Best graduation gifts for travelers: Help your recent grad’s memories be greater than their dreams

The best gifts for travelers help intrepid graduates prepare as they leave behind long days of Zoom lectures and late nights cramming
A map with the directions of the roads and over it a pencil, a professional camera, a notebook, and an orange bag.
Fuel your grad’s wanderlust with the best gifts for travelers. Annie Spratt, Unsplash

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As they approach graduation, whether it’s high school or college, students start to imagine a not-too-distant future where travel is part of their lives again. A trip to somewhere new is often the reward that students hold in their mind while they sit tethered to their studies, slogging through exams, and this year the desire to be far, far away from their computers is probably stronger than ever. This gift guide has the best graduation gifts for travelers, and many of these gifts for people who travel will come in handy even if, in the short term, they can only make it as far as the nearest state park when they need a minute to decompress. 

Nothing says “I’m proud of you” like actually saying “I’m proud of you,” but thoughtful travel gifts for the new graduate in your life will surely be appreciated on their next vacation. We’ve compiled these gifts for people who travel based on our own experiences traveling, but before you shop, you may want to ask the recipient what their favorite color is and fish for information about what gear they already have. Beyond the travel gift itself, another nice thing to do is write them a letter that’s not to be opened until they get to the beach!

How to find the best grad gifts for travelers

Finding the best graduation gifts for travelers can feel a little daunting, but it’s easy once you start to think about what you wish you’d packed the last time you traveled. Many of the options in this gift guide for grads will be useful even when the recipient is at home, but they’ll think of you fondly when they get a chance to bring your graduation present on their next adventure.

Best graduation gifts for grads who love taking notes: Moleskine Voyageur Notebook

Durable Design, Classic Composition

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This stylish notebook is specially designed for travelers and comes with useful templates for budgeting and planning. Available in coffee brown, ocean blue, hibiscus orange, and elm green, this is a great graduation present for a budding writer and/or obsessive itinerary maker. Since it’s slightly smaller than a regular Moleskine, it won’t take up too much room in their backpack or suitcase and it has a generous inner pocket to store important papers or mementos from the trip. Other great features include detachable to-do lists and packing lists, and a few pages to log essential traveling information that could be a lifesaver if they’re suddenly lost without a smartphone.

Best graduation gifts for the travel yogi: Manduka eKO Superlite Yoga Travel Mat

Sustainably-Made, Sweat-Resistant

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Any yogi will tell you that consistency is one of the keys to a great practice, and this yoga mat is one of the best graduation gifts for travelers who wants to bring their vinyasa flow wherever they may go. Unlike other yoga mats, this one folds up and weighs practically nothing, making it perfect for travel. Eco-conscious adventurers will also appreciate the eKO Superlite’s green design; the mat is made from sustainably harvested rubber trees and is free of PVC and other toxic materials, such as plasticizers and dyes. Another perk is that all you need to clean it is water and some light detergent.

Best graduation gifts for a good night’s sleep: MZOO Sleep Eye Mask

Comfy and Washable

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This sleep mask from MZOO is a stylish and effective upgrade from the standard mask you’ll find at the airport. Made with memory foam, it truly blocks out all light thanks to its contoured design. Unlike other masks, this one fits snugly around your eyes instead of sitting directly on top of them. The mask also comes with a nice drawstring bag and a set of earplugs, and its adjustable buckle strap lets you tighten it to your comfort. This is one of the best graduation gifts for travelers or anyone just looking to get a good night’s sleep.

Best travel pillow: Travelrest Nest Ultimate Memory Foam Travel Pillow

Portable Neck Support

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Nothing takes the fun out of a long-sought-after vacation like getting to your destination with a sore neck. With this pillow, hitting your head against the window or falling asleep on your neighbor’s shoulder will be a thing of the past. Durable memory foam keeps your neck aligned so you can slumber with ease, and the pillowcase is removable and easy to wash. Best of all, this comfy pillow compacts to around 6.5 inches by 4 inches, so you can easily bring it in a carry-on bag without sacrificing too much space. It’s also great for reducing neck pain while you sit at a desk or on the couch, so even if you can’t take it on vacation yet, there are great uses for it around the house.

