50+ gifts $50 and under

Whether for cooks, coffee lovers, cat people, kids, etc., great presents don't have to cost more than a few bucks. Here are some of the best gifts $50 and under.
The best gifts under $50
We found the best holiday gifts under $50 Brandt Ranj / Popular Science

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So you’re searching for the perfect gift. Unfortunately, gift-giving can be expensive, especially if you have a lot of people to shop for. If that’s the case, don’t worry, we have you covered with over 50 great gifts that won’t break the bank. Our recommendations include options appropriate for people of all ages and interests, which are all relatively affordable. Whether you’re searching for a stocking small stocking stuffer or something that makes a big statement, you’re in the right place for the best gifts $50 and under.

Best for cooks (and campers): Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Kitchen staple

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The classic. The thing you want your grandmother to pass down to you. Get it today and, every time you use it, the seasoning will just get more set, making it increasingly nonstick. Unlike a normal pan, cast iron pans have superior heat retention and no weak spots that produce uneven heating. While cast irons are a kitchen essential, seasoning them can be a stressful process—so this Lodge option comes pre-seasoned so you can get cooking right away. Use it to sear, saute, bake, broil, braise, fry or grill. From Dutch pancakes to cast iron pizzas, the possibilities are endless.

Best for bakers: Emile Henry Modern Classic Loaf Pan

Emile Henry Modern Classic Loaf Pan

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Every baker deserves a great loaf pan in their kitchen, and this one from Emile Henry takes the cake. It’s the perfect tool for making banana bread, sandwich bread, and an assortment of other sweet and savory meals. Made from dishwasher-safe ceramic, the Classic Loaf Pan can be used in an oven at temperatures up to 520 degrees Fahrenheit. You can even place this dish in the microwave to reheat meals. This may seem like a simple gift, but it’s one the baker in your life will reach for time and again for decades.

Best for fermenters: Masontops Complete Mason Jar Fermentation Kit

Gets better with time

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A fermenting kit can add delicious elements to your kitchen. Whether it’s a crispy pickle with a sandwich, kimchi in a noodle bowl, or sauerkraut with German sausage, it’s surprisingly easy to make these aged eats from home. One of the beauties of pickling is that there’s not a ton of prep upfront, and then you check the lid for a few days, and voila: impressive homemade pickled delicacies. This is a perfect gift for the culinary-inclined and will last them for years. Check online for recipes, then mix it up once you’ve mastered the basics.

Best for outdoors enthusiasts: YETI Rambler 14-ounce Mug

Best for outdoors enthusiasts

YETI Rambler 14-ounce Mug

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The last thing you want is to get fussy about your dishware when you’re out camping. And that’s why the YETI Rambler Mug is a great gift for any outdoors enthusiast. The stainless-steel Rambler doubles as a bowl, so it’s great for coffee and/or chili. The mug comes with a sliding lid for reliable access, an easy-grip handle, and is available in a range of fun colors and sizes (10-ounce, 14-ounce, and 24 ounces). You can also order versions for your company, school, or get one engraved for a more personalized touch.

Best for new photographers: Qubii Photo Storage Drive

Best for photographers

Qubii Photo Storage Drive

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That relative who never quite gets around to saving their family photos on an external drive or the cloud? Save them from oblivion by giving them the Qubii Photo Storage Drive. Compatible with Apple devices, the Qubii automatically backs up your photos, videos, and contacts while charging your phone. All they need is a USB port. It comes in versions with SanDisk microSD cards (128GB and 256GB) and solo (add your own microSD).

Best for quick clean-ups: Eufy Handheld Vac

Best for cleaning

eufy Handheld Vac

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Little messes have a way of materializing: dust on a bookshelf, crumbs on a car seat, spilled sugar on a kitchen counter. They don’t all warrant breaking out a super-sized vacuum, though. The Eufy Handheld Vac makes cleanup easy. The handheld device weighs just 1.2 pounds, but it has an impressive 5500pa of suction power, a crevice attachment for those difficult-to-reach places, and a washable filter. All you need is a USB port to charge it, and it will last for 20 minutes—plenty of time to make quick work of a little mess.

