A Little Review… The 8 Best Travel Gifts for Women

Last updated on November 10, 2018

As a long-term traveler on the road for more than eight years, I have carefully tested and tried countless travel products. My first was for the perfect travel purse—and after several years on the road, I found one that does the trick for most types of trip. Travelers don’t have a lot of extra space, so it’s important to find just the right gear. There’s an art to travel, and I spent dozens of trips testing options in an effort to reach that perfect mix of practical and useful—but still stylish!

Although finding a great cross-body travel purse was my first goal, over the years I’ve found a few other things that always make it into my luggage. Some of these I bought myself, others were gifts from family members. If you’re searching for the perfect travel gift for a woman in your life, know that all of these things make my travels more enjoyable, and make me look like a more put-together traveler!

1. My Favorite Cross-Body Travel Purse

The best cross-body purse for travelers. It can be hard to find the right fit, size and comfort, but his one is well-designed and perfect for stylish yet comfortable and convenient travels!A lot of travelers, like me, carry a purse in everyday life, so it makes sense to carry one while traveling. I’ve tried to carry my things just in a backpack, or in my pockets, but it’s not for me. So I searched for the perfect travel purse. I have carried expensive bags, cheap sack-like bags, regular purses, messenger bags—none of these bags ever quite kept pace with my travels. I started my yearlong RTW trip with an AmeriBag—this worked well and was easy on my back (it’s designed to remove stress for those with back problems), but it’s not very stylish. And the Baggallini Travel bag is a finalist—it looks good but it’s less durable, so consider gifting it for those who take shorter vacations (like a European trip) versus long-term backpacking.

I did find the perfect travel bag—the Donner by Overland Equipment—but they discontinued it in 2015. When I needed a replacement travel purse, I renewed the search and settled on Travelon, which channels what I loved about the Donner. It’s the best crossbody travel purse I’ve yet found on the market. I like that it looks nice enough to carry out to dinner, but also holds my camera, water bottle, and sightseeing gear.

The Travelon Anti-Theft Cross-Body Bag emerged as a clear leader for its combination of size, functionality, and number of pockets. If you’re a long-term traveler, it will keep pace with your travels, and if you’re heading to Europe, it will transition from go-bag for sightseeing to dinner with friends.

  • Sturdy features, the material is strong and the strap is wide and comfortable.
  • Great convenience factors; there are a range of pockets in various areas so you can easily store and find things. I like the back zippered pocket to hold my tickets and passport for quick access.
  • Good looking and versatile; works in a range of situations from sightseeing to dinner.
  • A great size; this purse fits an outing’s worth of stuff in it: water bottle, sunglasses, mirrorless camera, notebook, snack, chap-stick and Kindle.
  • Anti-theft features; I usually travel with a carabiner to secure my purse strap, and this one has it built it. So handy! It also has locking zippers and slash-proof fabric. In Europe, the carabiner and anti-theft features are particularly ideal so you can affix the purse to your chair in places like Paris and Rome where petty theft is high.

I always carry a purse on my travels, and if you’re looking for something ideal for your trips, this one hits all of my positives. That said, it’s on the larger end of the bag perspective (I always need mine to fit my camera). So if you want a lower-profile option, the Travelon Anti-Theft Classic Messenger Bag has the same anti-theft features but a bit of a lower profile. And to go completely safe but low-profile, this Be Safe bag is cute and won’t make you look like a tourist!

Picking one out as a travel gift for the woman in your life: Amazon has a range of gorgeous colors. I prefer the black Travelon so that it matches a lot, but the grey one is cute, too.

2. A Stylish Pocket Scarf

Wearing a scarf is a great way to dress up an outfit when you’re traveling, and a Pocket Scarf is a fun, practical addition to your travel wardrobe. It’s wicked useful and come in several of colors. Women can use the pocket to keep passport, credit cards, and spare cash safe as you roam around Europe or squeeze through crowded streets in Asia. This is also a great way to go lightweight for a night out on the town as it takes the place of a small clutch.