Best travel water bottle as a graduation gift: Hydro Flask Water Bottle

Sturdy and BPA-Free

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Help end the scourge of plastic water bottles by gifting a reusable bottle that will last years. This stainless steel water bottle stands above the rest because of its elegant design and solid construction. Thirsty travelers will marvel at how long it keeps their beverages cold and be grateful that they never have to worry about leakage. Available in 14 eye-popping colors, this 40 oz. wide-mouth Hydro Flask is also dishwasher safe, which makes cleaning it a breeze. One of the best graduation gifts for those mad caffeine-driven dashes between destinations as well, because it keeps hot beverages warm for an astonishing six hours and won’t retain the taste of tea or coffee.

Best luggage tag as a graduation gift: Travelambo Leather Luggage Tag

Useful and Attractive

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Lost luggage happens, but these high-quality leather luggage tags will prevent your favorite traveler from panicking if they don’t immediately see their stuff at baggage claim. And with 18 colors to choose from, there’s a tag to match every suitcase or duffel bag. A privacy flap protects your information, and the tags themselves are easy to attach. And even if you’re just riding a subway or bus, putting these tags on a backpack or handbag will help the good samaritans around you return your belongings in a worst-case scenario.

Best portable chair: Helinox Chair One

Impossibly Light

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This collapsible chair has a lot to recommend as a travel gift: it only weighs 2.2 pounds, takes up hardly any room when it’s packed in its case, and, most importantly, is super comfortable. And once you’ve tried it yourself, it’s hard not to sing its praises to anyone who will listen. The frame is made with a patented, lightweight aluminum alloy that’s sturdy enough to travel the globe, while also making it a great addition to your next picnic or beach day. It’s available in 11 striking colors, including a funky tie-dye option for the wandering hippy in your life.

Best portable charger: Anker PowerCore 10000 PD Redux

Rapidly Recharges

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 When you’re traveling, sometimes you never know when you’ll find your next power outlet, so it’s important to be prepared with a portable charger. This model is compatible with almost any mobile device via a USB-C cable and likely takes up less space than your smartphone. It fully charges in about an hour and a half and can be set to “trickle-charging mode” for use with low-power devices like Bluetooth earbuds. This is one of the best graduation gifts for travelers—your grad will be grateful when they realize that they’re running low on juice.

Powerful 360-Degree Speaker

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Sure, putting your smartphone in a red solo cup will amplify it in a pinch, but for stunning, portable sound, the Bose SoundLink Revolve is the speaker to beat. Weighing in at less than 1.5 pounds, this portable Bluetooth speaker is great for campfires and hostel hang-outs alike. Plan on bringing it to the lake? Good news: it’s also waterproof. Fully charged, the battery lasts an impressive 12 hours, so you can enjoy your favorite music all day or late into the night. You can even use it to chat with Siri or Google or to take a phone call. If you happen to run across a fellow traveler who also has one, you can put it in stereo mode and enjoy double the sound.

Best portable hammock: SingleNest Lightweight Camping Hammock

Lightweight and Sturdy

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Traveling can be exhausting, and who doesn’t love lying in a hammock? This is one of the best graduation gifts for travelers who are also adventurous nappers because it’s light, compact, and easy to set up. Too stuffy inside the tent? Tie it between two trees and let the breeze dance across your face. Packed in its storage bag, this hammock from Eagles Nest Outfitters only weighs 19 ounces and shrinks down to 4 inches by 5 inches, making it great for travel. The fabric can support up to 400 pounds and is made of quick-drying nylon, so you’ll never find yourself carrying around a wet hammock. This is one of the best graduation gifts for travelers because, after so much studying, you can bet they just want to relax.

The final word on gifts for travelers

This graduation gift guide was compiled based on our own experiences seeing the world, but every traveler chases their own unique dream. Find out where they want to go, what they want to do there, and what they already have to ensure they’ll actually use your travel gifts. And if they plan on traveling in style, make sure you ask what their favorite color is, too. They’ll appreciate the best graduation gifts for travelers that recognize all their hard work during this difficult year, and you might get a nice postcard thanking you when they finally take their trip. 

PopSci wants to help you find the most useful and expert shopping recommendations for the best gift ideas. Searching for more unique gifts? Check out more gift guides here: Best Gifts for Travelers, Practical Graduation Gifts, Best Fitness Gifts.