It can be tricky to find the perfect leaving present for someone going travelling.
And with nearly 20% of employers now offering a sabbatical program, this is a situation that is going to happen more often in workplaces across the world.
As a veteran of three sabbaticals, I’ve left a few workplaces to head off travelling and have been presented with all manner of different gifts!
In this post, I aim to provide some inspiration for those of you searching for the perfect traveller’s gift and help my fellow sabbatical-takers to receive something that will actually be useful for their travels!
Here is a list of practical and fun things that make a perfect leaving present for someone going travelling.
1. Filter Water Bottle
The perfect gift for someone travelling to somewhere where the water may be a little questionable! Much better for the planet than buying bottled water and much safer than tap water in many parts of the world.
2. Bamboo Travel Cutlery Set
Lightweight, eco-friendly and durable these are a great little present for someone going travelling. They might seem only useful for someone heading off hiking into the woods, but we used ours countless times in hotel rooms where we’d bought food from local shops to keep costs down.
3. Multi-Tool & Knife
My Leatherman multi-tool has been with us on every trip (as long as we’re not on hand luggage only flights!). It has come in handy more times than I can name. I particularly like this version as it includes scissors, which aren’t standard on multi-tools but are probably my most used part.
4. Personalised Notebook
I took loads of handwritten notes when we went on sabbatical in an aim to decouple myself from my phone and create a record of all the amazing experiences we had. This notebook takes things up a level by allowing you to add personalised text to the front, a lovely and one-of-a-kind gift,
This is the best book on long-term travel I have ever read. From the practicalities of booking a trip to the realities of life on the road. It’s a fantastic companion present for someone going travelling.
6. Foldable Travel Yoga Mat
Trying to keep in shape while travelling is pretty tough. Yoga is a great way to stay flexible and fit but yoga mats are normally far too big to take travelling. Step in the YOYI travelling yoga mat, which folds down into a small carrier which can easily slot into a backpack.
7. Travel Hair Straighteners
Becca took these with her when we went on our three-month sabbatical around Southeast Asia. She spoke about them so much we ended up lending them to one of her friends when she went travelling the following year. They heat quickly, are compact but still have enough metal area to deal with a humidity perm! Oh, and they also can be used as a makeshift iron when you are desperate!
8. Travel Backgammon
…or chess, or a personalised pack of cards or Uno or (say it quietly) Monopoly! We love playing backgammon, so this little travel set was fantastic to pull out when we had no WiFi and were facing the prospect of actually talking to one-another 😂
9. Solar Panel Charger
None of us wants to be tied to our tech whilst we travel but the reality is it’s so damn useful! Your phone replaces a hundred other items, a kindle is much lighter than carrying books and a digital camera is easier to back-up than a bag full of film.
With every device comes a charger and so if you’re looking for a leaving present for someone going travelling off the grid (hiking, climbing, mountaineering) then this solar-powered charger could be the perfect addition to their kit bag.
10. Waterproof Clip Bluetooth Speaker
We both love music but when you travel there aren’t many opportunities to crank the volume as you’re often in groups rather than in your own house or car. This little speaker was perfect to carry around with us for when we did have a chance to take our headphones off and listen to music together. It handily clips onto a backpack, is waterproof and also lasts over 10 hours on one charge. It’s also so small you barely notice it in your bag.
11. Solid Perfume…
This is such a handy gift for a traveller. It is perfume in stick form, meaning it won’t leak or getting taken away through customs.
12. …Or Solid Cologne
The man’s version!
13. First Aid Kit
One of our friends bought us this exact kit before we went travelling through Southeast Asia. It was the perfect gift and saved us lots of time trying to buy the bits individually. We unpacked the contents into a lightweight bag for easy packing but we took everything with us.
14. Tile Mate
A tile would make a great gift for someone heading off to travel. It’s unlikely they would have bought one themselves but they can be an absolute lifesaver. They attach to important pieces of kit and help you to locate them with Bluetooth range.
15. Wrinkle Release Spray
This spray takes wrinkles out of clothes without the need for an iron. If the traveller in your workplace loves to dress up for a night out, this might be the perfect addition to their kit list.
16. Travel Adapter
You can never have too many travel adapters, so it is an easy leaving gift for someone going travelling.
This is the one we use as it is so convenient. From the 4 USB sockets to the pop-out plugs that allow it to be used in any country, it does the job better than any other version we’ve had.
I first discovered Buffs when I was doing long-distance cycling and they are now a staple of my travel kit.
Whether used as a scarf, balaclava, headband, cap or even as a makeshift flannel the
18. Door Stop Alarm
This is an unusual but incredibly handy gift! We were staying in a hotel in Vietnam when someone came knocking and shouting at the door at 3am. Thankfully they didn’t push their way in, but it was pretty scary.
This device sits behind the door like a standard doorstop but when the door makes contact it sets off an alarm. Really handy for those dodgy hostels we’ve all stayed in!
19. Collapsible Water Bottle
We each took one of these travelling with us. A clever space-saving design that rolls up when not in use to save vital bag room.
20. Head Torch
You can never have too many head torches – well, I can’t anyway. I lost ours in the jungles of Thailand and had my dad bring us a replacement when we met in Cambodia!
With all phones now having torches built-in, you might wonder what the point is but a decent head torch is so much more useful as it frees up your hands. I’ve used one whilst cooking a braai in the dark (with hyenas watching from the other side of the fence) in South Africa, tied to the inside of a mosquito net as a makeshift bedside lamp in Thailand and replacing flat tyes by the roadside in more places than I care to mention!