The best travel wardrobes have items that function in different capacities, and this wins on that front. Give this travel gift to a woman backpacking in Europe, or perhaps one planning a lot of overland travel. She won’t regret tossing one of these into her bag in a neutral color that coordinates with most of her outfits.

Note: I own this black scarf from Clever Travel Companion (a company specializing in pickpocket proof clothing) and it is a winter scarf—it’s larger and thicker. This Pierron & Co one is a bit lighter for multi-season travel. Both companies use great materials that will last—cheaper brands use thin material that shows the bulky contents of your scarf (thus defeating the purpose of hiding things in it!).

3. A Stylish, Warm, Durable Cardigan

best travel caridganLook no further for the perfect cardigan for your trip. Made from Merino wool (a breed of sheep from Spain), the Icebreakers Bliss Cardigan is my favorite piece of travel clothing. It’s a travel must, especially when venturing around Europe. The weather fluctuates a lot in Europe and you are likely facing warm days and cool evenings. The great thing about Merino wool is that it stays cool in warm weather and warm in cold weather. Having a good sweater is important so that you can keep yourself warm on chilly planes, buses, and trains. And even more, this sweater looks so good that I always get compliments on it when I’m on the road. It works just as well on a plane as it does in a bar for happy hour. I own this sweater in grey and blue, and one of them is always in my travel bag.

 4. Cute, Comfortable Sandals

stylish travel sandalI never thought I would say this, but I have found the perfect travel sandals and they’re Crocs. I am in love with my sandals. I know, don’t make that face though, because I’m going to make my case.

The Crocs Sexi Flip Sandal is so comfortable, and surprisingly stylish, too. Like my cardigan, people have stopped me on the street to ask about my sandals. They’re as comfortable as you would expect from a pair of Crocs, but the style is downright trendy. The soles are manmade and the ankle strap fits well (they are very tight when you first order them, so round up a size and know that they fit much better once you wear them in for a day or two).

I have worn these through a dozen countries now and they’ve never given me a blister. I am on my third pair, each lasts me about a year of near constant use. This is the perfect sandal for hot summer days spent wandering through historic European cities or rural villages in Africa or Asia.

5. Smartphone Security

lifeproof case reviewYour smartphone is likely one of the most expensive items in your day bag and the traveler in your life (or you!) should keep it safe. The best cases on the market are both the Otterboxes and the Lifeproof cases. While Otterboxes are good for daily use, the Lifeproof FRE case wins out for travelers. There is a reason why Lifeproof cases are so popular among travelers: They are almost indestructible. Lifeproof cases protect your phone from falls, sand, snow, and water. Anything you dream up for your trip—your phone case can handle it. There are several colors and styles available, and they also have a floating case if you’re planning a beach holiday.

6. Stylish Camera Scarf

comfortable camera strapFinding a comfortable camera strap is challenging. If you own a DSLR, or if  you opted for the Lumix that I recommend, then you might want to upgrade your camera strap. With the Capturing Couture Scarf Strap, I love the idea of a camera strap that is made from a scarf. Made from soft jersey fabric, this scarf camera strap is comfortable, functional, and stylish. It will look great as you snap photos of anything from the Taj Majal to the Eiffel Tower.

7. The Perfect Travel Camera

perfect camera for travelDepending your travel styles, most travelers have done away with point-and-shoot cameras in favor of using cell phones. And it’s a solid trade-off. You don’t need to have a big fancy DSLR camera to take great photos when you’re travelling. That said, for a traveler visiting once-in-a-lifetime locations, consider a small but powerful micro-four-thirds for the traveling woman in your life.

The Panasonic LUMIX GX85 is phenomenal. I use the GX7 and this line of cameras upped my photography game considerably, while not adding the weight of a DSLR camera.These line of cameras are the hands-down best travel cameras for quality and size. While most travelers will enjoy using their phone for convenience, for those who want to truly record their journey, read my review of my Panasonic LUMIX—it’s my favorite purchase in years. And the GX85 now comes with a lens bundle and is half the price of what I paid for mine, so it’s a real steal.

