The best travel gifts for frequent flyers and armchair travellers

·8-min read
We’ve found everything from brilliant travel backpacks to portable coffee makers  (The Independent)
We’ve found everything from brilliant travel backpacks to portable coffee makers (The Independent)

The best travel gifts come in many shapes and sizes.

Whether it’s a practical present like a sturdy, space-saving backpack that seamlessly takes you from jungle trek to city stroll, a travel-sized toiletry that can make even the most modest of hotels feel like a five-star resort or one of the best gifts for wanderlusters – the experiential travel gift card – we’ve tracked down and tested present ideas for every type of explorer.

Travellers have faced a whole new set of stress factors on their journeys this year, from long-winded passenger locator forms to expensive day-two travel tests and more traffic-light updates that you can shake a selfie stick at. So there has never been more of a need for some travel-related joy.

If you’re looking to delight a traveller in your life this year, consider one of these Christmas gift ideas.

How we tested

While most of our adventures this year have been largely staycations, our tester made sure to include a range of travel gifts that appeal to every kind of wanderer for this gift guide, assessing each item on its quality and wanderlust factor – with extra points given for practicality.

Read more:

The best travel gifts for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Stubble & Co the adventure backpack: £185,

  • Best last-minute gift – Airbnb gift card: From £25,

  • Best for road trips – DS & Durga auto fragrance set: £60,

  • Best for camping – BioLite campstove 2+: £149.95,

  • Best stocking filler – Sensori+ Byron Bay breeze mask sanitiser: £15,

  • Best for heritage tourists – 23AndMe ancestry DNA test: £99,

  • Best for over-packers – Paravel foldable travel duffle bag: £64.84,

  • Best for serious coffee lovers – Handpresso portable espresso machine: £91.20,

  • Best for hands-free exploring – Dagne Dover phone sling: £59,

Stubble & Co the adventure bag

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Whether they’re gearing up for a big hiking trip around the world or a road trip around Britain, a multi-tasking high-quality backpack is the trustiest travel companion. And this 42-litre option from Stubble & Co is the perfect pick. Not only is it lightweight and small enough to tuck away comfortably in the carry-on compartment of a plane, but it also has about 11 brilliant easy-access pockets so they can separate everything from their laptop to their liquids to shoes and water bottles with ease – one of those is a hidden card pocket on the strap for easy access to your money. Another feature we love is the main zip, which opens like a suitcase.

Read more: 8 best travel backpacks for every adventure

Buy now £185.00,

Airbnb gift card

Best: Last-minute gift

Rating: 8/10

If they’re the type of traveller who prefers to absorb themselves in a local neighbourhood rather than bed down in a hotel, then Airbnb’s new gift cards are your best choice this year. The customisable e-cards can be purchased in amounts from £25 and £2000 and can be redeemed on any Airbnb service, whether that’s a wooden treehouse stay in West Sussex, a cooking class in Mexico, or an online meditation session with a Japanese Buddhist monk. And the best thing? Your gift arrives instantly via text or email, making it the perfect last-minute Christmas gift.

Buy now £25.00,

DS & Durga auto fragrance set

Best: For road trips

Rating: 8/10

Road trips are having a moment. So if your favourite traveller is hitting the road, why not elevate their drive with a luxury car freshener? This gift set from our go-to candle brand DS & Durga is a far cry from the hanging car trees you may be familiar with – think smoky fragrances like “portable fireplace”, eucalyptus-scented “Big Sur after the rain” and cardamom-infused “holy ficus”. It doesn’t just need to be a companion to a lengthy drive, either – the hanging cards (which come cased in scratch-and-sniff envelopes) also double as home air fresheners for wardrobes and drawers too.

Read more: 9 best car diffusers to make driving a joy for the senses

Buy now £60.00,

BioLite campstove 2+

Best: For camping

Rating: 9/10

If their campside cooking repertoire doesn’t normally stretch beyond soggy burgers, BioLite’s campstove 2+ is a game-changer. The lightweight, portable cooking system burns sticks and wood scraps or pellets to create a sophisticated smokeless flame perfect for grilling, boiling or cooking – but our favourite feature? The heat from the fire then creates electricity, which can be used to charge your phone via a handy USB port – magic. The stove is easy to pack away and packs down to an impressively small size. Want to take your happy camper’s present up a notch? Choose to add on the tabletop grill (£59.99, or a proper tent-side feast or add the kettletop and cafetiere (£12.99, for a group who take their morning brew seriously – it can make six cups of coffee at once.

