The Frommer's Travel Products Gift Guide for 2023
The success of gift-giving lies in the using. Too many presents are politely received but then wind up on the shelf, at the back of the closet, or in the bin. The real winners are the gifts that receivers actually take on their adventures—and, in the best-case scenario, find to be indispensable on the road.
Frommer's has a long tradition of discovering some of the world's most interesting, most useful products that genuinely promise to make travel smarter, better, easier, or cheaper. Even the most generous gift givers will be tempted to keep each of these items for themselves.
All of a sudden, the market is flooded with pocket-size scanners that will translate printed foreign text on the go. But not all of them are equal. Far too many require an internet connection to work, and, in our view, forced connectivity stunts the effectiveness of any travel product.
This USB-chargeable device can read 10 popular languages—Chinese, English, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Russian—without a signal, and that's good enough to be useful across a giant swath of the globe. (Connect online and you can access another 112 languages.) The device will either read the translation aloud to you or send it to your smartphone via Bluetooth. $130, Hammacher Schlemmer
Any traveler who ever reluctantly walked around wrinkled can tell you: Coat hangers don't pack well. They're too wide to fit in most luggage, especially if you're relying on compact carry-ons. This clever little solution fits, though.
The Fold-N-Pack travel hanger folds its arms to get through a long journey, much like a polite passenger in the middle seat, and then unfolds to full size once a destination closet has been reached. The arms have notches for traction to hold flimsy delicates, and hangers come in three colors: black, gray, and rose gold. $20, FoldnPack.com
The airlines' fee-happy habits have inspired a bonanza of options for great carry-on luggage. In fact, so many travelers try to save money by scaling down that it's now become not so easy to find quality large luggage anymore. The Suitcase Trunk by Peugeot Voyages, a spin-off brand from the esteemed French car company, performs reliably and with style.
The dimensions of a medium-size trunk squeeze in just under the size limitations (including, crucially, the wheels) for most international airlines, maximizing its 97 liters (3.4 cubic feet) of space without going over. The suitcase glides easily on four multidirectional spinner wheels, which no old-timey steamer trunk could ever do. We tested the luggage out during a one-month European adventure that involved checking into more than a dozen hotels, riding countless city buses and taxis, and going on a transatlantic ocean crossing. The case's rainproof polycarbonate shell and TSA-approved combination lock latches held together with unflappable, temptingly over-packable resolve. The upper half is fitted with netting to hold items in place when the luggage is open; when closed, it doubles nicely as a sturdy mobile stool at bus stops and in lines. You don't always want to travel with a lot of stuff, but when you have to, you want your luggage to be this hardy. $495, Delsey Paris
These are so much cooler (and more trustworthy) than the flimsy luggage tags that passengers resort to using last minute at the check-in counter. Two inches square, made of acrylic, and customized to your tastes from among 14 colors (or even clear), these accessories stand out and will give even a drab bag a fabulous new look. Losing luggage feels bad, but losing one of these fetching medallions might arguably be worse. Good thing they're so affordable. $14, LittleDotStudio.com
Slightly less practical but no less eye-catching, these handmade glass holiday ornaments from Joy to the World Collectibles evoke some of your favorite places to travel with folksy, glittery flair. Note: Although these luggage tags are attractive and may inspire wanderlust, we do not recommend using them to check your Christmas tree through baggage claim with any airline. $50, JoytotheWorldOnline.com
You probably didn't know that every Southwest Airlines cabin receives a complete overhaul every 4 years. All those distinctively striped leather seat covers have to go somewhere. How about your luggage collection?
These bags are made by Unshattered, a nonprofit that works with women who are moving past addiction to embark on new chapters in their lives. You can help them take that journey by using these handmade bags on travels of your own. Unshattered's numerous options include makeup kits ($69), toiletry cases ($99), messenger bags ($229), and full-on duffel bags ($299), most of them bearing that distinctive Southwest Airlines beige stripe that came straight from a jet. Try not to be jealous of your luggage for being more traveled than you are. $25–$299. Unshattered.org
For more cool recycled products made from transportation seating, check out the recycled Acela Express Seat Leather Bags from People for Urban Progress, featured in a previous Frommer's gift guide.
After debuting as a star product at the CES electronics convention a few years ago, this so-simple-we-should-have-thought-of-it "attendance simulator" showed up on the QVC shopping channel, and now the item is finally available as a regular round-the-clock purchase. The Homeshadows security decoy device projects random, algorithm-generated, and gradually shifting light patterns on window curtains and walls, making your empty home appear occupied while you're out seeing the world. In Home Alone, Kevin McAllister had to rig a gaggle of mannequins and life-size human cardboard cutouts to trick would-be burglars with the same effect, but Homeshadows can be set to turn on automatically when the sun goes down. $70, Homeshadows.com
A portable wrinkle remover for clothes is one of those things you don't think you'll need—until you check into a hotel that doesn't have irons. This new-brew wrinkle wrestler does the job without pesky and awkward cords. You charge up the Aipower Portable Steam Iron instead.
