Finding the perfect gift is never easy, but when your recipient is a traveler like us, it becomes more challenging. I am referring to one who travels light. It changes things a bit. We need useful travel gifts that are lightweight, compact, and practical, or they are not going with us.
This is Albom Adventure’s first gift guide. We wrote this for several reasons. First, it has taken us years to find the ideal lightweight products. Secondly, we have made some fun and exciting discoveries that we want to share with our readers. And, finally, people are always asking us how we seem to have it all, yet get away with such a small amount of luggage.
Whether you travel light or bring the kitchen sink, the products here are our best recommendations. We have firsthand experience with all of it except our wish list at the end.
Full Disclosure: We receive a small commission from most links on this page. There is no extra cost to you. In fact, in many cases, we are offering special deals or coupon codes so you can save money.
Our Recommended Useful Travel Gifts
Table of Contents
- 1 Our Recommended Useful Travel Gifts
- 2 Best Luggage Scale
- 3 Lightweight Packing Cubes
- 4 Our Essential Electronic Accessories for Travel
- 5 Best Sleeping Bag Liner and Microfiber Towel
- 6 Mirrorless Camera and My Travel Camera Accessories
- 7 Cool Camera Straps
- 8 Portable Espresso Machine
- 9 Fitness Tracker
- 10 Packing Light Check List
- 11 My Wish List of Not So Useful Travel Gifts
- 12 Are you shopping for frivolous or useful travel gifts this year?
Best Luggage Scale
A portable luggage scale is one of the most valuable items we have. Traveling light means we never check more than one bag for the family, and often go just carry-on. In today’s world of charging exorbitant fees ($50-$200) for overweight luggage, being able to monitor while packing is invaluable.
The Etekcity Digital Hanging Luggage Scale measures in either kilograms or pounds and has precision accuracy up to 50kg (110 pounds). Importantly, it adds only 57 grams (2 ounces) to our weight load, a small sacrifice to make to save huge penalties for being overweight. Allow for the 57 grams if you’re packing it in your luggage. This is the best luggage scale we have seen.
Lightweight Packing Cubes
eBags packing cubes make travel organization easier, packing quicker, and now, we rarely lose things. I’ll admit, I thought they were a silly extra at first. Then I gave them a try. Today, I wouldn’t travel without them. Hubby and I each pack two: one for our clothes, the other for undies and pajamas. Plus, we use one for our emergency kit and another for electronics. We have an older model of these, and they are still in great shape, although slightly different. These are super lightweight, weighing only 227 grams (8 oz) for the entire set. They are appreciated and useful travel gifts for friends or for yourself.
Our Essential Electronic Accessories for Travel
As bloggers and photographers, sometimes it feels like we have more electronics than clothes. When we travel with carry-on luggage only, our laptops, Kindle, smartphones, and camera gear are nearly half our total weight. To keep them going, and backed up, there are a few additional essentials we carry:
- Universal travel adapter: One adapter to allow us to plug into electric power anywhere in the world means we don’t have to worry about electric availability when we travel. We use this robust, top quality adapter that lasts and doesn’t fail when we need it the most.
- USB flash drive stick: This tiny stick can act as my travel back up, especially for photos. I like the retractable port, name brand, and 128GB data size. A 256GB stick is available for memory hounds, but I find the 128GB is cost-effective for our on-the-go backups.
- Power bank: Traveling, I need to be able to keep my phone charged as it works overtime for me as a 3G router, GPS, phone, and social media hub. This power bank is small yet a critical piece of our gear.
- Multi USB charging cable: Preferring to carry less, we were thrilled to find a single, high-quality tool that can charge all our portable electronics (phones, Kindles, tablets, etc.) despite them having different connectors.
Best Sleeping Bag Liner and Microfiber Towel
You may be wondering why we carry sleeping bag liners since we stay in hotels almost exclusively. Several reasons; first, the silk fabric keeps us warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Secondly, it is smooth and soft against our skin, something that hotel sheets don’t always offer. Third, it is great in long car rides, and finally, sometimes hotels don’t always live up to their ratings. On a rare occasion, we have arrived to find bedding that is a bit questionable. For us, this usually follows Murphy’s Law as we have arrived late at night, the front desk is closed, our keys have been left for us, and we have no other options. Having our own sleeping bag liner to crawl into is quite useful, comforting, and healthy. Plus, it folds up to a tiny size adding only 140 grams (5 ounces) to our total weight.
