Family Life,  gifts,  Planning,  travel gear,  Travel Tips

The really useful Christmas gifts for travelling families

The things they actually need!

We know the feeling, your favourite people are off on an adventure of a lifetime and you want to buy them a gift. Before you click buy for that travel journal, let’s take a look at what they actually need when travelling the world with these Gifts For Travelling Families.

While this may not be the most exciting of lists, this is a very practical gift list. Everything on here will be used again and again and when travelling with just the essentials, that is exactly what you need.

This is a list which comes from our personal experience, of travelling light around the world with kids. So, keep reading for the essential travel gift list for families (that they will actually want)!

Top useful gifts for travelling families


This seems the most obvious right? That’s why I’ve sat it up here at number one however, I’d suggest choosing luggage, particularly backpacks for someone else might not be the best idea. Carrying a backpack around the world needs to be thought about. With such a huge range of shapes and sizes available, it really is a personal choice for people. Look at getting a gift voucher for a backpack retailer instead.

We use the Osprey Farpoint and Fairview 40l. Still going strong after a year on the road.

2. Carry-On Bag

Again, this is something that I feel comes down to personal choice, but one thing we have found super useful is having an emergency foldaway pack to redistribute items or to save having to unpack a whole bag when you arrive at a destination.

We love this one because of the funky colours.

3. Packing Cubes

Easily one of our most useful items has been packing cubes. Great for keeping things organised, they also make it easier to unpack just what you need instead of unpacking everything- very useful when on the move a lot. Use the roll method with clothes to help with the wrinkles (I said help not prevent).

Top tips would be to avoid the really big ones if you are travelling with limited space, the smaller cubes are easier to shift around like a puzzle, so they fit into the backpack. Also buy the compression packs to cut down the space even more. We also use them for coffee/tea supplies and electronics which obviously don’t need squashing down but are easy to locate in the bag.

Looking for specific packing cubes for families? Look for something like this

TOP TIP- Try and get different colours for each person.

4. RFID Blocking Wallet or Passport Holder

In terms of organisation, I love these. We keep passports, sim cards, last bits of cash, driving licences and all the important things (we also have a digital copy of all of these things!). Make sure you choose one a holder with enough space for all your passports. A bonus to the majority of these document holders is that they have RFID Blocking capabilities (nothing can scan your cards/documents). This is definitely important for keeping all the personal information contained on your cards safe.

5. Reusable Water Bottle

This is an essential for us and for the first six months of our travels, we had the same ones. And then the kids went to a camp…and lost them. Lots of places will have refillable water so having your own receptacle is really useful. We also have very fussy kids that ‘don’t like’ warm water so we make sure to have the insulated bottle. We like these bottles but would also love to get some of these Water-to-go bottles- sustainable and practical.

6. Dry Bags

This is a must have! Not the usual thing that comes to mind when you think of unique gifts for travellers, but once you have them, you will wonder how you lived without them! They are lightweight nylon, waterproof bags, that can be rolled into small packages. They can be used to keep things dry when you go in the water too. We use these for everything! For wet swimsuits, to lock up stinky laundry, keeping the art set dry in the bag…It is a great multipurpose gift.

We use this set with three sizes. Highly recommended.

7. Luggage Locks

We use luggage locks whenever our bags leave us. Flights, bus journeys, trains or even when you leave a bag at a hotel before you travel. We like these ones so we can’t lose the keys!

8. Aeropress Portable Coffee Maker

Jak has insisted I add this to the list of essentials. You can read about Jak’s second love of his life here. The Aeropress Go Portable Coffee Maker is his favourite so far. We also have a reusable metal filter.

smartphone photo tips

Looking for something different?

Gift this videography course so that they can level up their travel videos.

Videography course

Optional extras

9. Anti-Theft Purse

One of the more popular items people travel with. We haven’t used them before but if you are looking for an anti-theft purse, look for RFID blocker, slash proof straps and locking clasps. There are also backpacks available with similar features.

10. Travel Pillow

Travelling light meant this didn’t make the cut, although sometimes I regret that. The best travel pillows we have found are the Cabeau brand. I would have a good think about the next lot of travels, this is something that could make it into the bag for me. Not for Jak, he could sleep on a shoe and not complain.