8. Travel Themed Jewelry

Gorgeous Travel-Themed JewelryAdorable Silver Travel Bracelets: Love the Zenned Out store on Etsy. If you buy the sterling silver you can easily use on the road without worrying about showering with it on, but still look cute and class-up that wrist of traveler bracelets all long-term travelers seem to collect.

Gorgeous travel themed necklaces: I love this compass necklace(adorable, fashionable, and could perhaps pass for practical?) and I bought myself this antiqued plane charm necklace, this globe is stunning, and I completely geek-out for this solar system necklace.

stylish travel giftsOther Travel Gift Ideas

In addition to these travel items, I always pack a few extra things that make my travels easier.

  • Backup Battery: If you’ll be using your smartphone then don’t forget a backup battery. I carry the mid-priced and compact Jackery power bar, or consider the Power Brik Portable charger, which is less expensive, slim, and it will carry at least one charge for your phone.
  • Reading Material: I always bring a Kindle as I like have a single-purpose device and no distractions. You can download a few books related to the country you’re visiting and learn about the history, culture, and people as you travel.
  • Tunes for the Road: Spotify won’t work overseas, so consider upgrading to Spotify Premium for your trip. With premium, I download all of my music so I have offline tunes for the train rides and days out wandering new cities.
  • Handy Travel Journal: There are no better notebooks than a Moleskin and this travel themed one is super cute.

That wraps up the handful of my very favorite travel items that make it into my backpack on each trip, despite the extra weight. And there are other things I love (my backpack, my hiking boots, etc), but each one of these items have made my travels better in some identifiable way. As a traveler, every single thing I add to my backpack adds to the weight I carry on my back.

And as a woman running a business from all over the word, I need to look nice when I’m on the road. For this reason I am ruthless and meticulous about what I allow into my bag. And while many of these items cost more than other brands, these are the ones that tend to combine quality, style, and function. If it’s only going to break or look misshapen a few weeks into my trip, then it’s not a good purchase. My full travel packing list is here. And if you’re interested in generally the best gifts for world travelers, I put together a gift guide for those who love to travel—practical and inspirational gifts!

50 thoughts on “A Little Review… The 8 Best Travel Gifts for Women”

  1. Awesome site Shannon with loads of helpful info! I’m looking at going to South America next month if all goes according to plan and the whole thing seems a bit daunting if I must say. At least I’ll have everything I need :-). Would you reckon it’s safe enough to just take Malaria tablets and I have my Yellow fever vaccination. That is if I closely watch what I eat and drink and lather myself with repellent and sleep with a mosquito net? I’ve been to Morocco and Egypt and Turkey and all of them recommended a few different vaccinations but I never had any and did not have any issues.

    • Congrats on the upcoming trip! I know how overwhelming it can be to get everything aligned and ready. I am glad to hear that the resources on the site have been helpful! For the vaccinations, that’s a really tough call. If you don’t have your childhood vaccinations like Hep A, measles, polio etc, then I would highly recommend that you get them. The thing is, vaccination rates outside of the U.S. are much lower, so although you can go years without contact stateside, if you’re traveling in poor areas then it’s impossible to prevent contact with many of them, and poor sanitation heightens the rise. Hospitals are also scarce, so something like tetanus is far more serious if you’re in a remote part of the Amazon. If you’re just talking about the odd-ball ones, there are several that I’ve opted out of, like rabies and Japanese encephalitis, but ultimately I’ve always found the precaution worth it. Despite being cautious, I nearly died in Laos from a diarrheal illness (dysentery), and it was terrifying to be in a country without any healthcare system. No hospitals, no way to get an IV, just 15 hours of boat to bus to tuk-tuk to get to Thailand. Best of luck! ~S

