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12 Unique Gift Ideas for Frequent Travelers (Under $50)

When one of your friends harbors a major case of wanderlust, a Target gift card may not be the best thing for special occasions. Birthdays, holidays, and even bon voyage parties are perfect opportunities to give your traveling friends the things they really need. Whether you’re talking about planes, trains, automobiles, or boats, many aspects of travel can be made easier and more enjoyable with the right item – and you don’t have to spend more than $50 to get them.

The best travel gifts are thoughtful, but also highly portable, so choose gifts that make the process more convenient and comfortable for your friends. Here are some brilliant ideas to get you started.

Budget Gift Ideas for Travelers

1. Luggage Scale

My dad bought me a luggage scale, and my first impression was that it was a little silly – after all, they have scales at the airport, right? But if you’ve ever been stuck unloading items out of your suitcase because it’s over an airline’s baggage weight limit, you know how a scale at home could be a total lifesaver.

I’m a frequent traveler with my two kids, and we always share a suitcase. By the end of each adventure, it’s stuffed with souvenirs and additional items we didn’t have on the way to our destination. Now that I have my trusty luggage scale, I can make sure my suitcase is well within weight limits – usually around 50 pounds per piece – and I don’t have that panicky feeling when I load it on the airport scale.

Luggage scales are simple to use. You loop the scale hook under your luggage handle and then lift the luggage off the ground so the scale can measure the downward pressure – like a fish scale. You can expect to pay $10 to $50, and it can be easily tossed into a carry-on bag for convenience. It’s also a great investment, since you’re going to have to pay extra money to the airline if your bag is ever too heavy.

2. Plane Comfort Kit

Do you know someone who spends a lot of time on airplanes? If so, instead of buying one gift, create an entire kit dedicated to staying comfy in the air. With limited leg room, noisy strangers, and plenty of time to kill, it can make all the difference on a long flight.

Some items you may want to consider including are a neck pillow, a travel blanket, and a sleep mask and earplugs set. These can be purchased online or at big box stores, and you should easily be able to assemble a kit for less than $50.

Plane Comfort Kits

3. Travel Stub Diary

Tickets, notes, and other ephemera can be invaluable keepsakes from vacations. Help jog a friend’s memory by gifting a travel stub diary – a journal with plastic sleeves for preserving plane and train tickets, programs, and even small pictures.

Travel stub diaries cost less than $15 and are easy to find on sites that sell journals and other paper goods. Even a small diary without sleeves can work – especially if your friend loves to write.

If you’re really short on cash, go to a site like WordPress or Blogger and open a blog in your friend’s name. Create a username and password with instructions to upload stories, memories, and pictures. You can create the theme during setup or let your traveling friend take care of the design. These blogs are free to create, and they’re a great way for friends and family members to keep up with travelers’ adventures.

4. Vouchers and Gift Cards

Gift cards don’t have to be generic. By choosing one based on your friend’s travel plans, it can be a thoughtful, personalized present.

For example, if a friend has been saving for a particular trip, a gift card to a hotel can be a huge help. Or, you can purchase airline vouchers directly through the carrier’s website if you know which airline your friend is taking. It’s also a great idea to look up events or attractions, such as museums and festivals, and purchase vouchers for them. You can even add funds to a friend’s Skype account to make it easier to keep in touch.

5. Portable Phone Charger

We’ve all seen weary travelers crouched near outlets in airports charging a cell phone or laptop battery before a long flight. That’s why a portable external charger can make such a difference for longer travel routes.

How much power you can actually get from a portable charger depends on the model. Always check the charger’s capacity – the higher it is, the more life it can provide to a connected battery. Portable chargers do become less effective over time, so consider giving more than one, or throw it in with another gift.

Portable Phone Charger

6. Turkish Towel

Turkish towels fold up neatly, perfect for suitcases, carry-on bags, backpacks, and purses. And though they’re thin, they are highly absorbent and dry quickly. Not only can they be used in lieu of scratchy hotel or hostel towels, they can also be used as beach towels, blankets, floor coverings, sarongs, or airplane blankets.

