I’m a big fan of the “you don’t need more stuff” philosophy. I have everything I need, and a good portion of the things I want. I no longer feel that “things” define who I am, my values, or my worth.
Over the last year or so, we’ve been trying to take more things out of the house than bring into it. We haven’t always been successful, but we’ve definitely cut down our conspicuous over-consumption.
So why, you might be asking yourself, is a Holiday Gift Guide appearing on Traveling with MJ?
This holiday gift guide represents goods and services that I use regularly, with a few that are currently on my personal shopping list. It represents a mix of needs, wants, and splurges. These are things that make my business, travel, and home life simpler, easier, better.
Any item on this gift list is one that I would love to receive, and although many are travel-oriented, there are solid choices for the armchair traveler as well.
I pass the list on to like-minded readers because I think you will appreciate these items as much as I do. I’ve focused on practicality – these are items I use.
Most of the items on this list are VERY affordable, most priced under $100 and many under $15. There are a few outlying splurges, of course, but the items on this list won’t break the bank – you’ll still have lots of travel budget left.
Most of these products may be offered on some sort of Black Friday sale. It’s impossible for me to keep up on all the sales, price discounts, and applicable dates. Do your due diligence – check to see what’s offered from various websites and stores, compare return policies, and make the decision that’s right for you.
Note: Many of the items in this list include affiliate links. This means that if you use the link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission (and I do mean small). Using these links is one way to support a small business.
2023 Holiday Gift Guide
The best gifts are always experiences and time. But if you're looking for something tangible for under the tree, take a look at this list of gifts suitable for the travelers in your life.
This is a shameless plug! But I honestly think you’ll enjoy it. Whether you’re a local looking for something new or a visitor wanting to feel like a local, Secret Seattle lets you in on dozens of secrets around the Emerald City. Create a to-visit list and choose one to visit each week. Also available in Kindle format.
I’ve been a Kindle user since the original version. Yes, I still love the feel of a book in my hands – I wrote one, I have bookshelves of reference books, and I love getting autographed copies. But I read a lot, and I found myself packing too many books when I traveled. My Kindle helps me lose that excess weight. It also syncs with my library (where I get most of my books) and the Libby app, allowing me to read more and spend less. I recently upgraded to the Oasis version, but think the Paperwhite version is a good starter. It’s waterproof and backlit, and you can adjust the font size for easy reading. Add a pretty cover – I suggest something bright and colorful so you can spot it easily.
I always travel with a backup charger. Sometimes more than one. I’ve been using this one for over two years and it charges just as quickly as it did when it was new. I also like that it’s thin and easily fits in an outside pocket of a bag. I also like that it works for various plug-in types, including USB and Universal. I just upgraded to iPhone 15 Pro Max (which uses the USB-C unviersal plug-in), but still need the regular USB for other devices. With this, I won't need multiple power banks.
No matter well prepared we are, there's always that moment when we both need to charge devices. A power strip can solve the problem for you and your traveling companions. If you're at a meeting or conference, plugging in and letting others have space to charge is sure to make you the event VIP. There are lots of options on size, style, and number/type of plugs-ins. This is the one I have.
I hate the mess cables, gadgets, cards, and gadget paraphernalia can make. I also hate having my careful packed and organized items get poached, and ownership asserted by traveling companions who've forgotten to pack what they need. I'm all for sharing, just keep it neat! My recommendation is to get a bright color (so it's easily spotted and reduces the chance of getting left behind) and different colors for each person.
No more worrying about ridiculously high-priced international phone plans with an e-Sim. We've used these on four continents without problems. They come in country-specific or regional plans. We got a European regional plan for our eastern European cruise, and I used a country plan for my trip to Kazakhstan. Prices are super cheap!
While I think these are two small for makeup, they are the perfect size for separating foreign currency. On a recent trip, I had Euros in one, Romanian leu in another, and Hungarian forint in another. While I try to use cards for purchases when traveling, I also like to have some small bills and change handy. Keeping them separated with these squeze-top pouches was an easy - and inexpensive - options.
Simple protection for your lightning charging port away from dust, moisture and pocket lint. Works on any Apple device with lightning plug-in. Tony keeps his phone in his pocket and lint is a real issue. This simple and inexpensive plug has saved him many a trip to the Apple store. He'll still be using this one for his AirPods, but will be ordering these for his new phone.
