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
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
Look 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
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
Your 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
Finding 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
Depending 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
Adorable 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.
Other 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!