Fashion & Beauty Packing

Splurge vs. Steal: The Best Travel Gifts at Every Budget (from $11 to $2,200)

So you want to give that someone special something useful for their travels, but you’re either on a budget or looking to go big with your gifting. I took 20 popular travel gifts and found a steal option and a splurge option to satisfy everyone on your list.

Mirrorless Camera

Mirrorless camera

Steal: The Panasonic Lumix GX850 4k Mirrorless Camera’s lightweight features and self-facing flip screen make it an ideal gift for avid travelers who like to document their travels.

Splurge: The Sony Alpha a7IIK Mirrorless Digital Camera captures superior high-resolution photos and videos for more avid photographers, but it still has a lightweight body frame.

Wireless Bluetooth Headphones

Wireless bluetooth headphones

Steal: Cshidworld’s wireless earbuds are an affordable alternative to the well-known AirPods. This pair of headphones is waterproof, and the case doubles as a portable phone charger.

Splurge: Apple’s popular AirPods need no explanation and, for many, do live up to the hype. Plus, the latest version, the AirPods Pro, is now available as of fall 2019 and is sure to be one of the hottest gifts to give this year.

Laptop Backpack

Laptop backpack

 Steal: Matein’s laptop backpack is a sturdy and budget-friendly multi-functional travel backpack. Complete with an external USB port and pass-through luggage strap, it compares well to more expensive packs.

Splurge: Incase’s ICON Backpack is an organized traveler’s dream. With plenty of pockets and placements for tech products, plus easy-to-access side pockets, any frequent flyer will love this bag.

Travel Inspiration

Travel inspiration

Steal: For those looking to give the gift of travel inspiration, the new, second-edition Atlas Obscura book makes a perfect present.

Splurge: If you really want to impress someone, gift them a photo book or frame a photo of their favorite place; better yet, use their own travel photos. Check out Artifact Uprising for custom prints, calendars, frames, album books, and more.

In-Flight Comfort Set

Inflight comfort set

Steal: Zideli’s 4-in-1 in-flight comfort set includes a lightweight blanket, inflatable pillow, eye mask, and earplugs, so you can rest easy on your next red-eye.

Splurge: Really spoil them with a 100 percent cashmere set from Jet&Bo. This luxe gift comes with an ultra-soft travel blanket, eye mask, socks, and carrying case.

Universal Adapter

Universal adapter

Steal: TryAce’s universal power adapter comes in a two-pack and works in 190 countries. Smaller than a phone and listed at an unbeatable price, this is an ideal gift for travelers.

Splurge: Gift Flight 001’s high-quality 5-in-1 Universal Adapter is a convenient stocking stuffer for travelers; it can be used in 150 different countries and includes a USB port.

Convertible Bag

Convertible bag

Steal: Camelbak’s convertible backpack/tote Pivot Tote is a stylish and functional bag made with repurposed materials.

Splurge: The Studio Bag by Caraa is a luxe backpack that smartly converts to a messenger bag. Luxe leather details and innovative construction make this a stylish traveler’s dream bag.

Spinner Carry-on

Spinner carry-on

Steal: AmazonBasics’ Hardshell Spinner Suitcase is lightweight and has built-in TSA locks, telescopic handles, and 360-degree spinner wheels.

Splurge: If you really want to impress this holiday season, Tumi’s Latitude International Hardside Carry-On Luggage is a fan favorite.

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Skincare Set

Skincare set

Steal: The travel section at many CVS store locations has improved over the years, and you can even shop its trial section online. You’ll find stocking stuffers like micellar water, face masks, makeup remover wipes, shea sugar scrub, and beeswax lip balm.

Splurge: To really wow, gift a custom skincare set by Proven Skincare. Your recipient takes a comprehensive online quiz, which takes into account everything from genetic background, age, and lifestyle to how frequently they fly. Based on these (and 47 other factors), Proven sends a custom cleanser, sun-protective day cream, and night moisturizer.

Classic Black Leggings

Classic black leggings

Steal: These stretch leggings by Duluth Trading Co. are a true workhorse. They’re super stretchy, comfortable, moisture-wicking, and machine-washable. They also have UPF 40 sun protection and do double duty, either as a pair of tights or worn on their own.

Splurge: Tried-and-true Lululemon Speed Up Tights are many travelers’ go-to travel uniform. The leggings now come in super stretchy and soft fabric, Full-On Luxtreme.

Travel Wallet

Travel wallet

Steal: The best-selling Zoppen Passport Holder Travel Wallet has more than 150 five-star reviews on Amazon, and for good reason. Not only does it hold seven cards, a passport, an ID, a pen, a boarding pass, cash, and a phone, it also comes with a detachable wristlet and has RFID-blocking capabilities.