I just upgraded to an iPhone 15 Pro Max and had to get a new lanyard (my previous one was a full case, not just a landyard). These are great for traveling, especially when you need to keep you phone handy and your hand(s) free. Juggling a DSLR and phone camera? You can easily swap back and forth instead of digging into a pocket. I love it for spots where I worry about dropping my phone, yet want to stretch to take a photo. Convenient, adjustable crossbody length, anti-theft design, and will work in any full-coverage phone case.
If you’ve read any travel news this year, you know that luggage issues have gone crazy. Whether bags got misplaced, went missing, or perhaps were stacked up in an airport somewhere, Air Tags have become a lifesaver for many travelers. I keep one in my luggage (whether checked or carry-on) and am reassured knowing where my bag is. I bought these keychain holders so they are easy to attach. We've discovered lots of additional uses for these (so many items tht we seem to misplace), so will be picking up another 4-pack.
Life changing! I use these all the time, and the minute I take them off, I realize just how noisy the world around me really is. They have noise cancellation and transparency mode, so you can set your listening preference. I use noise cancellations on flights and transparency when I'm out walking.
We have lots of luggage for carryon and checked bags, but we didn't have an all-purpose rugged duffel. We needed something soft-sided, but still rugged, for a summer sailing trip. Plus, it would be more practical for local weekend getaways than our hard-sided Samsonite suitcase. We picked up two of these early in the summer and have been using regularly ever since - sailing, a weekend at the ocean, a quick family overnight. Made of waterproof durable waxed canvas, this has become a staple in our luggage wardrobe.
I don’t do a lot of shopping when I travel, but occasionally I wind up with more stuff coming home than when I set out. I picked up this small folding travel bag as an extra – a bag that I could slip into my luggage and have if I needed it on the return trip. It’s waterproof, so it works well for damp items by the pool as well. Keep one in the car, it's great for road trips, and surprisingly durable.
I was a late convert to packing cubes, but once I started using them, I became so much more efficient in how I pack for a trip. There are lots of philosophies about how to use them best, and I experimented a bit to come up with what works for me (a combo of roll and fold). Now I can’t imagine packing without them. They keep me organized and help me avoid overpacking. Get a different color for every family member.
These destination-themed totes are large enough (18"x15") to carry groceries, yet fold up small enough to tuck in a purse or pocket. With most country and state destinations, you can choose a tote reflective of your favorite - or most recent - vacation. We're keeping this in our glove box, so we always have a tote for unplanned shopping or a stop at the Pike Place Market (or any farmers market). Keeping it handy makes sure we continue our efforts of saying no to plastic.
We often enjoy attending a sporting event while traveling, and Tony has been known to select a destination based on a being able to attend a baseball game. We were surprised to learn - and at the very last minute - that we'd need a clear bag to take anything into an MLB game. We grabbed a couple of these at the last minute. They're approved to be used where regulations require clear bags such as football games, casinos, events, parks, concerts, college stadiums, etc. Just in case we're not the only ones who are the last to know about this requirement, it's a practical gift for travel and at home.
I'm not a fan of eye masks, but friends who are rate this one highly. It's lightly weighted, super soft fleece, and designed to alleviate stress and anxiety. It's freezer-friendly, so also good for headache relief. Machine washable.
I love journals. And while I still haven't found a dedicated travel journal that I love, I use these blank ones for notes about everything travel notes, story ideas, things to look up, referrals, and more. Add a glue stick and you can add in ticket stubs and post cares. Add colored pencils or pens, and you can draw, doodle or embellish. The paper is heavy and nice to write on. I have it in burgundy and metallic grapphite.
These are a nice addition to a travel journal for the traveler who also is an artist. An easy way to illustrate a journal, or do small sized art. Take the full set of 54 (there are smaller ones - 30, and 15) ), or just a few favorites. I had an introductory set of these and while I enjoyed learning how to use them, my inner artist never came out to stay.
I toss a couple of these in my purse for doodling in my travel journal. They're pretty and give a little life to the pages (you can also get them in just black). Friends who travel with kids first suggested these to me. Because they're erasable, it easy to hand them off to young fingers without worrying about a destructive mess on a plane, in a hotel, or at a AirBnB.
This is a gift that can save someone's life - a detailed gluten free card, written by a celiac, and translated by native language speakers. Downloadable, so you can keep on your phone, or print it out and take with you on your travels. Available for too many countries to list. A great way to make sure you can still enjoy food when you travel without worrying about if you'll end up in a hospital.
