Carry On Things I Love

The Ultimate Travel Gift Guide

December 5, 2015
gift guide for travelers

Despite the cold, which I never get used to even though I grew up in Wisconsin, the holidays are my favorite time of year. The festive atmosphere, the twinkling lights, the cheesy but heartwarming anyway movies, the abundance of sweets, the Nutcracker ballet, the music that only gets annoying on the 26th, the way everyone seems a little happier all month, and of course the giving (and ok getting) of gifts.

The past few years I’ve been living abroad, and before that I was preparing to take off on a backpacking trip, so it’s been hard for my family and friends to find gifts for me that I could actually use or transport. Now that I have an permanent home in Chicago I’m enjoying using years of gifts that were stored away–things like decorations, candles, and kitchen tools.

There are a few things though that I’ve been given over the years that have aided immensely in my travels, and a few I’ve found on my own. If you’re looking for a gift for the frequent traveler in your life look no further! The ultimate holiday gift guide for travelers is here.



For the backpacker – the Northface Terra 60 pack got me through nine months in Asia and the Middle East. By the end I never wanted to see it again, but now I look at it with fondness and an appreciation for all it carried without being too uncomfortable.


The best carry-on – This one isn’t cheap, but the Bluesmart carry-on is worth it. Not only does it fit everything your normal carry-on does (and have a special electronics pocket), it also connects wirelessly to your smartphone so you can weigh, lock, and track your luggage no matter where you are in the world. Lost luggage is no longer something left up to the hands of overworked airline employees (although I don’t recommended checking a bag anyway) and you can even charge your phone up to six times using your suitcase. Anyone who has found themselves with a dead battery in a foreign location knows that alone is reason to invest.


For weekend travel – I love the Everlane Twill Weekender bag. Stylish and fits more than you need for a weekend away. For a unisex option, the Herschel weekender bag is great too.

Luggage tags – Because losing luggage is the worst and these are pretty.

Shoe bags – I use these for shoes, but also for chargers, souvenirs, and anything else that needs sorting in my bag.


CleanMyMac – Nothing is worse than a computer going haywire while on vacation or an extended trip, especially if you work while traveling like many do. Give the gift of CleanMyMac to to ensure a stress-free, more efficient holiday for the traveler on your list. 


Beats by Dr. Dre Drenched Solo2 – Headphones are a must for planes, trains, and especially overnight buses. These are not only adorable, but maintain signature Beats-quality sound while being wireless, comfortable, and most importantly foldable. They’re so compact even the lightest traveler will love them.

Moment Case – This case (unfortunately only for iPhone 6 and 6+), turns your phone into a camera with a shutter button, lens, and strap. By giving it, you can help seriously upgrade your traveler’s Instagram game. 😉

For those who don’t have an iPhone 6, try the LOHA lens.

External phone charger – This is something I can’t live without even when I’m at home. Like many people, I’m always on my phone, and I hate worrying about finding an outlet or place to charge it. An external charger eliminates the issue, so you can listen to music for an entire 10-hour flight, use the maps all you want, or take as many photos as your phone can handle all without worry of it dying.


UE Roll Wireless Speaker – Someone once told me that all you need to feel at home anywhere in the world is a good speaker system and a nice smelling candle. I thought this was funny until I brought a speaker along on a recent string of work trips. It’s true! Having your music, morning news program, or favorite podcasts fill up a room makes you feel more at home. Plus, the speaker can instantly turn a small hostel room into a party, which backpackers everywhere will agree is a good thing. This UE roll speaker was voted best portable speaker by CNET, and I love how tiny it is. (And for anyone who wants to test the candle theory, this is a nice one for travel).

Spotify Premium – Give the gift of a massive music library so your favorite traveler is never without their favorite song. Premium allows users to save playlists offline, so they can be listened to in-flight. A must.

Smartphone Projector – So fun for showing off travel photos once home.



GoToob Travel Bottles – I am obsessed with these. I fill them with whatever lotion/shampoo/etc. I’m using at the time so I don’t have to sacrifice quality for travel size bottles. Plus, they have special lock-in-place caps that NEVER spill. Ever. 

Evian Facial Spray – A savior on drying planes or during any long-haul travel. A few spritzes and you feel (and look) instantly refreshed.


Caudalie Pulpe Vitaminee – Jet lag be gone with this amazing cream, which lightens dark under-eye circles and brightens your complexion. A favorite when traveling for work and I need to look alert at meetings.

Dry Shampoo – Because sometimes when traveling, a shower just isn’t available. (I’m guilty of using this often at home though too!)


Travel-friendly sunscreen – Lots of times, vacations include the beach. But bringing sunscreen in a carry-on bag is a hassle, and it’s often over priced once you reach your destination. This sunscreen stick can be thrown in your bag without fear of spillage or TSA, and it’s water, oil, and sweat resistant.


bkr Bottle – Glass is the cleanest way to drink, and hydration is extra important while traveling. These bottles have a cult following for a reason. (And there’s a color for everyone).

Microfiber Towel – Whether camping, staying in a hostel, or looking to freshen up in-flight, the microfiber towel is a lifesaver. It dries quickly and takes up very little space. I have four.

Fun Extras

coordinates collection

Coordinates Collection jewelry – Know somewhere that holds a special place in your traveler’s heart? Maybe it’s where they studied abroad, got engaged, or just a place they visit again and again. Get the coordinates engraved on one of these beautiful pieces of jewelry. I especially love the necklaces. 

Not into coordinates? These urban grids are just as great.


MissPetuniaMary Travel Journals – How beautiful are these travel journals?? All handmade by Caroline Bogush, who discovered book binding when she made her own journal for a trip around Italy.

Socks – Yes, socks. Planes are colds, trains are cold, buses are cold (and sometimes gross), and every traveler needs to bring at least one pair of socks, even if headed to a tropical destination. Buy from Sexy Socks and for every pair you purchase, a pair also goes to a child in South Africa.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 1.54.44 PM

City map glass – For reminiscing about a trip over a drink later on. Or for keeping your home city in memory while living abroad.

Airline Nail Polish – Each color in this polish line is named after an airport code. Sadly there’s not one for ORD (Chicago), but there are so many other pretty colors I think I’ll survive.


Carry-On Cocktail Kit – Old fashioneds on a plane. Enough said.


Scratch Map – I got this for Christmas two years ago and it’s honestly one of my favorite gifts of all-time. Scratched off another few countries this year and looking forward to scratching off more and tracking my progress in 2016.


Scarf – No matter where I go, I take a scarf. Perfect for upgrading a basic outfit, warming up on a plane, doubling as a sarong on the beach, and on an on. I wear a lot of black so I like the colors in this one, and the process of how it’s made is pretty cool. 

Happy holidays and happy gift giving!

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  • Reply BreAnna | Crafty Coin February 19, 2016 at 1:31 pm

    This list is seriously amazing! I read it when you first posted it, but just read it again and found so many more great ideas. I love the tip about the sunscreen stick – genius!

    • Reply curiosityandacarryon February 20, 2016 at 11:46 am

      Yay! Thank you for reading and glad it’s helpful! Sunscreen sticks are a beach traveler’s best friend! 🙂

    I love to hear from you!

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