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Best Travel Gifts for 2022

Buying a gift for a frequent flyer? Here's what they need -- and what they'll love.

There's a wide assortment of gifts that are perfect to make life easier for the frequent traveler in your life, whether they've traditionally been found in airports, train stations or rental car lots. From headphones to a lightweight, collapsible water bottle or a comfy travel pillow, these travel essentials will make your loved one's journey less stressful. Check out our list of the best travel gifts for road warriors and business travelers below.

And if you're looking for some travel hacks to make their journey smoother, be sure to read our best travel tips we swear by. You'll learn how to pack like a pro -- and don't forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. 

A backpack to put it all in

Before we talk about the stuff you'll want to carry on your travels, let's figure out a place to put it all. From 60 L backpacks to small foldable backpacks, there's a lot of options for every style of travel.

REI

OK, let's start out big here. This backpack is perfect for anyone who's ever dreamed of quite literally backpacking Europe or for those who plan on following the footsteps of Cheryl Strayed and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. 

The Trailbreak backpack can hold between 25 and 30 pounds, making it the perfect backpack for any one- to two-week long trip. REI offers the Trailbreak backpack in men's, women's and children's sizes.

Sarah Tew/CNET

We've checked out a lot of laptop bags and backpacks, but this Incase backpack is our current favorite and is perfect for travel essentials. Smaller than a suitcase or carry-on luggage yet still spacious, this lightweight backpack can store laptops up to 15.4 inches, and it's got pockets galore to pack your water bottle, neck pillow, travel pillow, credit cards, and pretty much everything you'll need on the plane and beyond that you don't want to stuff in your luggage.

Nomatic

Looking for a lightweight backpack to throw in your carryon? The Navigator Collapsible Backpack by Nomatic is an easy collapsible bag that can easily fit in any bag. The Navigator can hold everything you'd need for a long day trip and includes a laptop sleeve, tamper-resistant zippers as well as two water bottle pockets. I've had this backpack for two years and always bring it on hiking trips to carry my camera, water and change of clothes. 

Amazon

Looking for a cheap backpack for a beach day or quick hike? This Tomule backpack is foldable, lightweight and water resistant, making it the perfect addition to every trip! Better yet, it's only $26.

A water bottle

Water bottles are a must-have for globe-trotters, especially on long flights, which can leave you incredibly dehydrated. Plenty of alternatives to single-use plastic bottles are available, from the standard Hydro Flask bottle to an ultra-packable collapsible bottle -- but the more lightweight, the better. 

Platypus

This collapsible water bottle (or, really, plastic pouch) from Platypus holds two liters of liquids (that's about how much water you should drink each day, especially if you're active) and since it's plastic, it weighs only 1.3 ounces when empty.

It's the perfect collapsible bottle for travelers, campers and anyone who's tight on storage space. This Platy comes with a screw-on top by default, but you can always pair the spout with different Platypus soft bottle caps and straws.

A noise-canceling headphone

Whether you're listening to audio on a phone, tablet or computer, you'll love the feeling of freedom that wireless headphones deliver -- especially if you're in the cramped confines of a coach-class airline seat. To keep out the drone of an airline's engine noise, you'll want either noise-isolating in-ear headphones (with a tight fit in your ear canal) or a full-size around-the-ear model. Preferences vary, but the in-ear models are smaller and travel better -- though the bigger ones can be plugged into in-flight entertainment systems, if that's your thing. All in all, they make for perfect travel gifts for men, women, kids and just about anyone.

Read More: Best laptop backpacks for travel

Sarah Tew/CNET

Apple's first foray into the world of active noise-canceling (ANC) headphones is undeniably impressive, and it should be one of the essentials among travel gadgets. Unlike standard AirPods, these press into your ear canal to isolate the listener from external noise, but they deliver an impressive noise-canceling effect, too. And unlike many true wireless headphones, they are excellent for talking on the phone.

Read our AirPods Pro first impressions.