This guide (written by a travel friend), is full of tips and recommendations, along with suggested daily schedules, to make planning a trip to Greece easy-peasy. Suitable for families with kids elementary age and up, the info is easily adaptable for traveling without kids as well. While I don't like super-planned itineraries - although MANY people do - I like information that lets me pick and choose what to do, and then I can add in time for sipping wine at a cafe or lounging with a book. Other guides include Portugal, Spain, and the Christmas Markets in Germany.
While I'm a Kindle user for most of my reading, I still like hard copies of travel guides. One of my favorite series are the DK Eyewitness Top 10 Pocket Guide. It's small enough in size so that it really can fit in your pocket, and is packed with the kind of information I'm looking for on the road. I don't like planned out itineraries, although this guidebooks has that. What I far prefer is the themed Top 10 lists (museums, festivals, historical sites, etc) and then the breakdown by neighborhoods of what there is to see, do, eat, stay, etc. When I'm up for a museum, I can scan the list for ideas. When I want to know where to go shopping in my neighborhood, I browse that section. Lots of practical information and tips, and fold out maps. Value-priced. Would make a great gift for a friend with upcoming travel scheduled. Or get it for yourself, that's okay too. Lots of destinations available.
If you ever need a reminder of how small we humans are in the grand scheme of things, take a moment to look up at the heavens. The Lonely Planet Guidebook, written by a travel colleague, is the world's first guide to astrotourism. Learn about dark-sky sites and national parks, where to see the aurora, the next decade of total solar eclipses and how to view rocket launches, plus the lowdown on commercial space flight, observatories and meteor showers.
We've used a version of powered toothbrush at home for a long time, but it was always difficult to travel with it. Not so with this one. The charge lasts for at least two weeks (that's how long I've had one with me when traveling and there was still a charge) and the easy carrying case protects it.
Leo's Loo Too automatically cleans itself after each use by separating waste from clean litter and depositing it in the enclosed waste drawer underneath. Traps odors inside the fully enclosed waste drawer that features extra dense bamboo filters. A real bonus to be able to leave your cat alone for a quick overnight and not come home to a messy litterbox. Plus, it can make a pet sitter much easier when they don't have to deal with a little box.
I can't tell you how many times we've had to turn around from our trip to the airport because we can't remember if we shut the garage door. New construction generally has these installed as part of a smart home kit, However, webuilt our home long before the smart era, so needed an after market option. This is simple and does the trick. And while we still don't remember if we shut the garage door, now we can look at the app for confirmation.
This portable, USB-C rechargable blender goes everywhere. Perfect for smoothies or margaritas on a road trip, camping, or at the beach. I use it at home making smoothies, salad dressing, or whipping up batter for pancakes. The unit is self-contained and locks tightly so you can just take the whole thing with you. Add in the drinking lid and you're all set. Easy to pack, clean, and take with you.
It seems like we never have a flashlight when we need one, and if we do, the batteries are dead. We're stashing these where we need them - next to the bed (in our bed caddy) in case of power failure, in the car (for road trips), in our carry on bags (for those long overnight flights).
We recently ordered several of these to share with family and friends. Emergencies can happen anywhere. Clip this onto your keychain, backpack, purse, belt loop, zipper tag, or anywhere you can conveniently reach it in case of emergency. Can be used to scare off an intruder, call attention to the need for assitance, or grab attention. It's one of those things that I hope I never have to use, but am glad to have it handy - just in case.
I use this on my bed at home to tuck away my Kindle, guidebooks, phone, glasses, water bottle, etc., every night. But friends swear by this for travel, using it when they're in a hotel for more than one night or in their cruise cabin. It folds up flat, take up no room at all, and is a convenient way to keep all your stuff handy - and in one place.
This is always in my carryon and I slather it on anytime I'm on a plane. Dry airplane air means my skin needs all the help it can get, and this mask helps me out. It's not really a mask, more of a moisturizing treatment, I have it in three flavors - berry, mango, and vanilla - and keep one in my carryon, one at my desk, and have an extra so I don't run out. I keep their companion product, Glowy Lip Balm in my purse (I'm currently using grapefruit).
A scarf is one of the unsung heroes in the travel world. Wrap it around your next for a little extra warmth, tie in on the handle of a purse or backpack, cover your head or shoulders in a place of worship, or dress up otherwise casual attire. I have this large scarf in a few colors and it's lightweight enough to take up minimal room in luggage. Last time I forgot to pack it, I needed it (my trip to Kazakhstan). I won't make that mistake again.