      • Thank you for taking the time to write back. :-) Geez! Glad you made it outta there then. Was that from eating something do you think? All these health websites warn against eating from the local markets and that even though that is the kind of food i’d rather have. Always looks and smells yummy. Did you eat much from there or mainly in restaurants? Thanks again! Bernardine

        • I am fairly certain it was from eating fresh fruit that wasn’t properly washed. As a vegetarian, I sometimes risk things that I know are less safe but I eat them because I lack other options that are safer (like well-cooked meat on a stick or something like that). Often times street food is far safer than a restaurant. The turnover time is faster. They often specialize in a single dish and buy the ingredients fresh every day (as opposed to restaurants that keep a lot of ingredients on hand for weeks). Plus, you can watch them prepare it in front of you. There are easy ways to eat safely, like going to places with a queue, watching how they handle money, and eating at the proper local mealtimes. I give a full rundown how to safely eating streetfood here: https://alittleadrift.com/rtw-travel/#food and Jodi wrote a fantastic post about it here: http://www.legalnomads.com/2016/01/street-food.html Definitely don’t avoid street food when you’re on the road! :)

          • Thanks for that again Shannon. I’m still in two minds about getting ALL the vaccines they recommend as I’m sure it’s also a money making racket like a lot of things so it’s hard to know for definite. I have my Yellow Fever one and have Malaria tablets and getting the strongest repellent for clothes, net and myself which I will be sure to apply every two hours but still need to decide on the rest of the vaccines. GP is no help either cause they just do their job and say that you need all of them. :-)

  2. I came off the link for the purse recommendation somewhere…and fell in love with your blog post. Cannot wait to read your other posts. I would add in essential oils. I carry them with me when I travel and have been so thankful. I carry the mini bottles filled from my larger ones and can share what I do on my blog with you when I get it done. I have lavender for sleep and skin issues (bug bites, cuts, scrapes & burns), Purification for hotel rooms & bad smelling rooms, Digize and/or Peppermint for aiding in food poisoning or stomach issues, headaches, aches and pains and more.

    • Hi Sue, so glad you like the site and that you found it useful! And essential oils is a great recommendation — I don’t carry very many with me, but Tea Tree Oil is one that I always have in my bag and it has come in handy countless times. Thanks! :)

      • Call me if you would like to learn more for simple tips on the basic oils to use on trips. You will wonder how you ever did without them. I have used them countless times when I am unfamiliar with the hospitals and over the counter remedies in a different country. My husband had an interesting time when he ended up in the docs office, after food poisoning, in Japan. He learned the hard way to carry the oils. :)) Poor guy! :(He said he will not be without the basic kit I made for him. You have an awesome day, Shannon!

          • I sure do, here is the list:

            1) Thieves
            2) Digize
            3) Lavender
            4) Peppermint
            5) Frankincense
            6) Stress Away
            7) Lemon
            8) Copaiba
            9) Peace & Calming
            10) Purification
            and of course YL’s awesome Sleepessence capsules for sleeping at night, naturally. If you want to learn more on them, I do personal consults on why, each of them and how I do it for each trip. 763.3seven0.224six I had to spell for them silly crawlers that like to randomly call me. Only 14+ years of experience, with the oils.

          • Thank you, thank you for the list of oils! My best friend studied oils and introduced me to Thieves, which is incredible. I really appreciate you taking the time to share them and I will definitely contact you in the future if I decide to delve deeper into them. Safe and happy travels! :)

          • You are so welcome! :) Yes, I love that whole line of Thieves products. So happy you liked it. No issue here, if your best friend is still doing them, by all means head on over to the person. But if you need someone, I am willing to lend a hand. So glad you enjoyed the list.