Similarly, we carry a microfiber towel. Also small and compact, it is a quick dry companion for unplanned beach stops, unexpected rainstorms, or just washing up. Antibacterial, our towel tends not to smell bad. Considerably smaller than fluffy towels, it folds easily into a mesh carry bag. It’s available in three sizes, ours is the medium size, but if I were shopping today I would get the larger one.
Mirrorless Camera and My Travel Camera Accessories
About two years ago I switched from a DSLR to a mirrorless technology. I am currently shooting on an Olympus OMD em5 Mark II. As it is a step up from the Canon model of DSLR that I had (now Sarah’s camera), my photo quality has improved. The image stabilization system is one of the best. What I gave up was weight, as my new camera with all its gear, weighs significantly less than my DSLR. I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
The travel camera accessories I carry include:
- Olympus ED 14-150mm Lens: While I have several lenses for different purposes, this is my favorite for all around shooting. It is the 35mm equivalent of 28-300mm. It is a perfect lens for indoor scenes to sports and landscape photography.
- Tenba Messenger DNA Camera Bag: I looked around for a while before discovering the perfect camera bag for my mirrorless camera. Weatherproof, easy open, secure, and with compartments for all my camera gear, accessories, business cards, and enough personal items that I don’t need to carry anything else for an afternoon out. It even has a secret spot for a Kindle.
- Sirui Carbon Fiber Tripod: I have one model down from this one, but the reduced weight of carbon fiber would have been a better choice. The tripod is quick to set up, has a ball mounted head, and upward folding legs which make it more compact for carrying. I found it to be the perfect trade-off between super lightweight and steady enough for long exposure.
- Variable Neutral Density Adjustable Lens: This is the secret to deep rich color and smooth flowing water. As it requires a longer exposure, a tripod is needed.
Cool Camera Straps
Available in a huge variety of colors and patterns, the designs I show here are the two on their way to me now. Of course, my Olympus mirrorless camera came with a perfectly adequate strap, but I wanted these for several reasons. First, let’s face it, they are colorful and fun. Secondly, this scarf camera strap is soft and fashionable. As a person who frequently wears scarfs, it seems like the ideal product. And third, and this only matters in certain destinations, they make my camera a bit more generic. Having the strap that says OMD tells knowledgeable thieves that I have an expensive camera around my neck.
Woodstock Scarf Camera Strap by Capturing Couture
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Navajo Camera Strap by Capturing Couture
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Portable Espresso Machine
If you know us at all, then it shouldn’t surprise you that we include something to do with coffee. This Minipresso espresso maker is what I bought Jeff for his birthday last month. It went with us on our recent adventure to Dunedin. It’s the perfect gift for any traveler who is a coffee snob. It’s super easy to use, self-contained, makes a delicious espresso, and clean up is quick. The built-in espresso cup and scoop make packing easy. It weighs only 295 grams (10.4 ounces). Please note: you will need coffee beans and access to boiling water.
I am not one to run out and get the latest fad item, but I have to say that I love my fitness tracker. I have the Fitbit Alta HR and it has made a difference for me, especially when I am busy writing and lose track of time. Every hour, if I haven’t walked at least 250 steps, it gently vibrates to remind me to get up and move.
The Fitbit does have some strong competition out there. Here are what appear to be three of the best options.
|Fitness Wristband Model||Image||GPS||Water resistance||Battery life|
|Fitbit Alta HR||No||No||Up to 7 days|
|Huawei Band 2 Pro||Yes||Yes, 5 ATM resistance||Up to 21 days|
|Samsung Gear Fit2 Smartwatch||Yes||Yes, 5 feet for up to 30 minutes (IP68)||Up to 3-4 days|
Packing Light Check List
Packing light is an art that we have mastered over years of travel. It starts out with a plan and a list. Our packing checklist is available for free, simply subscribe to our newsletter (also free and loaded with great travel tips), and I will send it to you immediately:
My Wish List of Not So Useful Travel Gifts
Every year there are new things I would like. This year, my wish list includes:
- Hammock: for that rare moment when I rest, and it even holds two people.
- Infinity Pillow: Looking at it, I am not sure why this one is so comfy, but the reviews are great.
- Noise Canceling Headphones: Tiny, yet a powerful rival to full-sized headphones. If you are buying me a gift this year, this is my first choice.
- Drone: This one has lightweight, foldable arms and it can be controlled with my smartphone. It has a hover mode and one key return home. Note: If you are getting a drone for travel, be sure to check if it is legal in the countries you are visiting.
Are you shopping for frivolous or useful travel gifts this year?