Best for foodies: Disco Hot Sauce

Best for foodies

Hot Sauce by Disco

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People have strong opinions about hot sauce, but a pick like this medium-hot offering by Disco can help bridge the divide. Made with all-natural ingredients—including jalapeno and habanero peppers; pineapple; cider vinegar; orange and lemon juice; brown sugar; garlic; and salt—this hot sauce is light and sweet. It pairs well with everything from eggs to wings to stir fry and cocktails. And at this price, you can stock up.

Best for grillers: Lekue Microwave Grill, Sandwich Maker, Panini Press

Best for grillers

Lekue Microwave Grill, Sandwich Maker, Panini Press

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If you’ve got a dedicated griller in your life, you can help make the months when the Weber in the backyard is blanketed in snow a little easier to take. Place the Lekue Microwave Grill in the microwave, and its slats heat up like a grill’s. Enjoy the taste of the grill with fish, chicken, meat, vegetables, and more. Plus, this ingenious device doubles as a panini maker. And when they’re done? The non-stick surface is easy to clean: Toss it in the dishwasher.

Best battery pack: Anker 20,000mAh Portable Charger

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Battery packs are a dime a dozen, but Anker’s latest one bests them all. The 20,000mAh power bank has an integrated USB-C cable, so you’ll never have to worry about leaving your cord at home. It also has a USB-C PD port and USB-A port, which allows it to charge three devices simultaneously. At 20,000mAh, the battery pack can fully charge a smartphone once, and is powerful enough to fast charge a tablet at 22.5W. The most clever part of this battery’s design is that its integrated cable can be used to plug it into a charger to recharge. This is a fantastic gift for travelers, or that one friend who’s phone battery always dies halfway through a night out.

Best for concertgoers: Vibes High-Fidelity Earplugs

Best for concertgoers

Vibes High-Fidelity Earplugs

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Buying surprise concert tickets for someone can get dicey—even if you know they love the artist, it’s hard to ensure their calendar remains open before they get the gift. Or that they won’t just buy tix themselves. But something you can do is improve every concert experience with reusable earplugs. Low-profile, with a carrying case and multiple sizes of eartips (just like your favorite wireless earbuds), the Vibes Hi-Fidelity Earplugs use an attenuating filter in the central sound tube to reduce harmful sound levels by 22dB without muffling what is heard. This improves everything from performances to weird conversations in the bathroom line. These earplugs may only cost $30 (stash an extra pair in the car for yourself or a forgetful friend), but someone preserving their hearing is a priceless gift that keeps on giving.

Best for people who eat at their desks: MagicFiber Extra Large Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

Best for people who eat at their desks

MagicFiber Extra Large Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

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Honest question: How much gunk is stuck to your computer or smartphone screen now? It’s a lot. That’s OK. We’re not here to judge. We can help, though. These extra-large microfiber cloths are about the size of a hand towel and can clean the crud off just about anything with a screen or lens. It may seem like a lame gift until your recipient sees their screen in brilliant, soy-sauce-speckle-free clarity.

Best for business travelers: Polardo Travel Clothes Steamer

Best for the business travelers

Polardo Travel Clothes Steamer

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No matter how carefully you pack, clothes always look wrinkled when you take them out of the suitcase. But the Polardo Travel Clothes Steamer will keep the business traveler in your life from looking like a hot mess. Designed to work with tap water, it comes with an electronic pump system and steam channeling that let you steam at any angle without dripping water on your clothes. With 120 volts of power, the steamer heats up in less than 25 seconds and is safe on various fabrics, from wool and cotton to satin, embroidery, and sequins. Plus, at 3.4-inches long by 7.7-inches high and weighing just over a pound, it won’t take up too much precious space in a carry-on.

Best sustainable gift: Nook Theory Reusable Insulated Grocery Bag

Nook Theory Reusable Insulated Grocery Bag

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Sometimes the smallest gifts can make the biggest impact, and that’s certainly the case with Nook Theory’s Reusable Insulated Grocery Bags. Large enough to accomodate enough produce, cans, meat, and dairy for the a single person’s weekly shopping list, the bag also impresses with its insulation (which keeps cold foods cool and hot foods warm) and understated look. Side pockets can accommodate reusable water bottles, while the sturdy bottom prevents it from tipping over or collapsing in on itself as you begin to pack it. If you’re shopping for someone who’s resolved to make 2024 the year they go green, this is a great gift to help give them a nudge.

