When I graduated from Pratt two years ago, I was overcome with wanderlust. My sister’s recent graduation reminded me of that unique and wonderful combination of hope and terror and possibilities. It also brought up lots of envy as I watched her open all her lovely graduation gifts — ha! While cash might be the de facto gift of choice for graduates, there are plenty of fun and practical gift ideas that would be the perfect thing for someone as bitten by the travel bug as I was when I walked across that stage. Here are some of my favorite gift ideas at every budget.

Travel Suitcase Cake

1. An Inspirational Book

I’m sure no one needs me to remind them that the traditional job market is in a bit of a slump. To give your graduate the gift of possibilities and opportunities and wanderlust all rolled into one, gift them with Work Your Way Around the World: The Globetrotter’s Bible. I ordered this book when I was back in high school and remember being awed at all the creative and fascinating ways there were for young people to travel around the world and earn money at the same time. It remains a frequent source of inspiration.

2. A Boast-Worthy Map

One of my favorite touches from my bedroom makeover, the Scratch Personalized World Map Poster allows travelers to humble brag about their far-flung international travels in the name of decoration! The fun is in scratching off countries as you go, revealing bring pops of color underneath. Every time I look at that sea of copper on my map I want to grab my passport and get scratching!

Bonus Idea: If you want your gift to be really indulgent, you’ll have it framed it too — this map does not come in standard frame sizes. Using a 40% off coupon at AC Moore, getting this beauty on my wall set me back a cool $100.


3. A Mobile Home

No, no — not a trailer. When you travel, your luggage becomes your home, making a good piece of it invaluable. On my first major backpacking trip I took whatever cheap backpack was on sale at the local sporting goods store, and I regretted it. When I took off two years later, I treated myself to the Osprey Aether Backpack. Some girls have Coach purses, I have my Osprey backpack. I love the lifetime guarantee on all products, meaning they will repair for any reason, free of charge, any damage or defect — and if they can’t, they will happily replace it.

If you’re buying a backpack as a gift, look for a model with front access and not just top access. This makes it possible to dig around for an errant sock without unpacking the entire bag! A gift like this is an investment — and your graduate will think of you every time they pack for a trip.

4. Peace of Mind

Today, even budget backpackers tend to travel with valuable electronics. Give them peace of mind by gifting security items like a Kensington Lock for their laptop or a Pacsafe Travelsafe for their camera equipment or a Prey membership for their smartphone or tablet. I personally use all of these items and they make allow me to leave behind thousands of dollars of equipment in guesthouse and hotel rooms and enjoy my day carefree.

5. The Perfect Travel Camera

I love my big SLR camera, but I admit that since buying the Canon PowerShot S100 I am loathe to take out that big thing! This camera takes sharp, clear, bright and beautiful photos that compare to that of a much more expensive camera, at a fraction of the size and cost. It also shoots full HD video, has an HDR feature, and has a built in GPS function — no more trying to remember if that beach was in Koh Tao or Kauai. This feature enables users to map their photos using either Canon’s included software or other tools by Flickr, Aperture, Google Earth, and more — making it the perfect tool for travelers. You can read my full review here.

Bonus Idea: If you want to make your gift extra indulgent, consider adding in the The Canon Underwater Housing. It’s perfect for all kinds of travel activities from scuba diving to kayaking to rainforest ziplining.

Canon s100

6. A Chic Passport

When traveling internationally, your graduate’s passport is arguably the most important thing in their bag. Why no dress it up a little, and protect it from wear and tear? Etsy is a great source of handmade and beautifully crafted passport covers at every price, from luxurious stamped leather versions to simple patterned cotton ones.

Bonus Idea: Before you head to checkout, look for a coordinating set of custom luggage tags.

7. A Way to Preserve Memories

Is a postcard not enough for you to follow along with the graduate’s travels? Help them start a travel blog where they can keep family and friends around the world updated on their globetrotting! This is a gift that benefits not only the receiver but the giver as well, who will be able to live vicariously through all the adventures to come.

Through Blue Host you can purchase cheap domain names and hosting and install WordPress for free! Buying them a membership to Elegant Themes will allow them access to dozens of custom themes and looks for their blog, and a support forum to help install them. If you think they’d like to take a more full-on approach to blogging or potentially turn it into a business someday, gift them with the Travel Blog Success course. My dad gifted me with this course two years ago and it helped me make Alex in Wanderland what it is today! Update: Travel Blog Success was merged with Superstar Blogging by Nomadic Matt. It’s an equally impressive course that I plan to take and review eventually — click here to take it yourself! 

