For those of us in belt-tightening mode (and by that—at least this year—we mean pretty much everyone we know), holiday shopping is tricky business. Even in the best of times, finding great gifts for the travelers on our list can seem particularly challenging; after all, what to buy for people whose greatest joy is collecting exotic experiences, and who, in any case, already have fabulous souvenirs and mementos from all over the world?
In fact, though, gift shopping for our well-traveled loved ones—even on a budget—can be surprisingly easy. Travelers are always in need of the portable, the packable, the unusual and educational—and there’s a wallet-friendly wealth of such items out there for those who know where to look.
Adventure travelers, for instance—those who prefer remote bushwhacking and extreme sports to spa resorts—often appreciate rugged, practical travel gadgets. It’s hard to go wrong with a sturdy field watch (like the $69 water-resistant version made by Orvis) or a pair of lightweight travel binoculars (like Nikon’s $74.95 Medallion 8x21s—perfect for bird-watching enthusiasts). Bona fide trailblazers may get a special kick out of receiving a leather-encased compass like Captain James Cook and Sir Edmund Hillary once used (Barneys New York makes our favorite, priced at $75).
For traveling techies, space-saving electronic aids can be hugely valuable gifts—and aren’t hugely expensive. Solio’s $99.95 universal solar-powered charger, for example, is no bigger than a cell phone and requires no adapter cords—but it can charge everything from iPods to laptops. A universal electric adapter (like the stylish $50 model offered by Tumi) can be crucial for those traveling to multiple countries (with their multiple wall-plug configurations). And a sleek neoprene laptop sleeve—much less bulky than a bag—is handy for those who like to travel light (Flight 001 has several sizes and colors starting at $35).
Even travelers temporarily homebound by the economy can make out like (budget) bandits this year. Moleskine’s newest series of City Notebooks ($17.95), which bundle the travel journals with foldout city maps and info, allows the wanderlusty to plan their next trips. And a volume of beautiful travel photography, like Eric Meola’s India, in Word and Image ($60 from Welcome Books) may help scratch the travel itch for those stuck at home.