Here’s a fun, practical guide for those of you who are trying to buy gifts for someone traveling abroad indefinitely. Whether they’re becoming a digital nomad, taking a job abroad, or have just decided to take their savings and see the world, you don’t know when they’re stopping if ever!
I’ve definitely become this person at that moment, and I can tell you more than anything else — I’m incredibly picky about what I buy. I simply do not have the room for superfluous gifts! As tempting as it is to buy me everything on sale at Bath & Body Works – I can’t. Their lotions aren’t even moisturizing enough, and I already have three versions of those cozy socks!
I usually spend quite a few months abroad every year. In fact, I wound up “stuck” in Vietnam for sixteen months when the world shut down! That trip was supposed only be on month, and I never quite knew how long I was staying so I couldn’t fully settle in. This kind of lifestyle has ensured I don’t hold onto things I only kind of life and I pack as efficiently as possible every time I unzip my suitcase.
Before You Shop!
Before you dive into this practical gift guide, the first thing you should do is ask your forever nomad what she or he wants or needs. After all, if you think your pal would love an Aeropress so they don’t spend $4 on a coffee every day, maybe see that they don’t already have one!
Now that that’s out of the way, here are some gift ideas.
20 Practical Gifts for Someone Traveling Abroad Indefinitely
Budget – $
1. Travel playlists
This is free! If you have no budget, make your friend a playlist or a series of playlists. Trust me, we’re always looking for new music, new books, and new podcasts. I think this is kind of the best on the list just because it shows how much effort you put in and how well you know your traveler
I’m a big Spotify fan because you can download things offline, so what I would do is create some different playlists. Make one with podcast episodes, a huge music one, and, because I’m obsessed, an ASMR playlist to help with sleep and relaxation. Spotify’s ASMR collection isn’t a huge, but there are still a good amount of gems.
If you’re wondering how to present it to them as a gift, you could always decorate a card (physical or online) and add the URL for them to go to.
2. Travel journal (and stickers!)
Okay, if your traveler isn’t much of a journaler, this might seem wasteful. But if they’re known for enjoying a little scrapbooking or journal writing, see if they’d like a nice, unique one for their travels. The Midori notebook is a classic. I’m also a big fan of stickers, so if you know where they’re going, see if you can find some fun stickers they can use to decorate with!
3. A Daypack
I’m mildly obsessed with my daypack because it’s super durable, light, and it folds up so I can squeeze it into my carry-on if I need to lighten my load. I used it to carry my laptop and my heavy DSLR in mine, and it hasn’t shown a single sign of strain!
Even if your traveler isn’t a huge outdoor adventurer or backpack person (I went through a very anti-backpack phase from high school through college), having one of these will come in handy.
4. Good Packing Cubes
I can’t believe I’m only on this packing cube hype train now, but I am, and I cannot recommend getting a quality set! If your friend doesn’t already have them, they’ll thank you later. And I mean quality ones. I have the Eagle Creek ones and a free set I got from a conference, and the difference is huge.
5. A little kit of reusable things
Help them be sustainable! The way we travel already does leave its own carbon footprint on the world, so anyway we can offset that, the better! Get them a little kit of reusable, packable things like metal straws, a bamboo cutlery set, reusable remover pads, and more. This can be budget friendly or easily more of a mid-range gift depending on how much you add to the kit.
6. Some sort of quick dry towel
If they’re on a budget, a lot of places they go might not have proper towels or towels at all. Even in Korea, the towel guesthouses offer is the usually the size of a hand towel! So making sure they have something that dries quickly can make a huge difference. Heck, even if they’re going to beachy areas, this will come in handy. I personally like turkish towels.
7. Cute cord organizer
My friend, Stacey, got me this little cord organizer from Daiso for my birthday, and it’s easily one of my favorite things ever. I didn’t realize how disorganized I was with my tech until I used this thing the last two months, Mine fits four cords and has a mesh zip pocket where I store my passport, SD cards, camera remote, and flash drives. The nice thing with it, too, is that I can fit my 1TB Lacie Hardrive comfortably when I zip it all up. This one from Amazon is a slightly fancier version of mine.
8. A cute crossbody
Hey! This could work for a guy too!
Anyway, the three bags I carry with me when I travel are my main luggage, my daypack, and a crossbody bag. Most of the time, I have this great Michael Kors one I’ve had for ages, but the last few years I’ve been swapping it with the cute rattan circle bags.