21. How To Shit Around The World
If you’re looking for a funny gift that is also helpful, this is it! Written to help you stay clean and illness free while travelling it includes hints from managing on long bus rides to how to choose food that will stop you getting ill.
22. A Notebook
There are notebooks and then there are NOTEBOOKS. And this is a NOTEBOOK? With me? Well look, I love keeping a journal while I travel and don’t really want a fancy custom thingy so I just like a good old-fashioned decent notebook to scribble in. I used to use Moleskines but these are my new favourite as the paper seems to be slightly higher quality.
23. Aeropress A80 Coffee Maker
In some countries there just isn’t good coffee. I can’t survive without a decent cup to get me going in the morning! We got my dad one of these for Christmas a few years ago and he loves it. They aare remarkably compact when compared to a usual cafetiere so I am considering taking one with me next time I travel.
If you’re looking for a leaving gift a coffee lover this could be the perfect choice!
24. Microfibre Travel Towel
These pack down into a tiny bag and come in a range of funky colours. We used ours regularly while travelling when we went to the beach or out swimming. We still have ours and they regularly get used on day-trips.
25. Lonely Planet Guide
Simply the best guidebook you can buy. Not as many pictures as some but the information is detailed and accurate. I love my collection of these and make sure I buy one for every new country we visit. They make a perfect gift for someone leaving to go travelling, especially if you get the whole team to sign the inside cover.
26. Silicon Travel Containers
More for short-haul flights than long-term travel but these are still a practical and unusual gift for a traveller, much better than the see-through plastic ones sold at pharmacists. Just be careful though, as the bag they come with isn’t clear enough to be accepted by airport security.
27. How To Travel The World On $50 A Day
Written by the most famous travel-blogger of them all Nomadic Matt this book is packed full of useful tips for budget-conscious travellers. This (along with Vagabonding and The Four Hour Work Week) helped inspire us to take our first sabbatical.
READ MORE: My Sabbatical Story
Another gadget that falls into the ‘you can’t have too many’ box. A double USB one is perfect for multiple charges on long trips. A smaller version is great for slipping in a pocket on a day’s adventure through a big city. I usually travel with one of each.
29. Waterproof Phone Case
These were a lifesaver when we hit monsoon season in Vietnam. Even a normal day out risked ruining our expensive phones! We took these watertight cases with us and they saved us an insurance claim or two. We also found the lanyards useful for high pickpocket areas as we could wear them around our necks and under our clothes so they were out of sight.
30. Cable Organiser
GEEK ALERT! I’ve been using this bag for about three years now in my work bag but we also took it travelling. It might seem excessive but when it’s late at night and you find the right cable without having to turn out an entire bag, you’ll thank me. Maybe….
31. Packing Cubes
I saw so many people rave about packing cubes but I didn’t truly understand until I got a set. They are much more lightweight than they look and are used to keep your clothes separate so you only take out what you need rather than rifling through your whole rucksack. A great little gift but worth checking they haven’t got a set already.
32. Travel Clothes Line
When you’re on the road for a long time so much washing is done in hotel bathrooms and coin-operated washing machines. Having somewhere to hang up the wet stuff is not always a given so a travel washing line is a useful addition to the kit bag.
33. Travel Journal
If you weren’t convinced by buying a standard notebook as a gift then this Moleskine Travel Journal is a perfect alternative.
34. Travel Neck Pillow (1)
This travel pillow one was recommended by Tim Ferriss on a podcast titled ‘Cool Tools For Travel‘. We managed to get one from our local TK Maxx outlet. It is incredibly comfortable but we found it a bit bulky for long-term travel.
35. Travel Neck Pillow (2)
Having put aside the first pillow for journeys where we are staying in a single hotel so space isn’t a worry, this Trtl neck pillow is now my choice for long-term travel where space is at a premium. Machine washable, lightweight and comfortable it makes a great that the recipient is unlikely to own already.
I’d say this is almost a ‘must-have’ piece of kit for any traveller. Keeps sand and water at bay at the beach, makes a perfect washing bag for trips to the laundrette and lines a rucksack in monsoon rains. Ours was especially useful when we went diving in Vietnam to keep all our kit dry on the boat.
37. Book A Tour
GetYourGuide does amazing tours with local guides right the way across the world. If you know their route, booking a tour could make the perfect surprise gift for a colleague when they reach their destination.
38. Mosquito Bands
Insect bites are horrible at the best of times (just ask my wife who reacts really badly to them) but if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time your legs and arms can be a feast! These bands last about seven days each and make a colourful and unexpected gift.
Useful Tools for Booking Your Sabbatical
I always use Skyscanner or Agoda alongside Google Flights to make sure I’ve got the best price. I use Google Flights to save a route and monitor price changes and a combination of Skyscanner and Agoda to get the cheapest tickets.
If you are in the UK I would also highly recommend signing up for Jack’s Flight Club to get incredible flight deals sent to your email inbox every week.
When booking accommodation I always start with Booking.com as they generally have the best range and prices. I also regularly use Airbnb for longer stays and apartments in cities (use this link for £25 off your first stay). For a different experience try signing up to Housecarers for free house-sitting opportunities (get 10% off membership with this link).
Travel insurance might seem like an unnecessary cost, but when a flight gets cancelled, injury occurs or you damage a piece of gear you’ll regret not paying in advance. I’ve used World Nomads for two sabbaticals and (after badly damaging a hire car in Laos!) found the claim process to be simple and transparent.
Getting from the airport to your destinations is an added stress after a tiring flight, so take the guesswork out and pre-book with JayRide.com. Their prices often beat the local taxis and I've found them to be reliable and easy to use.