Splurge: Spend some more and gift your favorite traveler Aspinal of London’s Classic Travel Wallet. Tabbed sections hold your boarding pass, passport, and documents. There’s also a pocket for coins and cash. You can even personalize your gift with free embossing.

Mini-Crossbody Bag

Mini-Crossbody bag

Steal: The small but mighty Travelon Anti-Theft Metro Stadium Mini Crossbody holds and protects your essentials so you can focus on exploring a new city. The bag comes complete with an RFID-blocking pocket and slash-resistant straps.

Splurge: This lightweight and compact bag by MZ Wallace can easily go from day to night with the switch of a strap. It holds everything you need for a day walking tour but won’t weigh you down.

Travel Scarf

Travel scarf

Steal: For those who are always chilly on flights, consider the HappyLuxe Travel Wrap. Made with eco-friendly MicroModal fabric, this made-in-the-U.S. travel scarf has a hidden pocket and an air-activated neck warmer.

Splurge: For ultimate luxury, consider Bleausalt’s The Travel Wrap. Made from sustainable beechwood, this large scarf is ultra-soft and doubles as a blanket.

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Polarized Sunglasses

Polarized sunglasses

Steal: Sunglass brand Sunski makes polarized sunglasses that are extremely budget-friendly. Choose from any of the unisex styles in a variety of shapes and colors; they’ll be sure to please.

Splurge: You can’t go wrong with classic Ray-Ban sunglasses, and the company’s polarized lens are ahead of the game, with more than 70 years of development in every lens.

Monthly Vitamin Packs

Monthly vitamin packs

Steal: Health-wellness brand Rae makes affordable, 30-day supplies of supplements for energy, hydration, pre- and probiotics, sleep, and other aspects of health.

Splurge: Ritual makes a cult-favorite multivitamin made with only nine essential ingredients, providing just what your body needs. The capsules are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and nausea-free.

Toiletry Bag

Toiletry bag

Steal: The Toupons Travel Toiletry Organizer Bag is top-rated on Amazon for good reason: It is water-repellent, has four zippered compartments, and comes with a two-year warranty.

Splurge: This Hunter Toiletry Bag from Dagne Dover is made of high-quality, water-resistant neoprene and comes with two zippered air mesh pouches for organization.

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Card Holder Phone Case

Card holder phone case

Steal: Nothing is more useful to a frequent traveler than a phone case that does double duty as a wallet. The SAMONPOW Card Holder Cover holds two cards in a hidden back slot and is well reviewed on Amazon.

Splurge: Or splurge for a leather-bound wallet case from Bellroy, which holds up to three cards. The card slot opening even doubles as a kickstand for the phone.

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Hiking Boots

Hiking boots

Steal: Columbia’s Newton Ridge hiking boots for men and women are affordable, waterproof, and durable for serious hikers. Reviewers rave about the comfort and note that the boots fit true to size.

Splurge: Gift the hiking boots made famous by Reese Witherspoon in Wild, the Mountain Light Cascade (women’s sizing) from Danner. For men’s sizing, gift the similar Mountain Cascade Clovis.

Packing Cubes

Packing cubes

Steal: Transform your favorite traveler’s life with a set of packing cubes. The AmazonBasics four-piece set has durable zippers, and the cubes are machine-washable.

Splurge: For those travelers with an Away suitcase, there’s a perfect fit: The brand makes a set of four cubes sized to fit into its suitcases.


Smart watch

Steal: Fitbit’s Versa Lite Edition is a goal- and community-oriented smartwatch that’s also useful for travelers. This smartwatch has a battery life up to four days, is swim-proof, and has 24/7 heart rate tracking.

Splurge: The new Apple Watch Series 5 will undoubtedly be one of the hottest gifts to give this season. It is water-resistant, has up to 18 hours of battery life, has two heart sensors, and can be purchased with just GPS or GPS and cellular (at additional cost).

Some of Our Favorite Outfit Picks for the Season

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

More from SmarterTravel:

Editor’s note: Prices were accurate at the time of publication.

Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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By Ashley Rossi

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off the beaten path spots.

After interning at SmarterTravel, Ashley joined the team full time in 2015. She's lived on three continents, but still never knows where her next adventure will take her. She's always searching for upcoming destination hotspots, secluded retreats, and hidden gems to share with the world.

Ashley's stories have been featured online on USA Today, Business Insider, TripAdvisor, Huffington Post, Jetsetter, and Yahoo! Travel, as well as other publications.

The Handy Item I Always Pack: "A reusable filtered water bottle—it saves you money, keeps you hydrated, and eliminates waste—win-win."

Ultimate Bucket List Experience: "A week in a bamboo beach hut on India's Andaman Islands."

Travel Motto: "Travel light, often, and in good company."

Aisle, Window, or Middle Seat: "Window—best view in the house."

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