With one-touch operation, it heats up to 284° F (140° C), is USB-rechargeable, works for a half hour per charge, and can double as a power bank. All that comes in a size that's just a little bigger than a typical man's fist. Accompanied by its own travel bag and safety plate, this is a steam iron for the modern age and a necessary travel tool for people who want to dress like grown-ups. $54, Brookstone.com
It's not bragging if it's beautiful, right? Map your adventures with memories using this USA photo map. If you're worried that you'd never be able to figure out how to fit your images precisely into each state's outline, don't fret—the map comes with step-by-step instructions for how to upload and print photos that fit perfectly. Available either framed or unframed and in seven visual styles, this striking keepsake can even be customized with someone's name for another $20. If you'd rather have the outline of just a single state, the makers can do that, too ($14). $74, ThunderBunnyLabs on Etsy
Ophthalmologist-approved (probably), the rounded points of the aptly named Blunt Umbrellas won't be poking out any eyes. The umbrellas hopefully won't be folding inside-out in a storm, either, because their newfangled design was tested to hold its shape in hurricane conditions (about 70 mph/115 kph). If your umbrella does break, Blunt will endeavor to fix it for you instead of discarding it and contributing to landfill waste.
Engineering like this is the considerate choice for touring in crowded places. The smallest size, Metro, measures 14 inches (35 cm) long when folded. All Blunt umbrellas come in a bunch of snappy colors, so more passersby will be able to wink at your sense of style. $89–$99, BluntUmbrellas.com
Gen Z has discovered the joys of instant-print photography, and the retro pastime now has a vanity-soothing technical twist: Modern systems can show you the photos you take before they're actually printed. No more wasted snapshots of closed eyes. Polaroid could never!
Fujifilm's Instax Pal leverages that editorial improvement by liberating the camera from its printer, resulting in a golf ball–size device that's much easier for kids to toy with on vacation. A detachable ring does triple duty as viewfinder, selfie stand, and loss-prevention grip. The camera's memory stores up to 50 images (more if you buy a microSD card) at a time. Make copies of your favorites instantly and wirelessly with your smartphone as intermediary using the snazzy printer, also included and also petite enough to slip easily into your luggage. Everything is rechargeable, and this bundle even comes with a 10-pack of instant film to start you off. $200, InstaxUS.com
Fans of this popular travel backpack say it semi-miraculously holds as much as a carry-on despite being the size of a personal item (provided you don’t overstuff). This apparently mystical vortex of basic economy sorcery comes with a separate lined compartment for shoes or wet stuff as well as a USB charging port. All that and a price point that seems to defy the laws of economics, too. 16.53 inches x 12.59 inches x 7.87 inches (42 cm x 32 cm x 20 cm); weight when empty: 2.2 pounds / 1 kg. $27, Coowoz
Everyone knows that when hosts really don't want houseguests, the universally accepted passive-aggressive signal is to assign visitors to an air mattress. Thwart your loved ones' attempts to chase you back home with this ingenious little gadget, the Exped Widget Pump. Pull this invention out and you'll serve notice that you're prepared for even the chilliest hospitality.
When fully charged, the pump can inflate several trekking mats (oh yeah, it's great for summertime camping, too, and that's what most people use it for), provide light for 72 hours, and charge a mobile phone or two. An included adapter lets the nozzle fit most inflatable mats on the market. Charge the pump in about 6 hours using USB. To prevent this airy savior from accidentally kicking off in your pack, you have to double press the power to turn it on. $50, Exped USA
In the summer of 2023, Apple's new operating system for iPhone, iOS 17, added StandBy, which turns any iPhone into a nightstand clock as long as the phone is charging. That improvement is a boon for travelers (provided your iPhone's software is up-to-date), but you'll still need a stand to hold up your phone–turned–portable bedside clock. For that there's OtterBox's new 2-in-1 Power Bank with MagSafe. Apple's MagSafe magnet system holds the phone in place as it charges, and there's room for an Apple Watch, too. By day, the device folds up small enough to slip in a pocket and doubles as a powerful battery (10,000 mAh, good for a few phone recharges) when you're out and about. $150, OtterBox.com
We hate using AirPods or other wireless earbuds on airplanes because as soon as we nod off, the buds easily slip out and get lodged in the cracks of the seats. Bulky headphones take up too much space, and the waxy wired headphones most airlines supply feel like they've been fished out of the back of grandma's junk drawer. A Bluetooth Beanie, though, keeps your music in place because the miniature speakers are sewn imperceptibly into the lining. When you sleep in unfamiliar places you can pipe your own sounds directly into your ears, and when you wear the beanie while conscious people will just think you look cool, like a professional snowboarder or Waldo. The headgear's lithium battery can work continuously for 10 to 12 hours and takes about 2 hours to recharge. $20, Highever
Owning one of these is kind of a power move. Sure, some people will be wondering which weirdo brought their own windmill, but others will be marveling at the ingenuity of being able to generate your own electricity in places short on outlets, such as in national parks, on camping trips, or during picnics.
This 3-pound, 40-watt system collapses to the size of a water bottle. After a 2-minute setup, the rotors can harness the breeze to fuel even the most intrusive Instagram addictions, storing power in a 12,000 mAh internal battery, which, when full, is good to charge a mobile phone a few times over. The turbine works in the rain and will adjust itself to catch changing wind direction. The product's Canadian manufacturer claims that after just an hour in winds of 28 mph, the device can store enough juice to recharge three phones. Think of it as the gift for someone who already has everything—except a very long extension cord. $400, ShineTurbine.com
Of course, when it comes to making travel easier and better, nothing beats a Frommer's guide. Our authors aren't influencers. They aren't for sale. The only way to make it into a Frommer's guide is to be the best.
Since 1957, Frommer's has been publishing guidebooks to the entire world that are trusted by the entire world.
They're available through our online bookstore in both paperback and e-book editions. Gift a traveler you love with a Frommer's guide to their next destination.