Tis the season to rack your brains for fabulous gifts that make you look good and make your recipient feel like you get them, you really get them. The best strategy is to focus in on a niche: Your giftee loves to travel? Well, we’ve got plenty of lists to help you find something for every traveler on your list, from the foodie to the family traveler. If the special someones on your list like to look good on the go, we’ve rounded up a few of our favorite—and most stylish— new gifts to give, and hopefully, receive—we’re looking at you, Mom! —Jacinta O'Halloran
If Inspector Gadget didn’t already have propeller blades that came out of his hat, he’d ditch the dodgy-looking trench coat for a gadget-friendly Baubax sweatshirt. With features that include a zipper with telescoping pen (expands from 1 inch to 4 inches) and soft-tip stylus; a built-in eye mask and inflatable neck pillow in the hood; double-lined handwarmer pockets plus built-in partial gloves in the cuffs; earphone holder loops to keep your earbuds untangled and ready for use; and multiple pockets to hold everything from your passport, a drink (the pocket is insulated), a tablet, a charger, your sunglasses (with a built-in microfiber cloth to keep them clean) and more, this sweatshirt should not be remotely cute or comfortable, but it is! Available in men’s and women’s styles and also as a jacket. Go, sweatshirt, go!
Perfect for: The traveler who can never find her passport in her overstuffed handbag; the neat-freak traveler in your life who likes to compartmentalize everything; the show-off on your list who will enjoy demonstrating all the clever features on the security line just a little too much.
A Thacker Hudson tote for travel requires little qualification. It is beautifully crafted in a luxe suede that elevates your on-the-go style. While slouchy and soft, it is strong and roomy enough for your laptop, change of clothes, book, snack, and anything else you need on the go. It works just as well at the office or at dinner as on the plane. It has a breakaway zipper that, when closed, allows for protecting your passport and millions, and open, allows for overstuffing (hello Duty-Free!). And you can wear it crossbody or carry it by its handles.
Why we love it: Because it is available in a variety of neutral shades including modern neutrals, denim, and rosé suede. Our favorite of all—you can completely change up the look with Thacker’s interchangeable straps. Choose from chain, webbing (in a few different colors), and studded and chevron leather straps.
Lightweight Leather Shoes
Sneakers may be enjoying the sartorial spotlight right now, but there are times when you want to feel more polished (while still comfortable enough to quickly hop-to when a flight attendant offers you a seat upgrade). Cult Australian shoe brand Hobes is known for creating featherlight, beautiful basics for your feet and if you haven’t heard of them yet, you, your feet, and—if you can bear to gift a pair away—the feet of a special someone on your list, are in for quite a treat. Each pair is handmade from insanely soft leather, designed to fit like a glove (or maybe, a sock), and available in a variety of modern neutral shades and metallics and in simple, classic styles for men, women, and tots.
Why we love them: Hobes shoes are somehow low-key but special and we hate to force a point, but they are so incredibly lightweight (a pair of shoes weighs half a pound) that you can pack several pairs for your travels … which is a good thing because you may have trouble choosing between their new Chelsea boots and their lace-free pointed-toe Hobes in silver or white. Why choose?
He wears his heart on his sleeve and his lunch in his beard and his favorite team across his chest, so why not wear his neighborhood (or yours) on his head? Toronto-based Tuck Shop Trading Company’s City of Neighborhoods hats make a great style statement and a great gift. Select your city, then select the neighborhoods within that city and represent/hide that bad-hair-day with pride!
Perfect for: A newly engaged couple (a hat from each neighborhood); a new transplant to your city (to help them feel grounded and help them find their way home each night!); a souvenir from your travels; a cold head on your list.
Going Places Pendant
You might argue that Modern Citizen’s simple and lovely Compass Necklace does not function as an actual compass, but we are inclined to disagree. It quite elegantly suggests a more delicate inner compass that points you in the right direction and keeps you on track. It inspires exploration and says that the wearer is going places. Are we reading too deep into its prettiness? Never!
Why we love it: We are all going places, and it’s nice to be reminded in such an elegant fashion. This necklace can be worn alone or layered with other pieces. Especially good gift for a recent graduate or someone seeking their North Star.
