It’s that time of the year when the holidays are upon us and many of us are searching for the perfect gift. We don’t know about you, but it has gotten infinitely harder each year when our families ask for our Christmas list. These days we often ask for what might be considered some pretty boring things. But instead of just asking for stuff to make a list, we ask for stuff we actually need and use – particularly when it comes to travel since our lives pretty much center around travel. Who better to know all the best travel gear out there than two people that travel for a living? If you’re looking for ideas for the best gifts for travelers, we’ve put together this gift guide of the things we actually use and truly love.
Our Travel Essentials
We actually don’t have a ton of travel gear and gadgets that we consider true travel essentials. Investing in a quality suitcase that’s long lasting will save you money in the long run from all the cheap, crappy suitcases that inevitably break. And a few things like refillable travel bottles and shoe bags make packing easier. Here’s our own travel-tested gear, most of which we’ve owned for 5 years or more and can confidently say is worth the price.
We’ve flown more than 100,000 miles every year for the last couple of years. To stay we’re hard on luggage is an understatement. And even though we opt for a 21-inch carry-on sized bag, it almost always gets checked since we carry on our backpack with camera gear and electronics.
The Ricardo Beverly Hills Roxbury is the best piece of luggage we’ve ever owned. The dual-wheel spinner system means it easily pushes even when we’re pushing it over the cobblestones. I’ve often joked that I push it with one finger just because I can. The brushed silver has also remained attractive looking despite being tossed on to countless baggage belts and I never have to be embarrassed when checking in to the luxury hotels we often stay at. It’s also expandable and I can get a surprising amount inside, traveling with just this bag for up to 3 weeks at a time.
I’m a Ricardo customer for life after being introduced to this bag nearly four years ago.
I am not joking when I say that I purchased my very set of Cool Gear Go-Gear silicone travel bottles in 2007 and have been using that exact set ever since. These things hold up and I have never, ever had them leak.
I also love that I just fill them up with my own usual products right at home. I don’t have to look for travel size or collect samples. And not constantly buying all those travel size shampoos and stuff is better for the environment.
You might start to notice a pattern. When we find great travel gear that’s long lasting, we stick with it. We picked up our bright lime green Lepow Moonstone before we traveled around Iceland in a camper van in 2014 and it’s still going strong.
Of all the power banks we’ve tried, this one is by far our favorite. It has two USB outputs, one of which is a fast charge and will fully charge up our iPhones in just 1 hour. We’ve got the 6000mAh, which will charge up an iPhone 8 two full charges or both of our phones simultaneously from the dual USB ports.
And check out the other travel power bank chargers that we recommend for suggestions for the best outdoor adventure power bank to a lipstick-sized one you can stash in a clutch bag for an evening out.
Did you know that a small tear or a stain can make your passport invalid? And what actually constitutes “damage” can be entirely subjective depending on the passport agent you get and even their mood that day. That’s why we make sure we protect our passports.
I love the Lovie Style passport holder, which comes with a slim removable power bank. There are several pockets inside that can hold credit cards, our Priority Pass membership card and things like Oyster Cards and there’s slide pockets that hold our passports and some cash. The elastic bands secure our phones from sliding out. The passport wallet entirely zips closed so I don’t have to worry about anything falling out of it.
We both travel with at least 2-3 pairs of shoes and shoe bags are essential for keeping our shoes from getting the rest of the things in our suitcase from getting dirty. I actually like these shoe bags best because they are designed for individual shoes. If you’ve ever played the packing puzzle game, then you probably know that shoes pack better when you arrange them separately as opposed to shoving the pair in a pair and trying to make them fit. These are machine washable too.
Our Camera Gear and Electronics
These items that are all found in our camera and electronics bag are on the higher end of the gift price scale. But if you’re looking for something like a new camera or lens that you know your significant other really wants but just won’t splurge on for themselves, here’s our very own gear we personally use.
I love to read, but I don’t have as much time to read these days as I would like. I’m actually pretty terrible at working while traveling. Since it’s nearly impossible for me to write or even edit photos on a plane, that’s usually my time to lose myself in a book.
I also have to admit that I resisted eBooks for years. But I can burn through a good book on a trip easily, so a Kindle is a lightweight and slim alternative to carrying around a bunch of books. The Paperwhite doesn’t have a glare like trying to read on an iPad and the latest version is even waterproof, which makes it even better for taking to the beach.
While we have several cameras, including the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, the camera that I personally use most often is the Canon EOS 80D Digital SLR. It’s lighter weight than the 5D and unless we’re shooting night scenes, does mostly what I need it to do. I also love that it has wifi, so I can easily download the photos to my iPhone and share to social media on the go.
