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The best gifts for travelers in 2023

Make sure friends and family have the best gear for their next trip.

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Be it for work or play, many people are taking trips again, which makes travel-related gifts an excellent idea. Whether your loved ones are globetrotters or frequent business travelers, it’s time to look into upgrading their existing on-the-go kit. We’ve curated a list of various items your friends and family will appreciate. Things like sleep masks and packing cubes are essential, and tech gear like battery packs and noise-canceling headphones can make the hectic parts of traveling a bit less stressful. We’re sure at least one of these will help make your loved ones’ next adventure a lot more enjoyable.

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Sony WH-1000XM5

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

If you know someone who always complains about crying babies and chatty neighbors on flights, they’ll likely appreciate a pair of noise-canceling headphones. Sony’s WH-1000XM5 is one of Engadget’s favorites, easily making the best wireless headphones list this year. Senior Editor Billy Steele says it’s comfortable to wear for long periods, has an impressive 30-hour battery life, excellent sound quality and stellar ANC. It also has a combination of touch and physical controls, which means your giftee won’t have to reach for their phone every time they want to switch tracks. — Nicole Lee, Commerce Writer

$316 at Groupon

Kobo Libra 2

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Instead of spending your time scrolling on your phone while you wait for your delayed flight to take off, pick up an e-reader like the Kobo Libra 2. It lets you bring your whole digital library with you wherever you go, so you can catch up on your favorite cozy mystery series instead of swiping aimlessly through Instagram during every idle moment. Plus, Kobo devices have direct integration with Overdrive, and that means you can access your local library’s e-book offerings from the Libra 2. So even when your digital pile of e-books isn’t appealing to you, you can borrow a new read from the library in just a few seconds.

Additionally, we like the Libra 2 for its seven-inch E Ink display with brightness adjustment, blue light reduction and optional Dark Mode, and its ergonomic design that includes page-turn buttons. If you want the latter on a Kindle, you’ll have to shell out $250 for the Kindle Oasis, so the Libra 2 is an affordable alternative. If you do prefer the Kindle ecosystem and the perks that come with programs like Kindle Unlimited, we recommend the latest Kindle, which comes in at $100. — Valentina Palladino, Senior Commerce Editor

$170 at Amazon

Retroid Pocket 3+

Retroid Pocket

It goes without saying that the Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck are excellent handhand systems for gaming on the go. But the Retroid Pocket 3+ is another fun option for those who are a little more adventurous. This Android-based device’s main appeal is emulating older games, so it requires a bit of tinkering to set up. But once it’s ready it can comfortably play several generations of retro classics into the PS2 range (though, it struggles a bit with anything newer than that), along with most Android games and streaming apps. The hardware is slim and light, with a bright 4.7-inch display, smooth joysticks and just about all the necessary buttons. The default model is made of plastic, but a metal option is also available for $30 extra. While it’s not the most user-friendly machine, it’s a versatile, travel-friendly way to enjoy favorites from yesteryear — which is why we recommend it in our gaming handheld buying guide. — Jeff Dunn, Senior Commerce Writer

$160 at Amazon

Roku Streaming Stick 4K

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

The next time your loved one stays at a hotel, a compact media player like the Roku Streaming Stick 4K will make it easier for them to stream all their favorite shows and movies on the TV. That means no more squinting at a laptop or settling for the hotel’s shoddy channel selection. It may require some setup, but Roku’s streaming dongle can draw power straight from a TV’s USB port and works with most of the major streaming services and cable apps. Roku’s OS remains dead simple to navigate, while those with Apple devices can beam content straight to the stick over AirPlay. And, when others are sleeping, a “private listening” feature makes it possible to listen to what’s on TV through their smartphone. All of this has made the Streaming Stick 4K the top pick in our streaming device buying guide. — J.D.

$40 at Amazon

Nestout Outdoor Battery

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

There’s nothing more nerve-wracking than a near-dead phone when you’re on the road. This Outdoor battery from Nestout will give the traveler in your life peace of mind, plus it’s impressively rugged — we dunked it in water and dropped it on hard surfaces but it just keeps working. It looks like a tiny army surplus canteen and has two USB-A and one USB-C ports. In our tests, it revived an iPhone 11 from dead to full in about two hours, and was able to do that about three times over. Nestout also makes clever accessories for the battery, including an adjustable light that pops on top and a tripod that screws into the unit’s quarter-inch mount. — Amy Skorheim, Commerce Writer

$60 at Amazon

Newvanga travel power adapter

An adapter like Newvanga’s isn’t the sexiest gift ever, but it’s something all international travelers will want to keep in their bags. This model has the detachable input plugs that will work with European, UK and Australian outlets, making it an essential for anyone who wants to use their existing electronics while they’re traveling. It also has two USB-A ports built in, so you can power up a couple of mobile devices while you’re also using the main plug for things like your laptop or Nintendo Switch. Plus, it has built-in fuse protection so you won’t have to worry about your gadgets getting fried when you’re in a foreign country. — V.P.

$15 at Amazon

JBL Clip 4 Eco

I don’t condone blasting one’s personal soundtrack to the world at large, but there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some low-key tunes on a picnic or a stroll through the park. We’re fans of JBL and recommend their speakers in our guides because they’re durable and pump out decent volume. The Clip 4 Eco is small enough to go in a suitcase and comes with a handy clip for attaching to packs, chairs, or the towel rack in a hotel room. The waterproof build will keep it safe during water-based adventures and the eco-friendly construction with recycled plastic and fabric are a nice touch. — A.S.