Mahabis slipper-shoes—aka the second coming of the slipper—look like Birkenstocks and Uggs got married, got inspired on their honeymoon to slipper-loving cultures like Morocco and India, and then settled down in an Ikea factory where they adopted a minimalist Scandinavian style. Looks aside, Mahabis are comfortable wool slipper-shoes with a shearling lined upper and detachable and interchangeable outsoles (in a variety of colors to allow for customization) so they transition easily from home to on-the-go. They’re unisex and relaxed but elevated in design.
Perfect for: Who doesn’t love slippers? Slippers that look so good you can wear them outdoors work as well for grandpa as they do for a college-kid or frequent flier who will love the slip-off ease at security (unfortunately, a metal clasp at the heel to secure the outdoor soles means it can’t be worn through the scanner) and on the plane. Also perfect for that person on your list who needs an upgrade on their Crocs.
Washable Cashmere Joggers
If diamonds are a girl’s best friend (we’d argue coffee is a contender), then cashmere is her second-bestie—that beautiful, smart, and fun buddy who is just so easy to hang out with. Instead of stretching the metaphor to say what kind of friend cashmere joggers are (the best kind!), we will instead just say that Lunya’s luxe cashmere-merino joggers—chic and stylish and equally comfortable/appropriate for a Netflix-binge as for a long-haul trip—make an amazing gift and a serious upgrade to basic athleisure-wear. Best of all, Lunya’s cashmere-merino pieces are machine washable (cold wash). Mic drop.
Go for broke: Make it a set with Lunya’s matching cashmere-merino sweater, available in crew neck and v-neck styles.
$198 joggers; $178 sweater
No Slip Slip-ons
Say it with me: “Comfy shoes can be cute. Cute shoes can be comfy.” Actually, there’s no need for hypnosis, just gift yourself or someone on your list (male or female) a pair of cute-and-comfy slip-on shoes from San Francisco-based mother-and-son company, Blu Kicks, and your brain will automatically revert to comfort-first factory settings. Available in a variety of fabrics, patterns, and colors to suit your vacation path—be it beach or city, these kicks have non-slip soles (with a graphic design at the heel that matches the natural markings of the fish featured on the bottom of the sole); cushy, removable insoles made with EVA—a material that molds to the foot and provides true arch support; and discreet little stitched eyelets for breathability.
Why we love them: Beyond the fact that a mother-and-son companies make us smile, you just can’t beat the ease of a classic slip-on at security lines and on long flights. The shoes are machine-washable (love), and the cushy insoles really do put a spring in your step. And, for every pair sold, the company donates $1 to help protect oceans, lakes, and rivers around the world.
Modern Fanny Pack
Why does the fashion industry keep trying to resurrect the Fanny Pack, every year declaring it “back in style”? Well, because despite the fact that the words “fanny pack” have for so long been synonymous with “tacky” and “touristy,” the waist-slung, hands-free design is just so darn practical, especially for travel. Designers from Chanel to Vuitton have sent versions of the new fanny pack—now rebranded a “belt bag”—down the runway the past few seasons, but it’s Lo & Sons’ sleek and chic Waverley crossbody-belt bag design that has us actually considering wearing one.
Why we love it: It’s a good quality, classic LBB (little black bag) with a lot of versatility, which makes it perfect for travel. An adjustable strap allows it to convert from a crossbody to a shoulder bag, to a wristlet, and a belt bag (the safest style to wear when sightseeing in crowded areas), so it works for day or evening. Also, the interior features a large pocket for your passport, 3 card pockets, and space for all your other small essentials.
Anything reversible earns its place, and valuable packing space, in our bags and minds. A reversible wrap is like a double no-brainer for travel—a multitasking staple and two stylish additions to any outfit. Wear it over a jacket or instead of a jacket and just add skinny jeans, a tee, and ankle boots for effortless travel style. Marine Layer’s Reversible Wilma Aztec Poncho in work-with-everything charcoal and black (and yes, black and charcoal) is a chic and easy layer, perfect for in the air and on the go. The arm holes are not sewn so you can wear it as a scarf, wrap, blanket, or rolled up as a pillow.
Go for broke: Wrap a little extra love and luxury up with this wrap with a travel-friendly skincare set from Marine Layer’s collab with Ursa Major.
$88 poncho; $41 for skincare set
Have you ever seen a steamy summer fling flick that involved a shower cap? No need to answer. The point is that a shower cap is not exactly come-hither fashion. It’s a necessary evil to preserve your vacation ’do while you shower so that you don’t waste time styling. Because there are sights to be seen! Well Shhhowercap has reinvented the shower cap and in the process made it fashionable to wear a shower cap both in and yes, out of the shower (and you were still trying to figure out Mom Jeans).