  3. Such great stuff! I agree with you… here a few extra things I swear by in my travels…
    – a Microsoft surface tablet (with extra clip on keyboard) — PERFECT for travelling, everything like a normal computer word, PowerPoint as well as kindle, apps like on smartphone, but small, light, easy, great battery life, all the benefits of a normal tablet but with the keyboard it just like a computer, typing is so much easier! I have never had a phone on my travels, just used this (with Skype account to call numbers) and written down numbers and asked to borrow people’s phones when I need to call someone out of wifi reception.
    – a medium sized strong clip-it lunchbox– sooooo useful! When in your bag you can store things in it ad in use it can be used as a bowl to eat or drink from, or a storage for anything (I use it mainly for food), I take it always in my day bag and whenever I am around places with food and there is an excess I put it I my lunchbox and then have a meal later when I am hungry. Great for example, when you go out to dinner with some friends and you or they do not finish meals, put leftovers away and then you have a meal for later or the next day (a real tip in saving money)
    – duck tape — my life is two words! Can be used for just about anything from a clothesline to fixing your shoes temporarily, to strap things to you or to other people, to secure things, to hide things, omg I can’t even describe my love for duck tape!
    – a little, small, light picture book from the place where you are from, this has been so cool in countless situations, whenever you are meeting people and they are interested in where you are from you can just pull it out and give it to them to see (can get from a tourist shop in your home country), everyone who I have showed mine on New Zealand have loved it!
    – a pillow case, my favourite one from home, gives me a little bit of comfort especially when sleeping in real far out places, and can be filled with clothes to make a pillow, there is nothing worse than not having a pillow to sleep with.
    I hope this was helpful =)

    • Some great ideas here Mandy! Duck tape is always in my backpack for those very reasons you mentioned! The rest sound handy for a packing list too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, safe and happy travels.

    • Microsoft surface pro 3 is what someone just recommended to me with all my traveling I do and it also hooks up to a zyto compass, which I haul around with me. Which the kindle doesn’t have the capibility for that. I was looking for something lightweight and also functional without hauling another laptop! Thanks for the tips on what to do with it.

    • Only if you carry a fairly small lens, or perhaps just the camera. I carry a water bottle, my wallet, some odds and ends, and my Panasonic (just one pancake lens on it: pretty easily in the bag, so if you don’t carry full gear + a purse it could work! :) It’s a decent size inside.

  4. i don’t know if that makes a difference, I’m a guy. but for a gift, all i want is an awesome smartphone, with great camera and a backpack with two pair of denim.:)

    • Hah, fair point John … though I tried to vary the money levels of gifts because my dad would laugh at me if I asked him to buy me a nice camera or an iPhone. Though as you noted, I do love them …especially when paired with Spotify :)

  5. As a gift: a versalette, a piece of clothing you can use in so many ways. So far I use a sarong as towel, skirt, bed sheet, scarf, head cover…

    • I agree Pauline! I really loved the idea and have met both women. Unfortunately they are no longer making any more of the versalettes, and I was waiting to buy one for a new color, so I missed out! Glad to hear you love it, and that it’s super handy :)

  6. i love reading about other traveler’s favorite products – awesome picks! i’m in the market for a new camera so the Lumix is on top of the list! great pic of Railay by the way – went there last month – WOW so glad i had a chance to experience that beauty! hope it’s ok, i featured a link to your gift list on my blog :-)

    • I appreciate you including my post in the round-up Alex! The camera is definitely worth checking out too, I love mine dearly and a couple other travel bloggers over the past year have gotten it too and seem to echo my love for it :)

  7. Ha ha ha .. I am laughing aloud by seeing the eyes of Ana while you were nearby her. By the way.. dialing up the phone from the bank looks unique.

  8. Capturing the moments every time you travel is one of the things you should never, ever forget. For this reason, camera has been one of the best items you must have whenever you travel. Travel light will always work best-as always. Just bring the essentials and you will definitely enjoy your time.

    • Thanks Jim, I agree! My camera is one of my prized items, and the other non-essentials just make it more comforting when I travel long-term! :)

  9. Great gift list, unique from a lot of backpacking gifts guides I have seen this holiday season. I agree, traveling lets you realize what you don’t need. It is a liberating feeling.