Best for handy people: Yala Life GeeKey Pocket Tool

Best for handy people

Yala Life Gee Key Pocket Tool

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Is there a person you go to when you need something fixed stat? Or maybe you do it yourself. Either way, the GeeKey Pocket Tool incorporates the functionality a handy person needs in a durable, stainless steel unit designed to be attached to a keychain. Multiple screwdriver and open and closed wrench capabilities can handle an array of quick projects, while the protractor ensures you get them precisely right. And the can and bottle opener will always come in handy.

Best for people with cold feet: Heat Holders Thermal Socks

Start from the toes

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When you’re cold, it makes sense to heat yourself from the bottom up, which is why everyone should have a pair (or six) of thermal socks. Heat Holders socks are made of yarn developed in-house and knitted to hold in warm air without cutting off your circulation. Yes, the socks will add some bulk to one’s feet, but that’s the point. Nobody wants sweaty feet, but that shouldn’t be an issue since the yarn Heat Holders uses automatically wicks away moisture. The company says its socks are over seven times warmer than traditional cotton pairs, which is reason enough to stuff them in a stocking.

Best for campers and commuters: Hydro Flask 16oz Insulated Cup

Grab and go

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Hydro Flask’s Insulated Cup is a double-insulated stainless steel mug made from proprietary materials that allow it to keep beverages hot for several hours without requiring fancy technology. The cup is available in over a dozen colors and three sizes, but we’re partial to the 16-ounce option as it’s the equivalent of a medium-sized coffee or tea from popular cafes. The leakproof lid creates a tight enough seal that Hydro Flask’s Insulated Cup can be stored in a bag or purse without spilling all over the place. The icing on the cake is that this mug can be cleaned in a dishwasher.

Best for dry hands and chapped lips: Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($13.74)

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Let’s face it, there are parts of your body you just can’t put Merino wool on. And since frosty air does a number on your skin, it’s important to bring out the big guns when it comes to dry hands and chapped lips. Aquaphor’s Healing Ointment is a great low-budget solution to prevent and treat the whiplash from wintry winds. Its versatile ingredients allow you to use it on most of your body. It also acts as a protective layer to help a healthy dermis stay healthy, while healing already damaged skin.

Best hoodie: KangaKitty Hoodie

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This isn’t just any old hoodie: It also can hold your cat. The pouch is lined for easy cleaning, and snaps closed when not in use. And, it includes an elastic drawstring to keep Fluffy secured on your adventures from the living room to the kitchen. The hoodie’s fuzzy pom-pom drawstrings will keep your cat entertained and happy in the pouch. If you or someone you know has an incredibly clingy kitty, this hoodie might be the solution.

Best wintry weather workouts: Smartwool Run Cold Weather Targeted Cushion Crew Sock 

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A 56% Merino wool blend is the secret to warmth and comfort when going for a snowy run—or for giving the gift of cozy toes this holiday season. A crew height prevents the cold from nipping at your ankles, and a Virtually Seamless toe prevents uncomfortable chafing. Indestructawool gives these socks durability for winter runs season after season. The runner in your life will appreciate the nice sock gesture. 

Best for the far-away friend: Homesick Candles

Homesick Candles

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Made of scented soy wax, these hefty and highly specific candles burn for 60 hours, leaving your room with an aroma of home. Visit the Amazon store to browse their entire collection, which includes city, state, and specialty candles. Washington, my home state, is “the scent of soft downpours, steeped Earl Grey tea, and mild hints of cedar and patchouli,” while my current city, New York, promises “spring days in Central Park, fine department stores, and concrete capture the energy of the greatest city on earth.” Ha.