Why we love it: Shhhowercap’s turbans are not plastic—they’re made from a water-repellent performance fabric—so they don’t feel or sound ugly (hence the “Shhh” in the name). They have a rubber grip on the inner band to keep it securely in place and to accommodate all head sizes and hair styles. Also, these turbans are available in a variety of stylish prints that look as good in the shower as by the pool, at the beach, or in a rainstorm.
Ok, so sunglasses don’t take up that much space in your carry-on but think on this for a second: folding sunglasses take up even less … and they allow you to feel a little more Bond that the rest of coach. If you are going to gift a pair of foldable shades, avoid the cheap gimmicky variety and go with a quality, classic pair like Ray-Ban’s Wayfarer Folding Classic. They’re timeless in style and made of quality materials, plus the compact design allows for ultimate portability and is really kind of nifty.
Perfect for: The traveler who has everything.
We all love swapping up trendy handbags as accessories, but you can’t beat a hardworking minimalist backpack that just works for every occasion and looks good doing it—from daily commute to travel carry-on to exploring your destination when you arrive. Timbuk2 has a variety of bag designs to choose from including messenger, carry-on, and pannier styles, but the sleek military-rucksack style Facet Gist Backpack gets our thumbs-up as a great unisex gift.
Why we love it: Not only are Timbuk2’s bags top notch in quality and design but the company was founded by a bike messenger in San Francisco in the late 80s and the bags are still manufactured in San Francisco’s Mission District (win-win: you get to give a great gift while supporting a cool success story/U.S.-based business). The Facet Gist’s no fuss design feels modern but also timeless. It holds a lot and has lots of practical pockets, loops, and compartments. There’s even a clever mesh pocket in the lid for delicate items—we’re looking at you banana!
Allbirds wool sneakers
The fashion Gods have decided it is not only okay but—cue choirs of Heavenly angels—fashionable, to wear comfortable shoes this season. It’s almost like they just came down to earth and were running late for a flight like us mere mortal travelers. Actually, in the case of Allbirds wool sneakers, it’s like those Gods left us cloud-shoes for our feet. These incredibly lightweight shoes are the brainchild of a former pro soccer player from New Zealand who was tired of all the synthetic, heavily-branded shoes on the market and decided he wanted to design a simple but versatile shoe (good for working out as well as casual wear), made from natural materials.
Why we love them: They’re good for the environment and good for your feet … and they’re machine washable! If that’s not enough, they’re breathable, microbial, and slipper-comfortable—designed to be worn with or without socks. Also, as you well know (from your Uggs/pet sheep), wool regulates temperature, wicks away moisture, and can help to control bad odors. What’s not to love?
Cashmere Travel Wrap
Let’s just call it like it is here: there is a huge difference between a cashmere travel-sized wrap and a synthetic knock-off. Yes, the most obvious difference is the price tag but it’s also the feel: White and Warren’s Travel Wrap is velvety soft, super lightweight, and sooo cozy and warm. The oversized style means it functions as a blanket on the plane and a scarf on the ground. It hides turbulence-induced wine stains, slept-in clothing, or a nursing baby, and means you’ll deplane looking like Jessica Alba. Okay, we can’t guarantee that last one; it’s more likely that you will feel like you look like Jessica Alba. Close enough. Still need help rationalizing the purchase for a special someone on your list, or better still, yourself? The world is a cold, hard place. Done.
Perfect for: Frequent fliers, travelers who don’t like to be cold, new mamas, old mamas, people who have mamas, friends of people who have mamas. Translation: anyone.
Stylish Pet Tote
If you don’t already have a little pup to tote around with you, you might be tempted to get one just so you can tote him around in a modern, not at all Paris-Hilton-y, canvas and leather tote from Love Thy Beast. Okay, to clarify: you don’t actually want to get a pet just so you can buy a bag—that would be shallow, people. You want a pet for unconditional love, forced daily exercise, and an excuse to talk to good-looking strangers on the street. Love Thy Beast’s bags are made in Brooklyn from double layer cotton duck (water-repellent) canvas and double topstitched for extra durability. The bags feature a comfortable scoop for Fido’s head, pockets for you, and a machine-washable foot pad.
Perfect for: The new pet owner on your list or the pup with classic style.