I don't need heavy duty winter wear, but I do need something that will keep me warm and is easy to pack. I picked up this puffer jacket for a recent getaway weekend and it was perfect. Fully lined, quilted, water resistant, and insulated, Rolls up easy for packing. it was warm enough for Pacific Northwest fall. It's not going to be warm enough for a brutal icy winter day, but on those days you'll find me in front of the fireplace.
I hate wearing shorts! My legs are pasty white, they never seam to be long enough in the rise and keep creeping up, and the hip -to-waist ration never fits my curves. This year, however, I've had to accept that there are times I need them. I ordered these because they had zipped pocked (side and back), and because they were lightweight and dried super fast if they got wet. While I still don't love wearing shorts, and you won't find me in them very often, I added a couple of these for activities in warm weather destinations.
I've picked up a few of these dresses for warm weather travel. Perfect on a cruise, throw on a jacket if you need a quasi-business look, and keep a sweater handy for evening. Packs with no wrinkles, launders easily, kits of patterns and solid colors, and I love the pockets. After our Caribbean cruise in December, I'll be stowing this away until it's warm weather time again.
Loose fit linen palazzo pants, cropped length, 2 side pockets, lightweight, with flared legs and an elastic back. I have these in several colors, and ordering a white pair for our upcoming Caribbean cruise. Heavy enough to provide a little warmth, but light enough to feel fresh and comfortable in warm weather. Dress up or down. Packs easily and any wrinkles shake out easily.
This one's for the guys, who often seem to get overlooked when it comes to comfortable underwear for travel. Tony gave these Mackenzie & Park boxer briefs a try on a couple of our trips and said fit well, were comfy for hours of travel activity, and laundered up well on the road. Life's too short to wear uncomfortable underwear.
If you have a "will travel for wine" friend on your gift list, this is a great gift to encourage learning more about wine. I got a similar version as a gift last year and LOVE it. I regularly work to improve the aromas that I recognize and it has helped me to recognize and appreciate more in the wine aroma and flavor. Perfect to sprinkle in a holiday stocking or add to a package to create a mysterious rattle.
This is the wine tasting journal that I'm currently using. It's book bound, has a strap to keep it secure, and a ribbon to serve as a bookmark. It's small enough to keep in my purse and has prompts for basic details. I just bought another one for 2024, and while it's still not exactly what I want, it's the closest I've found.
We like picking up a local bottle of wine to enjoy in our room when traveling, but we never seem to remember to pack a wine opener. We don't want to pack one of our good ones (expensive if we leave it behind), so we picked up a couple of these and it stays packed in our bags. Just remember, this will need to go in a checked bag.
As a chronic allergy sufferer, these throat lozenges come in handy on a plane, or anywhere in public. In the post-Covid era, any coughing or clearing of a throat is guaranteed to generate side-eyes, When I'm taking decongestants, nasal spray, and combatting post-nasal drip, coughing is inevitable. Add in dry airplane air and it can be miserable. Honees helps me out big time. I've always got some in my purse and a larger bag stays packed in my carryon. I like this original flavor, but there is also a honey lemon.
This wine tasting membership program provides discounts in the most popular wine regions across the country (wineries, wine bars, hotels, restaurants, etc.). The pass is good for a year, and a lot of the discounts seem to be 2 for 1 tastings. We haven't had a chance to use ours yet, but we have scoped out some of the local wineries participating. You can browse the deals by region to see what's near you or near where you'll be traveling.
If you travel with Pokemon Go players, this can come in handy and help get their noses out of their devices. The small wearable device connects to a smartphone via Bluetooth low power, allowing players to enjoy the game on the move without looking at their smartphone. For iPhone only. We both have one of these as we play with younger family members.
I bought the World Edition subscription for a young family member, and every month, we open the box and explore a new destination. There was a small suitcase, bag tags, and stickers, along with an activity or book. I'd like to think that it instilled in him a curiosity for the world. Fun and educational.
I love lists and checking things off. I've never seen it as a race to the finish, but as prompts of things that I want to do. this National Parks scratch off poster would be a great gift for a parks lover (it's on my wish list). I haven't been to a majority of the 63 National Parks, but they're on my list!
Maybe it's the AV geek in me, but I've been on the lookout for some decent sized aviation art for our family room wall. Apparently, you can take the girl out of aviation, but you can't take aviation out of the girl. A great gift for aviation lovers, airplane buffs, and air travel lovers.
Traveling with MJ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. You can find my Amazon influencer store here.