$80 at Amazon

Loop Quiet Earplugs

Whether your loved one often travels for work or pleasure, there will be some moments when they want a totally distraction-free experience. Noise-canceling headphones work well if they want music to be their companion, but a solid pair of earplugs like these from Loop will be better if they want total focus. These soft-touch silicone plugs offer impressive noise suppression, and they’re leaps and bounds more comfortable than traditional plugs too. I’ve used these for months to block out sounds of my partner snoring and the dull roar of an air conditioner while I sleep, and they work just as well now as the day I first unboxed them. The Quiet ear plugs come with four ear tip sizes so they can get the best fit, plus a tiny storage case so they can keep them clean (and in one spot) when they inevitably toss them into the abyss of their carry on. — V.P.

$26 at Amazon

Bellroy Toiletry Kit Plus

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

Bellroy’s travel packs are sleek and organized, just like I wish I was during travel. The Toiletry Kit Plus goes overboard with pockets — zippered, stretch, mesh, magnetic — and that’s great for keeping one’s toothbrush, comb, face wash, lip balm, Advil and deodorant separate and easily findable. The whole thing opens wide and sits upright on a countertop, making it easy to get at what’s needed and it’s made from a recycled woven fabric that’s water-resistant. The traveler in your life will see this as a serious upgrade from the ziploc baggie they’ve been using for ages. — A.S.

$65 at Bellroy

NuPhy Air75 V2

The NuPhy Air75 V2 is a low-profile mechanical keyboard, which means it blends the gratifying feel of mechanical switches with the flatter, more travel-friendly shape of a laptop keyboard. Its keys are wide, stable and pleasant-sounding, and there are several switch options available depending on whether your loved one prefers a faster or more tactile feel. The board is compatible with all the major desktop and mobile operating systems, plus it has RGB backlighting and can work wired via USB-C or wirelessly. All of this makes for a satisfying keyboard that’s svelte enough to carry on the road without much hassle. — J.D.

$120 at NuPhy

Logitech MX Anywhere 3S

Will Lipman Photography for Engadget

We called the Logitech MX Anywhere 3S a “nearly ideal travel mouse” earlier this year due to its compact frame, quiet clicks, and 70 days of rated battery life. It’s lightweight (95g), its scroll wheel is smooth and, though it may be a little too small for those with larger hands, its ambidextrous, mostly flat shape should be comfy for most. It tracks accurately, plus it can pair with three devices at once over Bluetooth. The catch is that it doesn’t come with a USB receiver in the box, but that shouldn’t be a big deal unless your loved one wants something for gaming. (In which case you should check out our gaming mouse buying guide.) Not having to worry about losing a dongle on the road may be a blessing anyway. — J.D.

$80 at Amazon

Peak Design Packable Tote

It’s always a good idea to bring a reusable bag with you while traveling. It gives you flexibility and will prevent you from attempting to stuff a bunch of essentials into your main carry-all at the last minute. There are thousands of options out there, but we like Peak Design’s Packable tote because it doesn’t have the typical reusable bag design and it remains affordable at only $20. It’s made of 100-percent recycled ripstop nylon, which is resilient and as well as water resistant, and it has a zip closure, which is something most other reusable bags don’t have. It’ll keep your items more secure thanks to that, and it’s easier to carry in different ways thanks to its single shoulder/hand strap that sports microfiber padding for extra comfort. We also like that it has an interior pocket that can hold a phone, wallet or keys, and it takes up a surprisingly little space when it’s packed into itself. — V.P.

$20 at Peak Design

Huckberry x GoRuck GR2 Slick Backpack

GoRuck is known for making backpacks capable of carrying 10- to 45-pound plates which are then worn while running, trekking and doing burpees. Whether your traveler is into that sort of punishment or not is irrelevant; the takeaway is these backpacks are made to be tough. The GoRuck aesthetic is pretty militarized, but the GR2 Slick collaboration made with Huckberry has a sleeker, more refined look. It holds 40 liters, which is ideal for one-bag travel, with pockets everywhere, a water-resistant build and an open-flat design for easier packing. Plus it’s made in the US from ballistic nylon and Cordura. As this is a popular collab product, it may sell out. If that’s the case, Mission Workshop makes the Fitzroy, another nearly indestructible, 40-liter, USA-made bag. — A.S.

$425 at Huckberry

Sunski Seacliff Polarized Recycled Sunglasses

Sunski makes my go-to travel sunnies. At under $60, they’re not so expensive that I’m preoccupied with losing them, plus they’re made from a proprietary recycled plastic that has a little give to it. While I don’t recommend doing it, I can say that I’ve sat on my Sunskis without breaking them. They make a range of styles, most of them sporting a laidback aesthetic as opposed to high-fashion. Many of the lenses are polarized too, which cuts down on glare which can come in handy when traveling in unfamiliar territory. — A.S.

$58 at Amazon

ExpressVPN subscription

ExpressVPN

We have concerns with virtual private network (VPN) services when it comes to cybersecurity, but for folks who just want to log into their streaming accounts outside of the country, they can be useful. ExpressVPN is our top pick for frequent travelers. It passed all of the geoblock, streaming and gaming tests in our VPN buying guide, and more generally, it provides access to a wide range of server locations with relatively quick connection speeds. It also works on devices, like game consoles, in addition to phones and laptops. It’s not our top overall pick, nor is it free, but it should be useful the next time your recipient wants to keep up with an US-only Netflix show while staying in Europe. — J.D.

From $9/month at ExpressVPN