Whether you’re searching for travel gift ideas for a birthday, holiday, graduation, or any other special occasion, this growing list is perfect for you. While I don’t want to promote the idea of buying stuff for the sake of buying something, if you’ve got a globetrotter on your list, I want to give you some ideas for sustainable and meaningful gifts—ones that support small businesses, are eco-friendly, or help travelers connect with culture. (And, if you want to skip “stuff” altogether, head to the end of the post and give them the experience of traveling!)
While I haven’t used all of these items, I’ve done my best to research and curate them into a list that will save you time and spark some ideas for the socially conscious traveler on your list.
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Travel Gear & Packing Gift Ideas
Packing cubes are one of the most popular pieces of travel gear among frequent travelers. They help travelers pack more efficiently and stay organized–whether going carry-on only or planning for longer trips with a big suitcase.
Eagle Creek packing cubes are another popular option. Check out the 3-piece starter set here or even more Eagle Creek packing cube options here. Eagle Creek incorporates sustainability into the philosophy of their business and is committed to making quality products. “We are keenly aware of the environmental impact of everything we produce and so strive to minimize material waste, and source and manufacture with the least environmentally impactful materials…We make gear that lasts to lessen the amount of waste in landfills.”
Reusable Travel Baggies
Zipper bags are one of those super helpful and versatile items that I always pack in my suitcase, but lately I’ve been looking into a more eco-friendly option that would cut back on plastic waste. These reusable travel baggies are great options to replace single-use zipper bags.
Check out the ChicoBag travel zips to keep toiletries, cords, and other small items organized while traveling.
Whether for staycations, backpacking treks, day trips while traveling, or to use as carry-on only luggage, finding a well-made and versatile backpack is important for many travelers.
The Nazca 24L Travel Pack from Cotopaxi is a backpack-meets-luggage style pack (read my in-depth review here). Cotopaxi’s tagline is “gear for good,” and this philosophy is woven into various parts of their business. Cotopaxi is “a new outdoor company that funds sustainable poverty alleviation, moves people to do good, and inspires adventure through innovative outdoor products and experiences.”
Rareform is a unique company that repurposes billboards into fun and one-of-a-kind backpacks, instead of letting all that billboard vinyl going to a landfill. (Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad, used with permission)
This inflatable pillow from Marmot is a portable, lightweight travel pillow. Marmot incorporates sustainability into their company with a foundational philosophy of People/Product/Planet™, and they have a wide assortment of apparel and equipment for outdoor enthusiasts and travelers.
Or get a unique gift from one of the many amazing makers on Etsy:
- Custom luggage tags made from recycled maps
- Repurposed keychain with “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” quote
Clothing & Accessories Gift Ideas
Embrace Cotopaxi’s “gear for good” philosophy and support sustainable poverty alleviation through your clothing purchase. They have activewear and outerwear for men and women. Check out the classic llama t-shirt (for men or for women) or their full product line on their website.
Shop the social good company Sevenly and get stylish clothes that support a charitable cause that’s important to you. You’ll see which charity your purchase supports in the description of each product. Find out how Sevenly works, and check out the environment or humanitarian lines to support worldwide sustainable causes.
Get a beautiful hand-knit shawl that pairs well with anything from Thistle Farms, a social enterprise with a mission to heal, empower, and employ women survivors of trafficking, prostitution, and addition. These shawls are knit by one of their global partners in the Himalayas.
Get beautiful women’s shoes from the Root Collective and provide jobs for artisans in Guatemala–both for the women preserving the Mayan weaving heritage and the young men who Otto employs in La Limonada, the largest urban slum in Central America. “Otto’s house doubles as a shoe workshop. It is a safe haven for guys turning away from life in the gangs and saying ‘yes’ to change” (from the Walk the Vision video).
Laundry & Bath Gift Ideas
A lightweight and quick-drying travel towel is super convenient for travelers. It saves space, weight, and helps reduce water burden on local communities from heavy laundry demand in hotels. Check out various options:
The PackTowl Personal towel
Portable Laundry Wash Bag
Travelers who want to pack lighter often wash their clothes while traveling–maybe in the sink or using laundry service at a hotel. The Scrubba™ Wash Bag is a helpful item for travelers who want to do laundry on the go, allowing them to wash pretty much anywhere they can find water.