Best self-care gift: Aroma Humidifier for Essential Oil

Aroma Humidifier for Essential Oil

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Aromatherapy diffusers are the sensory gift that keeps on giving. If you give someone the portal, they can swap out a sequence of their own essential oils until the cows come home. This big ol’ wooden pick can run for 6 hours straight. If it looks like a genie’s bottle that’s because it grants three wishes at once: In addition to diffusing oils, it also works as a humidifier and party light with seven “soothing” colors.

Best ice roller: ESARORA Ice Roller for Face & Eye

Ice Roller ($15)

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Ice rollers are often hawked as beauty aids and can help reduce puffiness after a night of tossing and turning. But where these chilly gadgets really shine when it comes to soothing migraines and jaw pain. If someone you love has been complaining of headaches or a clenched jaw, send them a roller and tell them to keep it in the freezer. They’ll be ready to gently massage their head, neck, face, shoulders, or anywhere else that could use a cooling balm whenever stress strikes.

Best lotion: La Chatelaine Shea Hand Butter Cream

La Chatelaine Shea Hand Butter Cream

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A study from in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience showed that smelling lavender really does help you relax. While you can always pop a vial of the purple stuff’s essence into your aromatherapy diffuser, it might be wise to keep this potent floret portable in an ever-stressful world. La Chatelaine’s beautiful boxed set of shea butter hand lotion comes with three distinct-smelling tubes: citrus frizz, pomegranate mulberry, and lavender. Best of all, reviewers say it doesn’t leave an oily residue.

Best chocolate: fx Chocolate Exhale

fx Chocolate ($20)

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Honestly, you can buy any chocolate you dang well please for your stressed-out friend. It’s bound to do them a world of good no matter what flavor or brand. But to give the sweet treat’s best properties a chemical boost, fx Chocolate adds in supplements meant to improve your mood. The company makes a few varieties to suit different needs, but fx Exhale is a good choice for stressed snackers. The actual impact of ingredients like L-theanine and GABA on human brain chemistry is still very much up in the air, but they can’t hurt. After all, it’s chocolate.

Best seasonal candle giftset: Santa’s Naturals Christmas Candle Bundle

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Christmas comes but once a year. If you know someone who wishes that wasn’t true, however, this gift set can make their house smell wintry yet warm, crisp yet cozy at any time. The waftable wonderland includes three fragrances: Fraser fir (Top notes: lemon peel, cypress; Middle notes: evergreen, cedar; Base notes: fir, amber, moss); Winterberry (Top notes: allspice, cinnamon; Middle notes: blood orange, nutmeg; Base notes: juniper berry, clove); and Snowfall (Top notes: eucalyptus, citrus, mint; Middle notes: pine, cypress; Base notes: juniper, sage, smoke). Gift all three candles to a friend, or split them up and give them to three different loved ones. Even better, a sustainably sourced beeswax and soy wax blend gives you peace of mind when gifting. And, a 30-hour burn time means you’re not gifting anyone with the big commitment of burning through an entire candle.

Best for wine drinkers: The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That

The Essential Scratch u0026 Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert: Take a Whiff of That

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Scratch and sniffs aren’t just for kids. This year, you can gift aspiring sommeliers an aromatic roadmap to wine or whiskey-tasting. The “Know-It-All” guide to wine includes 16 scents alongside illustrations and insider knowledge. The whiskey guide, meanwhile, divides the industry into three categories (grain, wood, and place) and trains your scent receptors on undertones, from vanilla to sandalwood.

Best grater: Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Grater

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Yes, you could use a microplane to grate your ginger. But that’s assuming you want to clog up the tiny blades with fibers and spend twice as long doing it. Instead, you could just get this little Japanese device designed to perfectly mash up your ginger root (or garlic or fresh turmeric) without the hassle. It’s simple. It’s easy. It’s ceramic. And it’s got a silicone ring on the bottom to keep it from slipping.

Best gender-neutral fragrance: MAISON MARGIELA ’REPLICA’ Jazz Club

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Maison Margiela’s REPLICA perfume collection features gender-neutral scents inspired by memories. Jazz Club evokes sitting in a smoky bar drinking a Manhattan. Top notes include pink pepper, Neroli, and lemon; middle notes include rum, vetiver, and sage; and a luxurious mix of tobacco, vanilla, and styrax. It’s warm, enveloping, intoxicating, and inviting—just like your favorite haunts.

