The Annual Frommer's Travel Gift Guide
This year, give the gift that keeps on moving! We combed the current best offerings to find travel gadgets and inventions that actually improve the way we experience places—and we found something for every budget. If these don't give you ideas, then maybe your loved ones just want to stay home.
These are no ordinary sunglasses. They look Superman cool, but they're also Mister Fantastic bouncy, which makes them about as unbreakable as both those heroes. Go ahead, twist the arms—they bounce right back, so you don't have to worry about them when you chuck them in your luggage. They're not a run-of-the-mill, off-the-shelf item, either: You design your own. Just go onto the website to assemble the look you want from six frame styles, three lens types, and various colors and lens finishes. Most pairs cost only around $50—easily half the price of many competitors.
Ever gone to the beach and spent most of the time anxiously keeping an eye on your stuff when you're supposed to be frolicking in the waves? That's fun! Solution: Thread the lockable, slash-resistant AquaVault holder through a pole or a rod and you can play nearby with confidence. Petty thieves are opportunistic and work in a flash, but they can't do the old snatch-and-grab without wrestling with your valuables in a way the whole beach would notice. The safe also comes in a larger, hard-sided version.
Babies are great, fine, but we'd like to take a minute to complain about all their stuff. All that cumbersome gear can keep reluctant parents at home. Babyzen YOYO+ works the way travelers need it to. In use, it's a full-size stroller with convertible sun shade, but when it's time to travel, it folds down to 52cm x 44 cm x 18 cm (20.5 x 17 x 7 in inches). That's within the restrictrions of much standard hand luggage, so it'll fit (after a one-handed folding movement) in most overhead bins. Even more usefully for travelers, the stroller can be carried like a bag and the fabric is machine-washable. It's been on the market for a few years, but good word deserves to spread, and besides, this year a redesign increased storage space.
Umbrella poles are so rude. They hog the middle, forcing you to stand aside and get a shoulder wet. Not this one. This polite umbrella shares. It's The Better Umbrella. Check out that novel J-shamed bend in the central pole. It's offset from the middle leaving your face unobstructed, making it easier to see (and photograph) what you came to see. When it's folded, it's a foot long, so it's not super collapsible, but at least you'll come back with memories of your destination that aren't bisected by a metal rod.
A flashlight built into gloves! We know it sounds strange, maybe even steampunk, but take a minute to consider how useful it can be during your travels to have your hands free while you do something in the dark. You can navigate hiking trails or put up a tent or light a fire after dark. You can safely go jogging and enjoy the sunrise wherever you are. Or you can just use one as an actual flashlight beside the hotel bed. The idea behind RunLites is progressive, but the execution is fairly low-tech: You buy a pair of $20 fingerless or fingered gloves (lots of colors are available) and then slip two packs with LED lights ($20 for both) into a built-in slot on each hand.
Put a regular sheet of paper on the Bamboo Slate and draw or write—when you're ready, the Bamboo will transfer, with perfect fidelity, everything you created as a file on your phone or computer. If you're a sketcher or a journaler who has dreamed of an easy way to get your travel impressions into your computer for later manipulation—or you're just a thirsty social media show-off who needs everyone to see what you're thinking at every moment—this is quite the invention. The system is a little rife with upcharge potential—you have to use its pens ($30 if you lose the one it comes with) and nibs (from $8 once you run out of ink) and if you want to convert your handwriting into text, you pay another $3 a month. But for the right creative users, that's no bar.
Move over, 1,001 Places to See Before You Die. There's a newer, less commercial, more historically dazzling compendium of awesome things to see around this fascinating planet of ours. You'll be forgiven if you don't know about the popular Atlas Obscura blog, gaining speed since 2009, but now that its fascinating quick-hit explorations are available as a page-turner, it's time to get on board. Among Atlas Obscura's some 600 little-promoted wonders: the Soviet cosmonaut training facility Star City, a garden in England containing only poisonous plants, forgotten concrete arrows in the Montana landscape that once guided 1920s air pilots, light-up "firefly" squid in Japan, and tours of a Cincinnati subway system that never opened. It's enough to be absorbing reading even without the use of a suitcase, but each entry also includes GPS coordinates so you can go out and discover for yourself. This book doesn't make us fall in love with travel—Atlas Obscura inspires us with our world all over again.
The Roadtrip is a cigarette-lighter USB charger that performs multiple duties by doubling as a battery you can unplug and take on the go. It holds enough juice to charge most devices at least once. So while you're driving, it tips up both your phone and itself, and when it's time to get out of the car and explore, there's no need to pack a separate backup battery. You simply pull it out of the socket and pocket it. One less thing to forget.
A lantern that packs like a pancake. Whether you're sitting on the patio at a home rental, camping, or just enjoying some wine after sunset, this clever little light source—a little over 4 inches across—is brilliantly portable. Inflate it and it's a lantern; once you let the air out, it's only an inch tall so it fits nearly anywhere in your luggage. The LEDs can light an area of up to 150 square feet for up to 12 hours, can get wet, will flash if you need to attract attention, and store solar power so you don't even need batteries. You can choose from eight colors, too.
Really smart, right? These foldable travel hangers come in sets of two. You'll never look like a schlub again, and your giftee never needs to know how cheap they were. Winning!
When it comes to airline luggage fees, every ounce counts. If you plan to buy any souvenirs on your trip, you need to make sure purchases won't put you over the limit. This easy-to-use Balanzza Rechargeable Travel Scale weighs bags up to 100 pounds (44kg) by hanging them on its hook, and it can be recharged by Micro USB. We guess you could use it in the produce aisle, too, if you want funny looks from the locals.
You've been clicking around this website for travel tips, but did you know Frommer's publishes several dozen printed guidebooks crammed with hundreds of pages of current advice? And we've been doing it for 60 years now. Our guides are freshly researched and intentionally kept low-priced, so they make ideal presents for the travelers—or soon-to-be travelers—that you love. It's a gift that explorers will actually use. Find our complete catalog in our Store, linked in the menu above, or by clicking here.