clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile
An illustration containing a person who’s on the go, rolling a suitcase. Surrounding them are various products included in this gift guide, such as a Nintendo Switch, augmented reality glasses, headphones, and more. Illustration: Alex Smith for Polygon

Filed under:

The best gifts for the frequent traveler in your life

The best jet-setting accessories and thoughtful gifts for the weary traveler

If you buy something from a Polygon link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

If you have someone in your life who’s often zipping off to exotic locales, or just traveling frequently for work, there are some amazing gifts you can get for them that can make their downtime during travel pass them by a little quicker.

We’ve rounded up some gifts that can make travel more exciting and relaxing, letting the frequent traveler in your life unwind or use the travel time to be productive. Better yet, these gift ideas don’t lose their utility once they arrive at their destination; each recommendation is useful during everyday life, even when you aren’t set to board a plane, train, or automobile.

Steam Deck

Valve’s Steam Deck is currently the ultimate gaming device you can bring on your travels. The portable gaming PC can store and play made-for-PC games, many of which support cloud saves that can sync with PC when you’d rather play on a larger screen. It’s great for games that require fast reflexes, like Neon White, and it’s just powerful enough to run one of 2023’s hit games, Baldur’s Gate 3. The battery life is serviceable, and it’s easy to keep charged through its USB-C port, so long as you have access to a wall plug or a powerful and portable battery (we’ve included one of those further down on this list, by the way).

Photo of Steam Deck hand-held gaming device on stone surface

Steam Deck

  • $349
  • $399
  • 13% off

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Valve’s handheld is an excellent platform for playing Elden Ring just about anywhere. FromSoftware’s open-world RPG launched just a couple of days following the Steam Deck and was among the first wave of Steam Deck-verified titles. It’s still one of the best ways to play.

A Shy Guy plushie

In need of a travel buddy? Shy Guy from the Super Mario games makes an excellent plus one. Fair warning, Shy Guy does take up a fair amount of space, so this gift is more suitable for those who aren’t as concerned about spare real estate in their luggage. His vacant stare makes it all worth it, however.

A powerful, portable battery

If there’s one thing that most devices have in common with each other, it’s that their batteries die a little faster than we’d like. So, it’s smart to be equipped with a solution in the form of something like this Anker portable external battery. If you remember to keep it fully charged before a trip, it can save your hide by recharging phones, tablets, portable gaming consoles, and more.

Augmented reality glasses

If you’re wary about fellow travelers sneaking a peek at your device screens, there’s a clever (and futuristic) workaround that we love. The Xreal Air augmented reality glasses plug into your devices, beaming their content straight to your eyes. They work with mobile devices, Nintendo Switch, and Steam Deck — any devices that can output video via USB-C will work. These glasses will whisk their wearer away to a personal virtual theater.

Nintendo Switch

The Nintendo Switch is a great travel companion, and has been since it debuted in 2017. Its small size still sets it apart as the most compact portable console to stow in a bag, especially next to the tank that is the Steam Deck. If you’re looking for a travel-friendly gaming handheld, the Nintendo Switch is one of our favorites, thanks to its slim form factor and robust library of games for kids and adults.

Backbone One controller

If you’d like to play games on your phone, but prefer console-like controls, you might want to check out the Backbone One. The Backbone One is a snap-on controller that transforms your phone into a little console where you can easily snipe your opponents and navigate rough terrain without dragging your fingers and furiously tapping on its screen. It works for Android and Apple devices that have a USB-C port. Backbone also makes an option that supports the Lightning connector used on older iPhones.

Apple TV 4K

Most hotels don’t have smart TVs, let alone good TVs at all. If you can’t go anywhere without your favorite TV shows and movies (and if you prefer the big screen over something more portable), it’s a good idea to bring along an Apple TV 4K so you can access specific workout, streaming, and entertainment apps that may be otherwise inaccessible on older TVs. It’s fairly compact and easy to connect via an HDMI cable to a TV.

Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones

Peace of mind can be a difficult thing to achieve when traveling, but a set of good noise-canceling headphones can help. We like the Bose QuietComfort headphones in particular because they can be folded up for easy storage. Of course, their biggest selling point is the noise cancellation itself, which can block out crying babies, snoring, and most airplane engine sounds.

Lovisia Pokémon face mask

It’s important to stay moisturized — and cute — during hectic travels. There’s no shame in slapping on a face mask during a long plane ride. Of course, what’s on your face mask matters. For the Pokémon fans out there, try these face masks covered with Pikachu, Eevee, Psyduck, or Mew.

Genki Covert Dock Mini

In case you’ve ever tried to travel with the dock that Nintendo includes with each Switch, you don’t need me to tell you that it’s pretty big. Genki makes the Covert Dock Mini, which is a miniaturized device that performs the same functions. It can work with other devices, too, like laptops, tablets, and the Steam Deck. Whether you want to put your devices on the big screen or just keep them charged, the Covert Dock Mini is a clever gadget to stick in your travel bag.

A personal Wi-Fi hotspot

If the person you’re buying for happens to travel to a lot of places with unreliable internet connectivity, a Wi-Fi hotspot could be the gift that keeps on giving. This one boasts a lifetime 4G LTE data plan for around $150, and you can connect up to 10 devices to it at once. And, best of all, it doesn’t require a SIM card, nor do you have to enroll in a cellular contract — it just works.

A fan for your phone

Traveling to a toasty region? You’ll need to stay cool, and this affordable, portable fan that you can attach to a phone’s charging port can help out in a pinch. It may not make you feel like you’re on cloud nine, but any bit of cooling can help to keep it together as you push through hot weather.

My Arcade Pocket Player Pro (Super Street Fighter II)

  • $60

Prices taken at time of publishing.

Are you ready to join the World Warrior Tournament? Get ready to take on the toughest fighters from around the globe with the Super Street Fighter II Pocket Player Pro from My Arcade. This officially licensed Capcom product includes Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers and Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition, bringing the ultimate arcade fighting experience to your pocket. From My Arcade. (From our sponsor.)