Best candle: Yankee Candle Balsam & Cedar

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Yankee Candle’s primarily paraffin wax blend is long-lasting, burns beautifully with proper care (trim your wicks and burn it until the melted wax reaches the edge to prevent tunneling!), and can hold and throw a fragrance like no other. Although pricey, a 160-hour burn time makes it a wise investment and a great gift.

Best room spray: milk + honey Home Fragrance No. 46

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Help your friends create a calming, warm vibe in their home, office, or car with this sandalwood, vetiver, and cardamom-scented room spray. They’ll love the aromatherapy benefits and that it’s cruelty-free; You’ll love gifting them with a spa scent they can use at home.

Best incense: Papier d’Armenie Starter Box

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You don’t need an incense holder—or even traditional incense sticks—to experience a new way to bring scent into your home. Simply tear each paper accordion-style, light it, quickly blow it out, and place it in a flame-safe shallow dish (we think this crystal one is a great option). The bundle includes two booklets of three scents: Tradition (a vanilla and balsam scent), Armenie (a woodsy myrhh scent), and Rose (which, like its name implies, is rose scented).

Best for on-the-go spraying: Portable Mini Refillable Perfume Atomizer

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If your loved one has a robust perfume collection but doesn’t have their favorite scents in a smaller size, these portable mini atomizers will come to their rescue. And, they’re easy to fill: remove the spray cap on the bottle you’d like to extract from, place the bottom of the mini atomizer on the exposed nozzle, and press up and down to fill it up. They’ll be able to spray on the go as much as they please—and not have to spend more money on a travel size.

Best spice grinder: KRUPS Precision Grinder

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This is really just a coffee grinder. But, the thing is, you don’t need a specialized item for your spices. Krups has been selling java-making devices of all kinds for decades, and they still have the best, cheap, does-all-the-things-you-need-and-nothing-you-don’t appliances on the market. Toasting and grinding your own spices is perhaps the easiest way to take your cooking to a whole new level, but it’s one of those things that your beloved giftee will probably never bother to get for themselves. Buy them this simple upgrade to a mortar and pestle and reap the rewards for years in the form of well-seasoned potlucks. And maybe some freshly ground coffee afterward, to help digest.

Best can that can: Indoor watering can with long spout

Indoor watering can with long spout

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This isn’t your grandma’s rusty watering can (though that’s pretty cool, too). This quart-sized can nestles right next to your plants, waiting for its next use without taking up too much extra space. You can buy this stainless steel container in white, black, or copper to match your friend’s design preferences. And its long spout makes it ideal for precisely targeting dry soil, keeping water focused on the roots, not the floor or leaves.

Best tool for the data-obsessed grower: Wanfei plant monitor

Wanfei plant monitor

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Plants can’t outwardly tell us what they need, at least not through words, so caring for them requires a lot of guesswork. With this plant sensor, you can give the gift of a little more certainty. Stick the sensor in the soil, connect it to an app, add a plant’s information, and it’s ready to track. This Bluetooth plant monitor will check the nutrient levels and moisture of the soil, as well as the surrounding temperature and amount of light. Then, the sensor will alert the user if anything drops below optimal levels, allowing the plant to be tended to meticulously.

Best way to grow a good time: SCADINORDICA disco ball planter

SCADINORDICA disco ball planter

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When plant fever and disco fever combine, the result is totally groovy. This hanging planter is a great statement piece for anyone who has a, well, ball, nurturing their plants. It comes in both six- and eight-inch sizes depending on the size of the plant going inside.

Best accessory for the friend with green thumbs and blue toes: Plants get me Blue Q women’s ankle socks

Plants get me Blue Q women’s ankle socks

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Just because you’re focused on giving your plants just the right amount of sunshine doesn’t mean you should neglect your own chilly feet. These cotton and nylon socks let any plant-lover express their passion outside of their house. When the world gets busy, and you desperately wish you were lounging in your houseplant jungle, these socks can remind you of your foliaged friends back home and keep you warm in the process. Socks make great gifts.

