hip length– it covers all sorts of flaws.

Splendid – Stretch Sheer Layers Tunic (Black) Women’s Blouse
   $55 Also in black and white.


I wear these tops just as much at home as when I travel. For fit purposes, I wear a size small.

Splendid – Stretch Sheer Layers Tunic (Black) Women’s Blouse
   $55 Also in black and white

For the traveler who brings home too much stuff: the Perfect Lightweight Suitcase


If you really want to impress your traveler and don’t mind spending some cash, I swear by my Rimowa suitcase (see my full review of my Rimowa here). It’s super lightweight and easy to push. The “easy to push” makes a bigger difference than you might think. I recently traveled with a friend who bought a cheaper hardcase on wheels, and it was inexplicably hard to push (I can quite literally push the Rimowa with a finger, even when completely full). This makes a huge difference when you’re walking over cobblestones, like I did on my recent visit to Florence.

Click here to browse Rimowa Luggage on Zappos
or check out the Rimowa Salsa Air – 29 Multiwheel (Navy) Pullman Luggage$550

For the Selfie-Obsessed Traveler: A Tripod

Ok you know the type– their instagram feed is littered with poses of themselves gazing thoughtfully into the distance or striking yoga poses in the wild. But authentic travel doesn’t come naturally, so make sure they have the tools to pull it off.

Tripod, iKross 61-inch Professional Light Weight DSLR Tripod with Smartphone /

To take these shots, you pretty much need a tripod (or a very patient friend willing to take dozens of photos).

This well-rated tripod is only $42 and comes with an adaptor for a cell phone, making perfect for instant posting to instagram. And it’s not only for the selfie obsessed– as I photographed myself wearing the t-shirt for this post I realized how hard it was to take any kind of photo without one– so I placed my own order.


For the Traveler who Loves to Share Music: UE Boom Wireless Bluetooth Speaker

UE BOOM Wireless Bluetooth Speaker – Black   $99

While tiny ear phones are perfect for the solo traveler, when you travel with others you might want to share your favorite tunes. I gifted this speaker to myself after extensive research and pretty much use it every day. Don’t be fooled by those teeny tiny speakers– the sound is so awful they aren’t even worth it. The UE boom is still relatively small and very portable– easy to put in a suitcase.

If you’re giving this gift to a significant other, I recommend also gifting a playlist to make it a little more romantic– I personally love receiving playlists as gifts. There is an art to making the perfect mixed tape (watch High Fidelity for pointers), so take your time and make it mean something.

For the Traveler who Complains Their Feet Hurt: A Massage Ball

ball Due North Foot Rubz Foot Hand and Back Massage Ball Green

If you’ve ever traveled with anyone that moans about their achy feet, make sure to put one of these balls in their stocking. They are super light and small, and a real luxury to roll your feet over after a long day of walking.

For the Traveler who Needs a Photography Upgrade: A Sony Mirrorless Camera


Sony Alpha a6000 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 16-50mm Power Zoom Lens

I own an earlier generation of this camera and love it so much that I have convinced several people to buy it– and no one has regreted it. With some exceptions, as when I write about older trips, nearly all the photos on this site (from about December 2013) were taken with this camera. It’s dummy proof because you can shoot in auto using the kit lens and still get great shots, which is why I bought it over other more sophisticated looking cameras. But it was so easy to use that I started shooting in manual almost immediately, and ended up picking up more lenses so I could get those great low light and night shots.

What are your favorite holiday gifts for travelers?

Disclosure: Please support the maintenance of running this site by clicking on my affiliate links (which are no cost to you at all). I received the Julie Vos bracelet as gift at a press event, but was under no obligation to write about it– I just love it that much.







9 Responses to The Best (and Worst!) Holiday Gifts for Travelers

  1. Paige Conner Totaro 11/19/2015 at 10:59 pm #

    Hahaha – I love your low tech tripod. 🙂

  2. Jess Carey 11/19/2015 at 11:13 pm #

    Those tshirts look great!

  3. Sue Slaght 11/20/2015 at 12:31 am #

    Agree about the camera! Such good advice Kristin. I love mine!

  4. the-worldwide 11/25/2015 at 3:04 am #

    Great post. You are looking beautiful in the Blouse.

  5. Rolling Harbour 11/26/2015 at 10:58 am #

    Excellent. Your tripod is innovative but possibly cumbersome for travel. Though it does combine your reading matter too! Happy beige foam-filled ‘expedition gilet’ with 17 zip pockets and 4 assorted size metal rings with no purpose… RH

    • Kristin Francis 12/05/2015 at 7:08 pm #

      haha yes!!! : )

  6. Aditya Sharma 12/05/2015 at 1:35 am #

    I just read through the entire article of yours and it was quite good. This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information. I will visit your blog regularly for some latest post.

  7. Travelpeon 12/14/2015 at 7:08 pm #

    Currency for an upcoming trip if a friend is heading to somewhere you’ve been.
    Multi port USB charger or battery pack.
    Packing cubes or light weight pouches if they’re not a roll or bundle packer.

    Any accessory more than 0.5 lbs. That would probably include luggage scales, huge neck pillows, travel bags, overly complex makeup/toiletries pouch. Think twice as the traveler will have to when packing it.

  8. kereta sewa shah alam 12/17/2015 at 1:26 pm #

    I LOVE to read your posts.just discover your site from somewhere. great sharing your story & experiences. i will recommend this site to my friends out there.

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