Devoted travelers can be a tough bunch to shop for: They’re hard to pin down, constantly onto the next adventure. The best gifts are either the ones they can take along for the ride, or those that’ll remind them of being on the road when they're stuck at home. Stumped? Worry not. Here are 13 unique gift ideas perfect for anyone with an incurable case of wanderlust.
If someone you know is carting around tattered luggage, do her a favor and get a G-RO in her favorite color combination. These eye-catching carry-ons—launched last year via a Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $5 million—sport a sleek profile, two patented axle-less wheels designed to withstand harsh surfaces, USB plug-ins (no more scouring the airport floor for outlets), a built-in tablet stand, an extra-long handle, and a roomy interior. G-RO’s lifetime warranty guarantees that the company will replace anything that breaks, gratis. Starting at $349 (or gift cards from $100); g-ro.com.
Here’s a fascinating fact: Light reaches your brain not just through your eyes but also through your ears. So what does that have to do with travel? To a handful of Finnish scientists, a lot. They invented the HumanCharger, which delivers high-quality light to your brain via earbuds, to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine in the hopes of doing away with jet lag. Studies on transatlantic passengers confirmed that the worst effects of crossing time zones disappear when using the HumanCharger post travel for 12 minutes, four times per day. $219; humancharger.com.
One SCOTTeVEST devotee I know jokes that the company’s jackets are either for frequent travelers or kleptomaniacs. That’s because their defining feature is the number of compartments hidden inside—enough to hold the equivalent of an average-sized backpack, while still looking and feeling like normal, stylish outerwear. Many of SCOTTeVEST’s men’s and women’s jackets can hold a laptop, two phones, a water bottle, a tablet, a camera, sunglasses, a passport, a wallet, pens, and a keychain. All at once. $60-$250; scottevest.com. (Looking for a dressed-up version of the many-pocketed jacket? Check out the Bluffworks Gramercy blazer, $250; shop.bluffworks.com.)
Travelers who’ve been home for a spell need something to feed their wanderlust until they can take off again. Enter Universal Yums. For the cost of a box of chocolates, you can give a whimsical alternative: a subscription box that arrives on the doorstep stuffed with snacks and candies from a different country each month—everything from Peruvian clove-and-cinnamon chocolate bars to Jordanian baklava. A fun booklet serves as a guide to each new treat. From $14 per box, universalyums.com.
You don’t know what a handboard is? Don’t worry, neither do most people. But that’s about to change. In short, it’s a new, easy-to-learn way to catch waves. A handboard is shaped like a teeny surfboard with a handle but smaller than a boogie board. Slyde, a family-run company, gained traction last year when its founders’ Shark Tank pitch netted investments from Ashton Kutcher and Mark Cuban. The handboards come with a lifetime guarantee, and can be thrown into your backpack whenever you’re headed for the beach—much simpler than lugging around a longboard. $60 and up; slydehandboards.com.
For meaningful beach or cabin reading, one could do worse than Vacationland: True Stories From Painful Beaches by humorist John Hodgman, a former literary agent and Daily Show correspondent. His new memoir, both funny and poignant, centers on his two vacation homes, one in Maine and one in Massachusetts. Hodgman’s essays are about serious topics—middle age, privilege, mortality—but thanks to his elaborate, nerdy wit, readers can’t help but laugh out load at the absurdity of it all. $15; penguinrandomhouse.com.
DEUTER KIKKI KIDS’ RUCKSACK
Kids feel proud when they’re able to carry their own weight—or at least some of it—during a trip. Deuter’s Kikki backpack, which even 3-year-olds can manage, is absolutely darling. In addition to its adorable bird face, it has a reflector for safety, a sternum strap for ergonomics, side pockets for easy access, a breathable foam back to wick sweat, and a roomy main compartment with a two-way zipper. Made from durable, eco-friendly fabric, the whole thing weighs just 12 ounces. $45; deuter.com.
J.MCLAUGHLIN RHONDA LEGGINGS
Every woman needs at least one pair of pants that are comfortable enough for a 16-hour flight yet stylish enough for the streets of Paris. These are them. Yes, technically, they’re polyester-spandex leggings, but they’re insanely flattering polyester-spandex leggings. And they come in a variety of patterns, all of which feature exposed stitching. A wide elastic waistband lends pajama-like comfort and a slimming effect, while three streamlined pockets add convenience. Plus, the stretchy performance fabric is moisture wicking, so a spill over the tray table isn’t a big deal. $98–$128; jmclaughlin.com.
EAGLE CREEK PACK-IT SPECTER TECH
Travelers are always in need of simple, helpful packing hacks. Eagle Creek answers the call with its line of compressible packing cubes. These sets check all the boxes: they’re lightweight, durable, water-resistant, and pleasing on the eyes. All are fitted with a two-way zipper, and some also come with a stiff structuring sheet that doubles as a folding board. Starting at $11; shop.eaglecreek.com.
LEKI SUB 1 COLLAPSIBLE CHAIR
Backpackers, car campers, beach lovers, and festival-goers all need one thing in common: a really great folding chair. LEKI's collapsible chair, weighing in at around two pounds, is made with the virtually unbreakable aluminum tubing the German company is known for. The Sub 1 packs down into its small carrying case, which doubles as a beer-and-ice holder when you attach it to the front of the chair. In addition to being easily stowable, the chair is also comfortable, sturdy, and stylish—get it in blue, green, or black. $110; leki.com.
OM THE GO ASANA PILLOW
Any time two travel essentials can be combined into one, it’s a win. For frequent-flying yogis, this two-in-one neck pillow/yoga mat is a no-brainer. After traveling for 10 months while toting around a traditional yoga mat, Om the Go founder Tara Lynn wanted a mat better suited to her lifestyle. So she invented one: The Asana Pillow doesn't bulk up your carry-on, provides soft sleeping comfort, and zips open so you can pull out the mat within. $80; omthego.com.
SPOT IT! ON THE ROAD CARD GAME
Those who can’t bear to hear one more “Are we there yet?” will be grateful to get these 55 round cards in a circular tin. Spot It! is an ingenious and fast-moving game wherein players try to be quickest at spotting the image on their card that matches one from the communal card pulled. This road-trip version doubles as travel bingo; just look for objects on the highway that match the cards’ symbols. Even toddlers can learn to play, making this a perfect way to have intergenerational fun on the road. $14; amazon.com.
You, of course, know the value of a AAA Membership. But if your loved ones aren’t covered with tows, battery service, fuel delivery, and deep discounts at major hotels, airlines, car rental agencies, theme parks, and cruise lines, then go ahead and hook them up. As a bonus, they’ll get Via magazine delivered to their mailbox every quarter. Prices vary based on location; aaa.com/gift.