Crossbody bags are great for when you go out exploring in a city, or even if you go out at a nicer restaurant or clubbing. There are so many cute options out there, and as long as they have a good zip for protection, you don’t need to get the uglier “safety lock” type ones. I highly recommend getting a good quality style in a neutral color.
Personally, I LOVE Michael Kors bags in their luggage color (it’s basically cognac or tan). I worked at their outlet stores throughout college, and I still carry the purses I got during that time. If you want something even more durable, go for their saffiano leather as it’s scratch and water resistant. Trust me, I’ve dragged my Selma bag around and stuffed it with things at various times, and it still looks as nice as it did 5 years ago.
9. Gift cards to their favorite brands
In general, I don’t think it’s a good idea to get someone clothing items unless it’s something basic like a sweatshirt. Brands mess up proper clothing sizes and you truly don’t know someone’s style unless they’re a brand whore or they gave you a list. I think in all my years of people trying to buy me clothes, I had one friend who absolutely nailed my style and size.
The best bet is to give someone a gift card to their favorite place and let them run wild with it on their own. Some brands I’d want gift cards to:
10. Portable Charger
I mean, if your traveler doesn’t already own a portable charger, they’re going to thank you for getting them one later. Nothing is worse than trying to find a hotel at night in a foreign country with only 3% battery, and it happens too often!
(Bonus if you get them the luggage below, it comes with one!)
I got my friends an Aeropress for their bus after seeing so many nomads loving it. Seeing how they use and love it, I know it’d make a great gift if your traveler is a coffee addict! Save them some money at coffee shops!
12. An insulated, reusable water bottle
Again in the name of sustainability! If you only get them one thing, get them this. I love Hydroflask because it’s insulated, and you can get the different lids for them.
13. A nice airplane pillow
I just got the Trtl Pillow because I’m officially old. Between flights, boats, trains, and car rides, my neck is definitely feeling it now. I’ve heard good things about the Trtl Pillow, so that’s what I decided to try out!
14. Comfortable Headphones
For the best are bluetooth earbuds and I caved this last year and got the Apple ones! They’re stupidly expensive, but I’m not gonna lie – I love them and have pretty much only used these.
Luxury – $$$
15. Travel shoes
I think this really depends on what your friend’s style is like and where they’re going. For example, if your traveler has a bit more of a relaxed, boho style and is planning on chasing the sun, a pair of Birkenstocks will be perfect for them. (I love the Mayari style.)
However, if they’re planning on traveling through bigger cities and have a chicer sense of style, then a pair of loafers would be much more appropriate. I just got a pair of Birdie slides that I’m excited to wear once the weather cools!
16. Mirrorless Camera (or a new lens for their camera)
Mirrorless cameras, like the Sony ArII, can actually be super nice and even better than a full-frame DSLR. However, if your traveler is more of a beginner, something like the Sony A6000 is a great camera to start with.
If they already have a camera they live and die by, ask if they want any new lenses or accessories for it. I just got a 35mm lens for my Canon EOS 6D. My next lens buy will probably be a telephoto one!
17. A fancy new suitcase
Don’t underestimate a quality suitcase for long-term travel. I definitely prefer hardshell over soft shell after having both. I got the Away carryon back in 2017 when they were newer and still have it! I also bought the Delsey Chalet 24″ in white. It’s very cute but got banged up almost instantly. I wish the Navy version had been available when I was buying.
18. A nice piece of jewelry
I find that a really nice, simple piece of jewelry can help make an outfit. I’m in love with gold hoops or a gold medallion necklaces. See if your traveler likes to wear a little jewelry and what metal they prefer. Then get them a really nice version of what they have. For example, my “gold” hoops are just some cheap ones I picked up from Target to see if I liked the style. I know I do now, so I’m getting some 14kt ones, which are much better for my skin.
19. The New Waterproof Kindle Paperwhite
I love, love, love my Kindle! It really does make reading while traveling so much easier. Once I got it, I found myself reading a lot more over listening to Audible.
Always a Good Idea
20. Donate to a charity or cause they care about
Of course, when all else fails in your gift planning, I think donating to a charity or cause your traveler cares about is the ultimate when it comes to considerate gifts. It shows you care about what they care about, and you’re helping someone who probably needs it a lot more than either of you do. I personally love Liberty in North Korea as they help NK refugees resettle in either the US or South Korea.
And there you have it! 20 gifts for someone traveling abroad that they’ll ACTUALLY appreciate. What would you want from this list?
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