    • I tried to think outside of the typical lists, so I appreciate your feedback Stephen. Anything that is a non-essential “must have” for you? :)

  10. I gotta get that purse ;)

    In all seriousness, I loved, loved, loved my Kindle, but I have broken three now. Just reading that stuff now on my phone. I am such a bad techie.

    • I think the purse would look smashing on you Michael :) Sorry to hear about your Kindles, sheesh, that’s tough … and reading on the phone is so tiny no?! Hmm, I think we just need to get you a better case for your next one!

  11. What a great list! It is so easy to take far more than we need when travelling and that, “What would you like for Christmas?” question is an absolute killer. Every year I get given guide books and every year they sit unopened in my wardrobe as I prefer travelling light. I take everything on your list, except the smart phone and the back-up battery. I do get lost a lot, but sometimes that’s fun too!

    • I agree that getting lost is half the fun! Unfortunately I get lost no matter what I have with me. And if you don’t have a phone, you likely don’t new the backup power. Safe travels!! :)

  12. Can you speak about activating your locally purchased SIM card? I’ve heard a variety of stories on the matter and they unfortunately seem to cancel each other out. I’ve been curious about those card ambitions but the prices can be very ridiculous in certain places in South America.

      • Wow, I just reread my comment from last night. I really must of been out of it—hardly makes sense. My apologies. I’m actually leaving in less than two weeks and I’ve put in some long nights piecing together all final items. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to your site. Check your analytics — those one hundred 2am hits from an IP in Tampa — yeah, that’s me. Lol. All seriousness, thank you for yet another lead. I will review and get that final todo off my list.

        One last thing — totally unrelated and sort of a thank you to you. I’ve noticed that in Chrome your navigation jumps to a second like due to padding. In any case — thought I would send over a quick and easy solution. http://i.imgur.com/d8Wsk.jpg. Some how I’m sure you know how to fix it. But I happen to have all my gadgets open and thought I’d send it anyway

        • Thank you for that! It wasn’t happening on my browser, and I wouldn’t have known how to fix it. :) I am so glad to hear that the site had been helpful, and that your trip is near! Shoot me an email if there is anything I can help you with before you leave!

          • No no. Thank you! Yes, if anything comes up I’ll most definitely send you an email. And yes, I just tested again and realized that the padding issue is only on Chrome for Mac. On PC, everything is looking splendid. Sure in the grand scheme of things “Chrome browser+Mac” is the few. :)

  13. I love Spotify Premium. It has replaced my iPod because now I can listen to my favorite songs on my phone or computer without even being online. I think we discussed the camera thing before. I ended up going with the Sony NEX 5N (the 7 is the current one now) and love how compact it is.

    Your list is a good reminder that I need to get a back up battery!

    • I agree! I rarely use iTunes now for anything other than the apps, music all goes through my Spotify. As for the camera, we have talked about the Sony, and I am glad to know that version of the micro is excellent too. I think they all are strong because Jodi has the Olympus, you verify that the Sony is good, and the Lumix is aces. And the battery is a must! Esp if you’re streaming Spotify, that saps my iPhone quickly :)

    • Thanks Andi! I know the DSLRs are higher quality at the end of the day, but I just love the size to image quality ratio of the micro-four-thirds cameras! :)

  14. Welcome to the world of Tripit. I have been using it for a while now and it is an essential part of my travel planning. I love not having to go to a net cafe to print out flight confirmations anymore.

    Those bags look great as well. Too bad they don’t cater for dudes though. I’m always on the lookout for good day bags and I would like to see them make a more dudelier version of the bag.

    • James, do you want a man purse?! I think they should make better man travel bags… you guys need to carry water too! TripIt is so good, and the fact that it stores the information offline=a perfect world. I’ll be on the lookout for a dudely bag for you :)

      • Noooo, not a man purse, a manly man bag is what I want :p I like the courier style bags like crumpler but their shape is too odd and they don’t have convenient pockets. Thanks for looking out for me :)


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