Best gift for frequent flyers: MLVOC 100% Pure Memory Foam Neck Pillow

For Sound Sleeping

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Sleeping in coach can be super uncomfortable, and those tiny pillows most airlines provide don’t help. A frequent traveler can always use a pillow to rest on, particularly when stuck waiting forever at the departure gate. If they don’t want to lug one of the memory-foam headrests on their bed at home through airports, a neck pillow will be a good substitute in a pinch. This travel pillow is curved to fit your neck and stop your head from falling forward while you’re drifting off into dreamland. It comes with a sleep mask and earbuds to ensure a comfortable slumber.

Best gift for gadget-carrying globetrotters: Safest Travel Adapter Kit

Global Convenience

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There are few inconveniences of international travel more frustrating than arriving in a new country and not being able to use your electronics in your hotel or Airbnb because the plugs won’t fit into the wall outlets. This travel adaptor kit has six different adaptors that cover pretty much the entire globe, as well as the main unit that can accommodate two USB and two plug items, so you can use one kit to power four different devices. The adapters fit into an opening in the main unit. Surge protection and a voltage indicator protect your electronics from unexpected acts of electricity, and it’s usable with most kinds of electronics, as long as the devices are dual voltage. A travel pouch keeps everything in one place, and the set is lightweight so that it won’t add much bulk to carry-on luggage.

Best gift for tired travelers: Loftie Sleep Mask

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If you can only sleep with ambient noise in the background, you most likely love taking a quick snooze on the plane. And, it’s hard not to when you have that gentle whirring happening for six hours total. An eyemask is great for daytime flights or when someone has their reading light on at night. This one from Loftie—the same company behind our favorite sunrise alarm clock that doubles as a lamp—is made out of orange silk and includes interior eye pockets to relieve eye pressure and protect eyelashes. The head strap is comfortable, very stretchy, and won’t fall off while you’re sleeping. Getting some shut-eye on your red-eye never looked so good. You don’t need real-world travel anxiety to enjoy an eyemask, however; this makes a great stress-relief gift for anyone that needs to pull into the relaxation station.

Best luggage tracker: Apple AirTag

Apple AirTag

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Apple developed AirTags to help you track down lost items in your couch, house, and beyond, and this is particularly handy for travelers whose luggage has gone missing. The small tracker can fit into any small pocket and will allow you to track your luggage as it moves from one place to another (or doesn’t). Apple hardware is often locked down to their platform but not in this case: The AirTag can be set up and managed with Apple or Android devices.

Best alarm clock: Echo Dot w/ Clock (5th Gen)

Party Starter

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High-impact sound can be hard to come by on the road, and the Echo Dot can give music lovers great tunes and excellent audio with just a simple “Hey, Alexa” command. As a bonus, it includes an alarm clock so travelers with early departure times won’t have to depend on wake-up calls or the natural body clock. It’s way better than your tinny phone alarm(s). And, back home, this device also can be used to control compatible smart devices. While rocking out to a favorite playlist and getting dressed for dinner, ask Alexa to turn on a light so your house doesn’t appear vacant all night.

Best supplement: Moon Juice Magnesi-om

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Magnesium is an incredibly important vitamin—it plays a role in approximately 300 body processes, including muscle and nerve function and energy production. Low levels of magnesium can cause brain fog, headaches, low mood, and insomnia. Enter Moon Juice’s Magnesi-om, which combines three bioavailable forms of magnesium with L-Theanine for mental and physical relaxation. Get constipated when you’re stressed? It contains magnesium citrate, which helps you poop. Plus, it’s a perfect afternoon pick-me-up or nighttime treat.

Best STEM toy for kids 5 to 7 years old: Educational Insights Design & Drill Space Circuits

Tool Time Fun

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This is a fun choice for younger children because the parts and tools are easy to use, while the challenge and rewards keep the child interested. The STEM toy set includes challenge cards that help guide their natural problem-solving skills. It feels more like playtime than education which, after all, is the point.