 

Sony

Maybe you own an Android phone. Or maybe you actually prefer headphones that aren't white. Either way, the Sony WF-1000XM3 are worth checking out. These headphones were doing nearly everything the AirPods Pro are, months before Apple brought them to market -- and they actually sound better than the AirPods, too. 

Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.

 

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Before Sony went true wireless, it perfected its active noise-canceling game with the WH-1000XM3 over-the-ear headphones. The Bose models still have a lot going for them, but these Sonys win by a nose on most measures, including their superior comfort during long flights. And they're perfect for in-flight entertainment if the person next to you just wants a good night's sleep.

Read our Sony WH-1000XM3 review.

 

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A wireless speaker

If you want to listen to some tunes (or podcasts) while you're in your hotel room, don't settle for your phone's tiny built-in speaker. Plenty of wireless speakers are now available for as little as $30 to $50 -- and many are even water-resistant.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This tiny Bluetooth speaker is a great travel companion because it's small, lightweight, thin and has great battery life. It's waterproof too, and the built-in carabiner means you can clip it nearly anywhere. It also comes in about a dozen colors, so you can seek out a design that matches your personality (or that of the person you're gifting it to).

Read our JBL Clip 3 review.

 

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If you want sound that's beefier, the UE Wonderboom is a great gift. This speaker is about the size of a softball but delivers a lot of oomph for its size. It's also fully waterproof -- in fact, it floats. It's the perfect gift to buy for the audio-loving traveler in your life.

See our Wonderboom 2 first take.

 

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A pillow to rest your head

Nothing is worse than a bobbing head that slides onto your neighbor's shoulder. Packing a travel pillow or neck pillow will keep you comfortable during your trip, particularly if you're intent on getting a decent night's sleep.

Amazon

We're big fans of the Trtle travel pillow, which really looks more like a scarf and is amazing for neck support. It's lightweight, takes up very little packing space and will keep you sleeping upright so that you don't nod off onto the person next to you. Pro tip: You can cover your mouth with the part of the fleece that's supposed to go under your chin -- so no one sees your gaping or drooling mouth when you're asleep.

Other Products

One of the most important aspects of traveling is to never forget the little things. Remembering to pack clothes and a passport can be easy, but so many things often get left behind. Below are some items that typically get forgotten when packing but are absolutely essential for every trip. 

Amazon

I spent all of June backpacking Europe and came prepared for London with a UK adapter but failed to realize that not all of Europe used the same one (beginner's mistake). Luckily, my friend brought a universal adapter with her and saved both of our phone's lives. The EPICKA Universal Travel Adapter has four USB slots and the ability to adapt to several countries' outlets. 

Amazon

No one is immune to spilling red wine on a white shirt or getting pasta sauce all over their pants. When emergencies like these happen, hope is not lost for your clothes. The Tide to Go stain remover truly does get almost any stain off of your clothing making it an absolute travel necessity. I personally always bring one in my purse, one in my backpack and one in my toiletry bag. For only $8 you can save almost any piece of clothing with just a few dabs of your Tide stick.

Walmart

I'll be the first to admit that I loathed fanny packs prior to actually traveling. I remember walking around New York City and making fun of tourists clutching their fanny packs. Well, I was wrong. Fanny packs are the best way to carry all your valuables in one place. When roaming city streets or going on long hikes, fanny packs make it easy to hold your passport, phone, headphones and wallet without lugging around a backpack that may be prone to pickpocketing. 

The Maxtop Fanny Pack has a large main pocket, a hidden back pocket and a key chain making it one of the best fanny packs on the market.

Amazon

A hanging toiletry bag allows you to pack all creams, shampoos, conditioners and miscellaneous items you may need. Having a compact toiletry bag that easily fits in any suitcase is an absolute necessity for any avid traveller.

Hex

Doing laundry while on a trip can be a hassle. First you have to find a local laundromat if your accommodation doesn't offer any laundry services, then you have to buy detergent and everything else you may need to do a load of wash. The HEX Detergent Travel Kit includes five different detergents that conveniently fit into any size bag. I wish I had this kit when I was washing my clothes in a hostel bathroom sink!   

Originally published earlier and updated periodically.

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