Not quite sure what to get your favorite traveler this holiday season and don’t have much money to spend? You’ve come to the right place. Though this post comes too late to get your buddy eight days of inexpensive gifts for Hanukkah (this year), Santa still has a couple weeks to get his stocking stuffers in order. We’ll start with the cheapest ($1 or less!) and work our way up after the jump.
Your local dollar store, whatever it’s called in your location, is likely to have a couple things every traveler would appreciate. Look out for the following: sink stopper plugs, refillable travel-sized bottles (make sure they’re under 3.4 oz/100ml though in order to be carry-onable), safety pins, travel sewing kits, mini flashlight, retractable headphones, snack-size zip-top bags, velcro cable straps, plastic cable ties (for locking zippers), luggage straps, etc. The dollar store is a great place to start your shopping.
TSA locks are a travel must-have. I prefer the combi locks (pictured at right) to keyed (so as not to worry about having/losing keys). Radio Shack offers a set of two TSA combi locks for $4.
For a few bucks, you can head to your local art shop or bookstore and purchase a lined blank book to be used as a travel journal. Supplement with a nice pen and some scotch tape or photo corners for adding mementos along the way.
Nalgene water bottles start at $4.50 direct from the manufacturer, with free shipping. I picked up a similar unbreakable water bottle at Target for $1 a few years ago (they’re in the camping section).
Who doesn’t enjoy glossy photo spreads and in-depth articles when searching for travel inspiration? The travelers on your list may well appreciate a travel magazine subscription, and online companies are driving prices down. For example, Discount Magazines offers Camping Life, Boating Life, Conde Nast Traveler, Sherman’s Travel, (I’m not making this up) Trailer Life, Vacations, and a number of regional magazines for $6/year. Check the websites of your favorite travel magazines for online subscription deals.
MP3 players with USB flash drive functionality have drastically come down in price, and I can’t imagine traveling without mine. I found one here for $8, another for $11. You can probably find similar deals in electronics stores near your home.
Lands’ End’s travel section features two useful gifts under $10. First is a Security Travel Belt for $9.50 (pictured left). I’m not a money belt/pouch wearer myself, but many of my friends and family are. Second (at right) is an $8 Passport Holder, which is essential for protecting your documents from rain, butt sweat and the rough and tumble in your backpack or handbag.
For $11 at Overstock, I found this 1/2 L stainless steel thermos. You may be able to find a cheaper one at a store like TJ Maxx; I know German grocery stores carry them for around 5-6 euros, and IKEA has a relatively cheap one too (but not online, unfortunately).
Free Money Finance outlines how he and his family made personalized calendars with Costco for $13 each. You can easily substitute photos of cute grandkids with travel images, either those of an intended destination for inspiration or some that you’ve taken on your travels.
A Swiss Army Knife is always practical and useful on the road. The Bantam (pictured left) at $14.50 is the most stripped down version I’ve ever seen, but has the essentials for a traveler: knife blade and bottle/can opener. There’s also a screwdriver and wire stripper designed into the bottle/can opener, for your more MacGyver moments on the road . . .
Guidebooks, if you know your traveler’s favorite series and intended destination, are another option. If you’re not sure, get a bookstore gift card. (For online guidebook purchases, consult this previous post.)
For $17, USB Geek offers a pretty amazing looking universal plug adapter. (Remember, this makes it possible to plug in your electronic item but does not change current. If your appliance doesn’t run on dual current, you will also need a power converter.)
Starting at $20, LLBean offers travel toiletry kits. It’s not a romantic or exciting gift, but as a visiting friend (who had received one as a gift from me and another friend a few years ago) said this weekend, “This is the most useful gift I’ve ever gotten.” I have to agree; I got mine years ago from a boyfriend, and while he’s no longer in the picture, I use the toiletry kit 20+ times per year. I think we both have the medium size.
If you have more money to spend, higher-end things to consider include sleeping bags, tents, and luggage. Besides Lands’ End, LLBean and REI, one of my favorite online (and catalog) places to watch for such items is Sierra Trading Post.
What did I forget? And what travel gifts are you dreaming of this holiday season? Leave your ideas in the comments.