They are definitely nice to have for overnight flights, or even just for a long road trip.

11. Reusable Cutlery

We carried reusable lunch boxes and cutlery all over the world, and used them a handful of times. They are definitely useful, especially utensils. It does help with cutting down on single use plastics too.

12. Eye Mask

Light sleeper or need to pretend to be asleep so your kids will ignore you? I recommend getting yourself an eye mask.

13. The Wash bag

This is on the Boston’s Christmas list. This bag is an all in one washing machine and is great for being on the road and needing to wash clothes. It’s not a glamorous gift by any means but super useful!

Check out the colour options here on amazon.

While we are talking dirty laundry – these detergent washing sheets are. a super travel friendly solution to washing cloths on the go.

14. Luggage Tags

If you go for the generic black bag then luggage tags are a must. Otherwise not an essential but a nice gift to add a personal element to backpacks. Our girls both have Harry Potter themed luggage tags from Harry Potter World- which they loved, so a functional souvenir too.

Check out Etsy for some personalised options

The next part of the list is technology based gifts. We travel with cameras, iPads, kindles, electric toothbrushes, shavers and laptops these kinds of things make up a big portion of what we travel with. But here are our essentials.

Tech gifts for families that travel

1. Headphones

We all have headphones. The girls have wireless headphones, I have in ear and Jak had some but they died falling out of a van in Athens. They are essential bits of kit for the kids who endlessly consume audiobooks and listen to music.

As a bonus you could invest in noise cancelling headphones such as these.

Purosound PuroQuiet Headphones or the Bose QuietComfort 25, which are both lightweight and have fantastic battery life.

2. MP3 player

This doesn’t make many lists but these small devices have been brilliant as we travel. We load them with music and audiobooks, meaning the kids don’t have to use screens to access them. The old iPods, would be perfect but apparently these are now considered vintage and cost an absolute fortune so instead we use the sandisk model which is pretty basic but does the job.

3. Action Camera

Small and easy to pack- just make sure you sort through the accessories before you travel. Amazing for action packed activities. If you have the budget, the Go Pro is well worth it for quality but there are lots of budget friendly options too

4. Digital Camera Memory Cards

A very practical gift but super useful. There will be endless pictures being taken and memory cards being filled.

5. Kindle

We love the Kindle so much we have a whole post about it here. I would love to have a collection of physical books but it’s just not practical. They take up a lot of space in your bag, and weigh a ton. Book swaps when travelling is definitely not the same as when I backpacked as a teen.

With several choices of Kindle, read about the pros and cons here.

6. Multi-Adapter Unit

Gone are the days when you needed to purchase different adapters for every country. Today, it’s easy, affordable and convenient to purchase one unit, which not only accepts plugs from all over the world but will also have at least a couple of USB ports.

Consider surge protection too to protect your devices. We like this one, get two. You are almost guaranteed to leave one somewhere!

7. Bluetooth Speaker

Another must have, a small speaker for music and movies.

We use the JBL which is designed to be thrown around a bit and survive.

8. Portable power bank

With so many devices having a portable charger is really useful when on the move. There are a lot to choose from but we like the Ankor model for how compact it is.

Gifts for Kids that travel

1. Tablet with Cover

For our family, our kids have an iPad for schoolwork, projects, research and contacting friends and family. They have a separate kindle, and a separate music player. This was a conscious decision to limit screen time but if you are looking for an all in one tablet then check out the Amazon fire.

2. Snorkel Gear for Kids

Depending on where you are heading on your travels, this might be a perfect addition to the backpack. Anywhere you can snorkel, you will usually be able to rent but finding the right size for kids gets tricky. This snorkel set is a perfect travel gift for kids. Our girls use their snorkel masks for all swimming now rather than regular googles.

The set includes a durable impact-resistant anti-fog mask, adjustable fins, a dry-top silicone snorkel, and a convenient travel gear bag.

3. Card Games

UNO is the classic family card game that’s easy to learn, fun to play, and portable enough to take anywhere. It’s also universal, so kids can play with kids from all over the world. Other simple games that are a hit when the kids meet others is Taco, Cat, Goat, Cheese, Pizza and Dobble. Don’t forget a standard pack of cards.