8. Travel-Friendly Accessories

Chances are your grad already has a smart phone and a laptop that they’re planning to tote along on their travels. But certain accessories can make electronics much more useful on the road. Bass Boomz Wireless Speakers are compact and portable and perfect for starting impromptu dance parties on the roof of a hostel. The Waterproof Atlas Case for iPhone will keep that all-important smart phone safe while Instagramming poolside, or writing an electronic postcard from the beach — it even allows for underwater photos!

Bonus tip: Other handy items include waterproof earbuds, headphone splitters, and international adapters.


9. The Gift of Green

Travel to many foreign countries can involve a constant battle between dehydration and the guilt of using up dozens of plastic water bottles. For Christmas, my parents bought mt the SteriPEN Handheld UV Water Purifier. This little device allows me to fill up my reusable bottle with tap water which would typically be un-drinkable, and then turn on the Steripen and stir the water with it for 90 seconds, making it safe to drink.

This is a gift that keeps on giving — it will save the graduate from having to buy bottled water on their travels, could help them out in a tight spot on long hikes or journeys, and will definitely have them feeling better about their plastic consumption.


What gift would you buy for the wanderlust-filled recent grad?

Some of the products mentioned were provided to me as samples for review, others are advertising partners and some are affiliate links and I will earn a percentage of the sale if you purchase through them. I appreciate your support in keeping this site running and myself traveling!

  • The Guy
    June 28 2013

    Some great tips here Alex. That book sounds interesting and a must read for any long term backpackers.

    I’m very interested in that camera you’ve got as well. A compact as good as an SLR is what I would love to have.

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      I can’t recommend the s100 more — check out my full review for more details! It’s an impressive little piece of equipment.

  • I actually bought the Canon camera based on your review and absolutely love it. I can’t believe the quality of our photos! Next purchase is the underwater housing!

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      Wow Kaitie, I’m so happy to hear that! Definitely make that underwater housing purchase happen… you won’t believe how many opportunities it suddenly opens up!

  • tyrhone
    June 28 2013

    I prefer giving the gift of good advice, or the gift of friendship. Mainly because it’s free and I’m really cheap 🙂

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      Actually, good advice and mentorship is absolutely more valuable than anything on this list! Of course, little sisters don’t take advice from their big sisters too well 🙂

  • memographer
    June 28 2013

    I would give her/him the World!
    meaning a globe 😉

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      Ah, a globe is a fantastic gift! There are some really beautiful ones out there now.

  • Dad
    June 28 2013

    so….no comment on the last two pictures, about the handsome , mature, penniless dude….(ahem)

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      I believe that photo had a large number of fans in the previous graduation post 🙂

  • Sarah Somewhere
    June 28 2013

    Awesome travel gifts! Love the last pics 🙂

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      Thanks 🙂 My version is framed in my room, gives me a smile every time.

  • Kait Burke
    July 1 2013

    This is such a great list!!! I am not a graduate, but I love learning about awesome new travel – related items that I unnecessarily tell my self I MUST HAVE 😉

    • Alex
      July 1 2013

      Yeah — while I was writing this post I bought a passport cover from Etsy. Whoops 🙂

  • TammyOnTheMove
    July 5 2013

    Oh, I love the passport covers! So pretty! Ha ha the pic of your dad and you two is hilarious. My uncle has three daughters who all got married within one year. He looked like that after each wedding too! 🙂

    • Alex
      July 7 2013

      I can’t wait to open my new passport cover when I get home! And your uncle needs a similar photo, it sounds 🙂

  • Love the scratch map. Got one myself! 🙂

    • Alex
      July 11 2013

      They seems to be very popular among the traveler set… I guess we are all braggers 🙂

  • Erica
    July 16 2013

    Nice list! I would take a few. 😀

    • Alex
      July 17 2013

      Perfect for forwarding to Santa next Christmas, as well!

  • Sara
    August 17 2014

    Just wondering if you put the map in an open frame without glass? Also did you get a bigger frame than the size of the picture? I’m wondering because I saw other sites with it framed but some of the map cut off. And yours has the whole thing in it which is perfect.

    • Alex
      August 19 2014

      Yup, open frame, no glass! And I had a custom frame made at ACMoore with a 40% off coupon. It was still pricey though, I think around $100. I’m pretty happy with the investment, though!

  • Sandy
    May 3 2017

    If my travel obsessed grad is also an avid book lover (like me) I’d probably gift them a kindle e-reader (if its in the budget), save them some luggage space and weight not having to haul books around. Sure you can read books on your phone but that uses up battery and the screen is harder on the eyes. Speaking for myself I’d appreciate, extra chargers/cables for my phone and an extra phone battery.

    • Alex
      May 12 2017

      I finally gave in and got a Kindle a few years back, Sandy — much lighter and great for getting hard-to-find books in remote areas! A great gift idea indeed!

Leave a Comment