If you’re ready to take your photography up a notch from beginner, the Canon 80D is a really solid mid-range camera that gives you a lot of manual controls. It’s priced well for the significant manual control you get with its functions.
I use the Canon 80D body with a Tamron 16-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Macro Lens most frequently since this lens is capable of shooting in a wide range of conditions. It’s a solid all-in-one lens that lets me get away without carrying loads of gear, since I’m usually also carrying a drone and a gimbal stabilizer for shooting video.
If you ask for one piece of camera gear this holiday season, ask for a tripod. A more expensive camera will only help if you actually know how to use all the functions. Honestly, the first thing to invest in when you really start working on your photography is a good tripod. If you’re using manual functions, you’re best off using a tripod to stabilize and produce clear, crisp images.
We like MeFOTO tripods for several reasons including that they are relatively lightweight without sacrificing the sturdiness in windy conditions and that they pack down to a pretty good travel size.
Awesome Travel Gifts Designed by Travel Bloggers
Several of our travel blogging colleagues have created their own gear in recent years. We’ve rounded up the things we love most and are thrilled to introduce you to these creative entrepreneurs.
We Beth and Randy more than five years ago now and I’ve been a long-time fan of the genius travel scarves they created. The scarves have a hidden pocket where you can stash your valuables. So if you’ve ever worried about being pick-pocketed (and I know you have from the emails and messages we get asking how to protect again this in busy cities), then this scarf is for you.
Beth hand crafts each and every scarf, so you’re guaranteed to get a high-quality scarf hand made and made in the USA. They come in a variety of colors and styles.
Our friend Kirsten Alana is more of a photographer when a travel blogger, and I’ve long loved following her on assignment and seeing the world through her lens. She’s teamed up with Parisian tote bag designer Kasia Dietz to design a line of handbags that help African elephants.
30% of proceeds from sales of the Kenya line of bags will be donated to the Elephant Trust and Wildlife Direct, both organizations that work to aid elephants and help save them from poaching in Kenya and neighboring countries.
I love these totes and I rarely leave the house without a tote bag in addition to my purse. And if my next tote bag can help support a good cause, even better.
We met Kate and Cailin when we very first started travel blogging with the intent to turn our blog into a business. The two have teamed up to create a line of t-shirts with travel sayings on them. There six different designs to choose from with more to come soon. The latest, which I particularly love, is the “Champagne & Prosecco & Cava & Bubbly.”
Jodi was one of the very first people we met when we came in to this often weird world of travel blogging professionally. Jodi has always been the ultimate foodie, and despite having Celiac disease, this gal knows her food. She created a line of food maps that are inked by artist Ella F. Sanders. If you’re a fan of Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Portugal, Italy or Mexico, these artworks will make a beautiful addition to your home.
You can also get the designs on tshirts and tote bags. I’ve been waiting for Jodi to design one for France.
Unfortunately, I might be waiting quite a while. Jodi has suffered with a debilitating condition for more than a year now. She had a spinal tap that went very, very wrong and left her with a CSF leak. After months spent flat on her back she finally underwent a series of patching to seal her leak at Duke University and things were looking hopeful again. But she’s recently suffered another set back and is leaking again. She’s awaiting patching at Duke again, but she’s basically been unable to work since this all started. You can read her story on her blog, Legal Nomads.
Get it in the Legal Nomads shop starting from $18 and you can use the code TBLOGS18 to get 15% off your order until December 31, 2018.
We already mentioned that a quality tripod is one of the best tools to help improve photography. And if you or the traveler in your life really wants to learn how to actually use the manual functions on their camera, taking an online photography course is one of the best ways to do that. Invest a little time and money into improving your photography and stop coming home with photos with a crooked horizon (our personal biggest peeve and the thing that immediately takes a photo from okay to super crappy) and stiff poses in front of attractions photo bombed with loads of others.
The Photo Muse Masterclass is an online photography course taught by Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse and the various modules teach you everything from basics like aperture, ISO and shutter speed to in-depth planning for an astro-photography outing so you can capture gorgeous night photos of the Milky Way. She’s also basically a goddess when it comes to posing and creating photos worthy of being postcards – something I aspire to feel comfortable enough in front of the camera doing myself.
Tim and I both took Kristin’s course (read my Photo Muse Masterclass review) and we’re trying to put some of her techniques in to more practice, especially when it comes to getting photos of the both of us together. We recently took her advice in London to do a mini photo shoot with a capable looking stranger, offered to photograph them first and directed how they should pose, then once they had photos they were happy with and had an idea of how to frame us, had them take our photo. Let’s just say that the photo above came out way better than basically any other photo we’ve had other people take of us in at least a year or so.
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