Unstable Unicorns– a strategic card game that will destroy your friendships but in a good way. Build a Unicorn Army. Betray Your Friends. Unicorns are Your Friends Now.

Exploding Kittens– The card game that gave felines a license to kill.

Coup– a game of trust and deceit. Don’t believe anyone. 

Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza a game of quick reflexes, the kids love beating the old folk with slow reflexes!

4. Travel Board Games

This set of 12 popular family board games is perfect for families who love to travel. With games like Checkers, Chess, Chinese checkers, Tic Tac Toe, Backgammon, Snakes & Ladders, Solitaire, NineMen’s Morris, Auto Racing, Ludo, Space Venture and Racing, they are guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours.

These mini board games for kids measure just 5” and contain all magnetic pieces, making them great for travel, road trips or camping.

5. Compass

A perfect gift for kids and for world schooling. It’s a great way to teach about direction and navigation.  also a fun way to sharpen their nature skills and teach them about directions. Look for a clear panel and make sure it can withstand being thrown around. Here is the one the kids use at the moment.

6. Torch

A small yet powerful torch is an amazing accessory for kids to travel with, from frog hunting in the dark to walking down the bumpy path to your accommodation on the way home, the kids can use a torch for so many things.

7. Swiss Army Knife

Slightly controversial but The Swiss Army Knife is an amazing gift for kids (check out this TEdTalk from Gever Tulley debunking myths around children and safety). It’s functional, durable, and always comes in handy when you need it. Check out this one here.

There are several swiss army knife styles from Victorinox to choose from, including travel-inspired names like Jetsetter, Climber, and Explorer. We use the most simple version and obviously, safety and instructions are given alongside the knife.

For more travel gift ideas for kids that they (and the parents) actually want, read this post

.2023 Best Travel Gifts for Kids that they (and the parents) actually want!

Best Subscriptions for Families That Are Perfect for Travel

We like all of these ideas and more prefer the idea of experiences over things

1. Kindle Unlimited Membership

We have talked about our love for the Kindle, in fact the kids probably love their Kindles even more so this is a great gift to buy for any readers in the family, a Kindle Unlimited Membership. The best bit about this unlimited reading is that it can be on any device with the Kindle app. Usually $11.99 a month

2. Amazon Music Unlimited

A subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited is definitely a gift that most in the family will appreciate. Whether or not they are travelling, music is part of most kids’ lives. Amazon usually have a free trial period too. Usually, $10.99 a month.

A subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited or Spotify will be appreciated by any music lover..

3. Magazine Subscription

A huge variety of magazine subscriptions are available but some of our favourite travelling magazines are, National Geographic Traveler and Lonely Planet and even better, they have a range for kids too.

4. Audible

My sister got the kids this gift last year and they loved it. Thank you sis! You get unlimited access to thousands of select audiobooks and podcasts plus with some subscriptions, you get 1 free download a month. A massive hit with our kids! Usually, Audible has sign up deals for new customers but then it is priced at $7.95 per month

5. Trusted Housesitters membership

For families that are travelling on a budget, membership to the house and pet sitting site Trusted Housesitters can cut costs dramatically, and luckily for you, we have a 25% discount off the yearly fee. Click the link to claim the reduction.

6. KidsPod

This awesome app has curated over 450 of the best kids podcasts into one place. We love our audiobooks and this app makes them so easy and safe for the kids to access.  KidsPod offers both free and paid subscription options: the free version includes unlimited listening to every show on the app and follows the founders’ commitment to keeping kids podcasts open and available to all. The paid version ($4.99 per month/$34.99 per year) unlocks additional listening features like individual user profiles, a favorites library, offline listening, playlist creation, and one of their more innovative features – an in-app coloring book.

Final Thoughts on the Best Travel Gifts for Families

The best gifts for travelling families are the gifts they are going to use. Most families will only want to carry what they actually need or will use so this is a list of all the essentials which make travelling easier. If you are looking for alternatives, check out our list of gifts to inspire travelling.

We are very much a family that values experiences over things and everything we have recommended on this list comes with a personal recommendation, its something we have used and loved or something we wish we have had.