Frommer's Travel Gift Guide: Presents Mostly Under $100
Have a wanderer in your life? No matter your budget, we've got the travel gift for you—everything on our 2016 list will make their trips smarter, cheaper, easier, or more fun.
Imagine this: Saving files externally without having to plug anything into your computer. Because this little stick transmits its own short-range Wi-Fi signal, you can transfer vacation photos without cords and schedule automatic backups of your travel memories to it using its free app. But that's not the end of the SanDisk Connect Wireless Stick's tricks: Load movies or music and it'll stream them to up to three devices, turning a car or plane ride into a group movie screening. Charge it up by plugging it into any USB port. These ingenious little things are available in sizes ranging 16 GB to 128 GB. The medium-level choice, the 64GB, costs about $50.
Everyone travels with a bevy of devices these days, so for that modern traveler, there's now a backpack with a built-in battery pack. As seen in this cutaway illustration, the top-load main compartment of the Drifter Energy opens to reveal a fleece-lined laptop cell (which will hold 13" to 16” laptops) that suspends and conceals the electronics you're carrying. The battery pocket is sewn off to the side to avoid taking up precious storage space, but a plug can easily snake inside to keep it topped up with an extra 10–15 hours' worth of backup juice. Like a standard backpack, this 18-liter, 2.3-pound pack comes with a detachable rain cover and a reflective loop for safer nighttime walking.
Let's all admit it: Hotel room coffee is weak and terrible. Make your own strong cup with the elegant Melitta Coffee 1-Cup Pour Over set, which brews a pour-over serving straight into its included travel mug. A cut-out allows you to peek inside the mug and avoid over-filling.
Swiss Army knives get confiscated by the TSA. The "EDC" kit, though, uncontroversially turns a key chain into a mini tool ring with two screwdrivers, tweezers, a waterproof capsule lighter, and pry bar. All in all, they're at most 2.5 inches long, all on a titanium key ring that weights only two ounces. Simple and practical.
Slicing your fingers is far too easy when you're probing your bag for your razor, and the constant movement of your luggage can dull an unprotected blade. The solution: Make the razor collapsible. The nickel-plated eShave 5 Blades Travel Razor, which is compatible with Gillette Fusion blades, screws apart to store in its own four-inch-tall metal canister and comes in blue, lime green, and black.
The Swimmer Jr. is a splashproof wireless speaker about the size of a racquetball with a suction cup and a flexible tail that enables it to grab onto things (handlebars, boat rails—you name it) or curl into a stand—so handy!. For surround sound, graduate to the Swimmer Duo, which will allow you to pair multiple speakers for party-worthy sound no matter where you go with them.
The SuperME Cape-N-Nap is a hilariously adorable kids' traveling ensemble that includes a superhero cape attached to a backpack. And of course there's a mask—because even a traveling hero must conceal their secret identity. The fleece cape folds into a pocket to double as a travel pillow. (You can also get a cape-and-mask ensemble without the pack for $30 and a matching rolling bag set for $80.) It may be just the thing to coax your kid into being excited about what can sometimes be the hard labor of traveling.
Sleep anywhere. The makers of this PVC-free air mattress tout its polyester fibers, the virtue of which lead its makers to promise it will "last significantly longer than other mattresses." For travelers, the chief virtue of the hand-pumped Intex Roll N Go mobile mattress is its weight, just under 5 pounds, which is much less than most other models.
Store your paperwork in style. This hand-held satchel stands out for being cool-looking as well as ecologically sensible: Made of cork, it has a flair lacking from most document cases on the market.
Rumor has it that some hotel housekeeping staff clean in-room water cups by simply rinsing them with water in the sink. Control your cleanliness with these 12-ounce collapsible rubber cups. They're 5 inches tall when expanded but only 1.75 inches tall when collapsed. They also come with a heat sleeve made of hard plastic—that tucks neatly inside the base of the collapsed cup so you won't lose it.
Have you ever stopped to think about how difficult Ziploc bags can be? Frustration, thy name is lining up a seal on a wet, crumbly, or old zip bag. The company that makes Velcro recently came out with an improvement on the concept with its Press-Lok bags. They're not furry like the standard Velcro you know, but ribbed vertically with plastic so they're easier to line up and seal. After selling Press-Lok as packaging for existing products, now it's being sold directly to consumers as a stand-alone travel product. Four sizes ranging from a 7" x 5.7" to a 12" x 10.1" inch bag are currently on sale—including the all-important TSA-approved mini variety.
These ultra-fast-dry towels have been around for a few years, but this year, 58"x34" prints were added to the lineup (plain, non-printed versions are $13–$35). We've tried them, and although they're deceptively cool and smooth, like a fabric you might wear, they suck up water and dry remarkably quickly—which makes beach days and camp bathing smarter. They're also antimicrobial, lightweight, come in generously large sizes, and protect from UV rays. In short, they're more civilized than those old-fashioned travel towels that look and feel like a felt shammy you'd use to buff your car fender.
This 55-by-31-inch mat was designed to fill a list of functions. This waterproof sheet can be folded into a hoodie, a cape, a wrap, snapped to other RestoPresto to create larger coverings, spread out as seat barrier, exercise mat, or picnic sheet. What makes it stand apart is a design that has travel needs in mind, including a pouch that's attached so it can't be lost, stakes that allow it to be secured to the ground, and a carabiner to keep it attached to something when not in use.
Ideal for travel with children, you simply plug the durable Kinsa Smart Thermometer into your smartphone's headphone jack (with or without the provided extension cord, pictured) and the Thermometer takes about 10 seconds to get a temperature reading and track changes on its app. It's durable, tiny, and doesn't require batteries—drawing power from your smartphone instead. The free app includes a bubble-popping game to keep small kids amused while you obtain a reading.
Check this out: A modern, wheeled variation on the classic steamer trunk. The novel design of Oregami Luggage neatly comprises three self-contained "tray" compartments that keep clothes fresh and flat and then accordion back into the case for transit. They're zipped together, so you can use a few trays, no trays, or remove them from the luggage to use as storage at your destination. This inspiration for packing management is overdue: It wheels just like standard luggage but corrals your clothes like a travel version of a bento box. The patented pilot product currently on the market comes in checkable size (30"x15"x12"), but in 2016, a smaller carry-on version is coming.
And we would be remiss if we didn't mention that our guidebooks make wonderful holiday gifts. They're a perfect way to say "Honey, I love you and I'm taking you on an exciting adventure this year." Along with our best-selling New York, Italy, Ireland London and New Orleans guides (among many others), we have new titles coming out to England and Scotland, the Amalfi Coast of Italy, Sicily, Andalucia and, perhaps most exciting, Arthur Frommer's Europe. Written by our founder and a team of hand-picked experts, it presents his top picks for your next visit to Europe, along with the sensible advice and culturally rich information that have made the Frommer guides a "must-carry" for travelers since Arthur founded the line in 1957. How good is this book? The New York Times picked it for its annual guide to the best travel gifts of the year, cheering "Arthur Frommer is back"!