Gifts for travelers – my most-used items over the years

Sacsayhuaman from a distance in Peru. Photo and rights by E. Jurus

Even though travel abroad seems really far away these days, there are always daydreams and wishes. People ask my hubby and I all the time about our next trip, and my answer is always the same: when the pandemic settles down enough that the main adventure is at the destination, not getting there or back home. We love unpredictability, but not from the governments 😉

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for gift ideas for an adventure traveler for some future journey, here are a few things that my hubby and I have found really useful over the years:

  1. A lighted magnifying mirror. I’ve used it on every safari we’ve been on, trying to insert contact lenses in the pre-dawn hours in a dark tent; on every single other trip since I bought it, because hotel bathroom lighting is never good enough to apply some basic facial care, or get a fallen eyelash out of your eye; and daily at home. This is the exact mirror I have — it’s lightweight, has an unbreakable mirror (so far, in 14 years of ownership), and doesn’t drain the batteries (I typically replace them maybe once a year).
  2. A cordless flat iron. If you have hair that looks ridiculous when you get out of bed, this item is invaluable for looking presentable when your lodging has no electricity — like some safari camps. The one I have holds enough charge for a week’s worth of quick hair-fixing, assuming I don’t loan it out to all the people who usually ask me to borrow it. I’m not sure my brand is still made, but I found quite a few different other offerings on Amazon.
  3. A good day-pack. The one I have is called the “Healthy Back Bag“. What makes it so great are the myriad pockets both inside and out that hold an amazing number of essential items. On our first safari in 2007, post-9/11 anxiety was still high and airlines were only allowing a single carry-on item per person. I managed to stuff my HBB with all my travel documents, a small leather journal, several pens, all my medications, my camera with spare batteries and memory cards, travel-sized toiletries for the 1 & 1/2 days of travel just to get to Botswana, and a paperback book to read while flying — all neatly organized. When we were on the safari, I carried everything I needed for the day’s game drives and a bottle of water. The bag is incredibly durable, comfortable to carry and even has a slash-resistant strap. In between trips, I take use it when I’m out hiking.
  4. A synthetic base layer, aka undershirt. Even in Africa, the temperature variation from dawn to dusk can be significant, so a good base layer will help you feel comfortable in a variety of places. I bought mine at a local outdoor outfitter; a good fit is essential.
  5. A good pair of hiking shoes. Hard to buy for someone else, so you might need to do this as a gift certificate.
  6. Packing cubes/pouches. When you’re on an adventure with limited facilities, keeping your toiletries, underwear, medications and other such items organized and easy to find is invaluable.
  7. DK Travel Guides. I love poring through these detailed and beautifully illustrated guides when I’m planning a trip, or just need a little mental escape. If you’re planning your own itinerary, their information will help you whittle down your must-see list.
  8. Stocking stuffers: a) Spare camera batteries. I always carry three — one in my camera, and two fully-charged spares. At night I take out the one I’ve been using all day and charge it up. b) Spare camera memory cards.

Things we have but don’t really use:

a) Binoculars. They’re heavy to carry when you’re trying to travel light, and if I want to zoom in on something I use my camera.

b) Bug shirt. Yes, there were a lot of insects in the Amazon jungle, but they weren’t biting us. I use it more here at home on summer hikes in the humid and mosquito/tick-filled woods.

c) Money belt — we’ve never used them. They look silly and are blindingly obvious to thieves when you’re trying to retrieve your cash.

If you have a real traveler on your gift list, I hope my top picks give you some inspiration.