Best STEM toy for kids 8 years and up: Ravensburger Gravitrax Starter Set Marble Run & STEM Toy

Marble Challenge

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A popular kid’s toy and fun game, The Gravitrax STEM toy inspires building creativity as well as teaches problem-solving. Although 24 problem-solving activity starter instructions are included, the tracks can also be set up freeform. We appreciated the clear instructions and the set-ups are easy to follow. The set will also appeal to kids into video games as it shares many of the same “customize it and try it out” mentality as some popular games.

Best STEM toy for tweens: Thames & Kosmos Chemistry Chem C500 Science Kit

Classic Experiments

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This chemistry gift set has won a Parent’s Choice award for its ability to make chemistry experiments fun, safe, and educational. Help kids understand basic chemistry with simple experiments designed to make them want to put on their lab coats. Some experiments require additional basic supplies (not included in the set), and it’s recommended that this set be used with adult supervision.

Best for future world travelers: PlayShifu Orboot Earth Globe

Best for future world travelers

PlayShifu Orboot Earth Globe

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How about challenging your favorite little explorer to a worldwide scavenger hunt? PlayShifu’s interactive globe allows kids ages four to 10 to learn about animals, cultures, inventions, and foods from around the world. You just need a compatible iOS or Android device for this AR experience. And the 10-inch globe comes with passports, stickers, flags, and more to boot.

Best DIY kit: Soap & Bath Bomb Making Kit for Kids – 3-in-1 Spa Science Kits For Kids

Learn by Making

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This DIY kit includes all the supplies needed to create your own bath soap, salts, and bath bombs. All the ingredients have been tested and are safe for real use (but please note the dyes can cause temporary staining). Younger kids might need help with setup, but older kids should be able to handle the set independently. Plus, it’s a gift they’ll use to (likely) make gifts for you!

Best introduction to numbers for toddlers: Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Piggy Bank

Count and Play

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This is a cute and popular toy well-reviewed and rated by parents. The happy, bright piggy bank toy is appealing for kids, and dropping in coins entertains small children while teaching them the basics of counting. Smart technology allows for more advanced songs and phrases as a child grows.

Best for dinosaur lovers: TACTO DINO by PlayShifu

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Take kids back to the Mesozoic Era, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth. Tacto Dino is an interactive game that teaches them more than 500 facts about these magnificent creatures through story-based adventures. They’ll develop problem-solving skills along the way with this visual game, which works with various tablets.

Best wooden educational toy for toddlers: TOP BRIGHT Toddler Toys

Delightfully Bright

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This classic wooden toy lets kids experiment with the basics of momentum, inertia, and gravity as they roll cars off edges, drop them down to ramps below, and then let them continue on. Just enough of a challenge to make it fun, this simple toy is a great choice for toddlers. While the child is entertained, they also learn hand-eye coordination and the fundamentals of motion.

Best for future directors: KLUTZ Lego Make Your Own Movie Activity Kit

Best for future directors

KLUTZ Lego Make Your Own Movie Activity Kit

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If you know a kid who could become the next Steven Spielberg, you can get them started with the KLUTZ Lego Make Your Own Movie Activity Kit. This kit comes with figurines and a guide that will help teach kids stop-motion animation using apps available on smartphones and tablets. Designed for kids ages eight and older, this kit allows them to make a mini-movie in less than an hour.

Best magnetic building toy: Magna-Tiles 32-Piece Clear Colors Set

Bright and Fun

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Building sets are classic science toys that have been popular for many generations of children. The Magna-Tiles offer creative free-form building, but with the fun addition of magnets. Magnets help kids build 3D shapes, which in turn helps them develop STEM skills. This set can be combined with additional Magna-Tiles as desired or just used on their own.

Best sand toy: National Geographic Ultimate Ocean Sand

Kinetic Sensory Toy

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This kid’s toy is a great choice for kinetic learners who love hands-on play. The bright blue “magic” sand allows for perpetually wet sand that holds its shape, but also easily returns to loose form. Just be warned: Play sand can stain light carpets.


Brandt Ranj Avatar

Brandt Ranj

Staff Writer, Commerce

Brandt Ranj is a commerce reporter at Popular Science. He writes about the latest and greatest gadgets, from headphones and TVs to chargers and cables. He splits his time between New York City, Long Island, and Croatia, carting test gear around the U.S. and the globe.