Buy now £149.95,

Sensori+ Byron Bay breeze mask sanitiser

Best: Stocking filler

Rating: 8/10

Travelling in our current times means many hours spent wearing reusable masks. Beyond making sure your traveller has the best face mask possible for lengthy journeys (we rounded up our favourites), Sensori +’s Byron Bay breeze mask sanitiser eliminates bacteria and pairs that with a calming fragrance inspired by Byron Bay’s summer breeze – think peppermint, lime and cedarwood – ideal for long, stressful journeys. The handy, travel-sized 30ml bottle fits easily in any bum bag or purse. Plus, it’s packed with salicylic acid and soothing aloe vera to banish any maskne woes.

Buy now £15.00,

23andMe ancestry DNA test

Best: For the heritage tourist

Rating: 9/10

Not all travel begins at an airport or train station – some can start at home with a DNA kit, believe it or not. Enter: heritage travel. Not only are travellers nowadays looking to connect with locals on their trips, but they want to connect to their own family tree. Our favourite geneology kit, 23AndMe, has even go so far as to partner with Airbnb so travellers can find homes and experiences in their native countries immediately.

The kit itself is very slick and makes a great present. On the test front, the results are impressively in-depth and equally as fun to read through. We were told we had 0.1 per cent Korean ancestry, as well as having 5 per cent more Neanderthal DNA than other customers, which may influence our traits, such as having difficulty discarding rarely-used possessions. The rest of the results are similarly fun insights.

Buy now £99.00,

Paravel foldable travel duffle bag

Best: For over-packers

Rating: 9.5/10

We’ve droned on about this stylish Mary Poppins-esque fold-up bag for a long time (it was our staycation essential and our best duffle bag). And three years since first using it, it’s just as essential to us in any packing situation, whether it’s a countryside trip in the UK, an international jaunt or, sometimes just to help get the Sainsbury’s weekly shop up the stairs in one go.

What makes it such a perfect pick for the overpacker? Not only is it incredibly lightweight (it’s 453g) and incredibly chic, it somehow fits every souvenir or tchotchkes a traveller could possibly buy. And, best of all, it folds completely flat and zips into a neat little pouch.

Buy now £64.84,

Handpresso portable espresso machine

Best: For serious coffee lovers

If your giftee is serious about their coffee, then look no further than Handpresso’s manual espresso machine set. The luxurious and lightweight set comes in an easy-to-carry bag along with a pump for E.S.E pods or ground coffee, a thermo-flask, a napkin, and four“unbreakable” clear espresso cups.

There’s no electricity or battery needed to use the pump either, so, as long as they’ve packed the thermos with boiling water they can have a civilised espresso break even if they’re camping in the middle of nowhere.

Read more: 10 best Christmas gifts for coffee connoisseurs

Buy now £91.20,

Dagne Dover mara phone sling

Best: For hands-free exploring

Rating: 8/10

Phone, cards, keys, earbuds, lip balm? If they like to travel light or they like to keep their valuables up close, Dagne Dover’s recycled neoprene phone sling was made for essentials-only carrying. For such a small sling, it packs a punch when it comes to maximising space. There are multiple pockets, card slots, a lip balm holder and a D ring for latching keys onto, meaning they’ll never need to scramble to find their wallet or waste a second reaching for their phone for a picture-perfect moment.

Buy now £59.00,

The verdict: Christmas gifts for travel lovers

Stubble & Co’s adventure backpack really does scream “travel” and is a seriously good gift for any wanderluster planning a big trip. It’s incredibly light, small enough to fit into an overhead compartment and wastes zero opportunities when it comes to its practical pockets and hidden compartments.

For the super-last-minute shopper, Airbnb’s gift card is a no-brainer and can be spent on out-of-the-ordinary stays or online experiences.

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on gifts, try the links below:

For more festive present ideas, head over to our Christmas gifts section

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