Turkish towels come in pretty patterns and cost about $20 to $40. That might seem pricey, but for their versatility, they’re a suitcase must-have for the frequent traveler.

7. Compression Socks

Sitting on a plane for long periods isn’t only uncomfortable – it can also be unhealthy. Anyone who’s pregnant, has a blood clotting disorder, is overweight, or is a senior citizen is at greater risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). This is a condition in which a blood clot develops, usually in the legs, during lengthy periods of inactivity.

One way to prevent DVT – in addition to getting up to walk throughout the flight – is to wear compression socks, which increase circulation in the legs. These are socks made of tightly woven fabric that puts gentle pressure on the calves. A pair should cost $10 to $20.

8. Solid Toiletries

As you may know, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) no longer allows more than three ounces of liquid in any one container in a carry-on bag. For some, this is not a big deal. But for others, condensing things like shampoo into three-ounce containers is not always easy to remember.

Utilizing solid toiletries can be a solution. By gifting solid forms of the stuff traveling friends use, they can effectively bypass those liquid restrictions without giving up the usual bathroom routine.

Here are some great options:

Carry On Solid Toiletries

9. Selfie Stick

A selfie stick is an extendable metal pole that attaches to a camera or phone so a lone traveler can snap a solo pic. It might seem like a gag gift at first, but the alternative is constantly handing your camera or phone to complete strangers and asking them to take a photo.

A selfie stick, which usually costs about $15 to $20, telescopes and then folds back to a small size to fit in backpacks and purses. It’s a great way for a solo traveler to safely take lasting images.

10. Books and Magazines

Of course, traveling can be exciting and illuminating, but it also comes with a lot of waiting. That’s why books or a stack of magazines can be a cheap way to give a friend some entertainment for the road. You can even purchase a book of puzzles for an hour or two of fun.

If you’re not sure what kind of reading material your traveling friend would want, give a gift card to purchase e-books. If you know your friend is addicted to the Kindle, an Amazon gift card can result in two or three volumes for a given trip. If your friend is more of an audiobook person, an iTunes gift card may be more appropriate.

11. Tyvek Wallet

A number of things can result in traveler stress when it comes to keeping money safe: A wallet could end up in a washing machine or be roughly treated at the bottom of a backpack. Not to mention, tourists make great targets for pickpockets.

That’s why I love Tyvek wallets. Made from super-strong coated paper, they’re almost impossible to tear and are water-resistant, and you can purchase them in a number of patterns – some of which even disguise the fact that they’re wallets to potentially deter pickpockets. You can purchase Tyvek wallets at Dynomighty for around $12.

12. Jewelry Roll

Everyone who travels with jewelry can tell you the same tale of woe – upon reaching their destination, necklaces are knotted, earrings are missing their backs, and bracelets and rings are tangled. A jewelry roll completely fixes this problem by giving each piece a perfect pocket where it can be stored and rolled to take up no more space in a suitcase than a flat iron. By keeping jewelry in one, it’s less likely to shift and attract would-be thieves from grabbing exposed valuables.

A jewelry roll can also work for men who want to store watches, cuff links, and anything else that should remain organized and out of sight. You can purchase one for about $15 from sites like Amazon and Etsy – or, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, you can whip one up yourself, thanks to the bevy of jewelry roll tutorials available online.

Give Traveling Friends Something

Final Word

Traveling means dealing with a lot of variables – from late boarding times, to busy days at famous monuments. Gift your traveling friends something to make their next vacation just a little more predictable, comfortable, and convenient. Even if you’re on a strict budget, you can still come up with the perfect way to make travel pitfalls less of an issue, so your friends can focus more on making memories than solving problems.

What are your best ideas for traveler gifts?

Jacqueline Curtis
Jacqueline Curtis writes about edtech, finance, marketing, and small business strategy. With over 14 years of copywriting experience, she's created content and scripting for organizations such as GE, Walgreens, Overstock, and MasterCard. She lives in Utah with her husband, three kids, and an overzealous springer spaniel named Penelope.

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