Help reduce plastic waste by packing your own toiletries in reusable TSA-approved toiletry containers. The Travel Bottle Set comes with a clear bag, 4 bottles, and a cream jar.
Preserve makes 100% recycled household products, including razors and toothbrushes. Not only that, they take used products (like those toothbrushes that usually get tossed) back through their recycling program–either by mail or at one of their drop off locations. Additionally, Preserve is a certified B Corporation, which means they have met guidelines for environmental and social responsibility. Check out their razors, razor blade refills, and toothbrushes.
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Food & Water Gift Ideas
Bottled water requires a lot of energy and fuel to produce, and most of the bottles end up in landfills. Reusable water bottles are a pretty easy way for travelers to make a dent in all this waste.
SAFE DRINKING WATER: For travelers headed to places with safe drinking water, simple stainless steel bottles like Klean Kanteen or Healthy Human are great options. These double-walled water bottles keep drinks cold or hot all day.
UNSAFE DRINKING WATER: For travelers who frequently travel in developing nations or areas with unsafe drinking water, bottles with a purification (not just filtration) system may be a good option. Two popular options are Grayl and LifeStraw. (Note: Check out this post about drinking water safety for more info, and make sure to do plenty of your own research before using these water bottles in a country with unsafe drinking water.)
Reusable Bags and Containers
Just like zipper bag replacements for organizing your packing, having convenient reusable snack bags can be super handy for road trips, flights, and day trips.
Photography Gear & Electronics Gift Ideas
If you’re feeling really generous, help the traveler in your life create lasting memories from their travels. Mirrorless cameras combine excellent image quality combined with a compact size and are growing in popularity for travelers. Check out the bestselling mirrorless cameras and the top wishlist mirrorless cameras on Amazon.
Gift Card for Photo Prints or Albums
Artifact Uprising is an amazing print lab that uses sustainable paper and reclaimed materials throughout their product line. Get a gift card so all those amazing trip photos can go from digital to tangible.
(Note: the product featured here is for example only from Artifact Uprising’s website and has been used with permission. Imagery within the product is not my own.)
Travel Experiences & Unique Gift Ideas
Gifting a travel experience instead of stuff might be just perfect for the socially conscious traveler. This list includes a wide variety for any budget (from less than $20 USD to several thousand).
Give a travel experience with social good organizations through Visit.org. The traveler gets an amazing experience (like street art tours, surfing, cooking, or weaving), and funds are reinvested back into the host community. Support a cause you care about through community-based tourism. Head to their website to purchase a gift card that can be used on any tour.
With Explore Local Box, your travel-loving friend can explore cities around the United States (even when they’re not traveling!). Every month, they’ll get unique products made by local artisans from a different city in the U.S. The box of goodies gets delivered right to their door along with a fact sheet about the city. It’s like a mini tour that gives them insight to the city, supports small business owners, and will probably add a few places to their bucket list! (Thanks to Explore Local Box for sending me this free sample. Get more info about the box here: 5 Reasons to Buy Local While Traveling.)
Purchase a gift voucher for a small group tour with Intrepid Travel. Intrepid is a well-known tour company, and they offer small group tours ranging from a couple of days to many weeks in locations around the world. Intrepid is committed to sustainability and responsible travel in the way they operate–read more about their responsible travel commitment.
Give an experience to help your globetrotting friend connect with a destination and get off the beaten tourist track. Give a gift certificate for a city tour given by a local guide through Urban Adventures. Read more about Urban Adventures’ commitment to responsible travel.
For the adventurous types, G Adventures offers small-group adventure travel experiences all over the world, and sustainable travel is woven into their travel philosophy in many ways. They range in length from a few days to more than a month. While many of the tours are on the expensive side, there are plenty of options for the budget-conscious as well. To purchase a gift certificate, head to G Adventures, go to “Visit the Gear Shop” in the footer, and then you’ll see an option for “Gift Certificates.”
Any other sustainable gift ideas for travelers that you’d add to this list? I’d love to check them out!
You might also like:
- The Truth About Responsible Travel–Plus 4 Simple Tips
- 5 Responsible Travel Tips: How to Support the Local Community
- How Can You Travel Greener? 4 Eco-Friendly Travel Tips
This post was originally published on November 10, 2016 and was updated in November 2017.