The best travel gear for graduates
Hook them up with the latest gadgets before their next trip.
Three years after the start of the pandemic, travel is once again a rite of passage for many new grads, and as a parent, you probably want to ensure your child has a great time exploring the world. Visiting a new place can be a little tricky, but a few gadgets can help make the experience easier and more enjoyable for your new grad. These are some of our favorite travel gadgets that always earn a spot in our bag whenever we head out on a new adventure.
Twelve South PlugBug Duo
Amazon Basics Small Packing Travel Organizer Cubes Set
DJI Osmo Mobile 6
Bellroy Lite Duffel
Ulvö Hip Pack
Twelve South AirFly Duo
Peak Design Tech Pouch
Otterbox Fast Charge 15,000mAh
MiiR, Insulated Narrow Mouth Bottle
Manta Sleep Mask
Twelve South PlugBug Duo
None of the gadgets we recommend in this list are of much use if your grad can’t charge them when they’re away from home. If they own a MacBook, you can save them money and headaches dealing with different electrical standards by getting them an all-in-one charger like PlugBug Duo from Twelve South. It works with all existing MacBook power adapters and comes with five different electrical plugs, providing coverage for Australia, Canada, China, continental Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore and the US. It also features two built-in USB-A ports, making it possible to charge three devices at the same time. If your grad doesn’t need the extra USB-A connections, another option is the $29 World Travel Adapter Kit from Apple. Either way, you’re giving them something that will serve them on many trips to come.
Crying babies, turbulence and rowdy passengers — there are a lot of sounds that can make an already trying travel experience even more tiresome. Speaking from experience, comfortable and capable noise-canceling headphones can go a long way toward making a flight more peaceful. Thankfully, you don’t have to look far to find the best option in the field: Sony’s flagship WH-1000XM5.
Outside of masterful noise canceling that you can customize, the XM5 has one feature that makes it especially suited for traveling: You can get up to 30 hours of playtime on a single charge, and another three hours after just three minutes of charging. In other words, they’ll easily get your grad through a marathon of flights and layovers. If the $398 cans are outside of your budget, you can still find stock of their excellent predecessor, the WH-1000XM4, at some retailers.
Amazon Basic Packing Cubes
After finding out about packing cubes, I waited to buy my first set only to discover they’re as game-changing as everyone claims. With some practice and experimentation, packing cubes allow you to make the most of the limited space you have in a suitcase or duffel bag. You don’t need to spend a lot to purchase a decent set: Amazon offers one for under $25. It’s a small gift, but one that your child will appreciate for its practicality.
DJI Osmo Mobile 6 Gimbal
If your grad has a relatively recent phone like the iPhone 14 or the Samsung Galaxy S23, they don’t need a dedicated camera to take great-looking video during their trip. But what can elevate their footage is a smartphone gimbal like the Osmo Mobile 6 from DJI. The company makes some of the best drones you can buy, so it knows a thing or two about camera stabilization. The Osmo Mobile 6 will help your grad film smooth and cinematic videos while they’re on their trip. The company’s latest gimbal features a built-in extension rod that makes it easier to snap the perfect selfie. Plus, it only weighs 309 grams, so it’s a lightweight addition to almost any travel kit.
Bellroy Lite Duffel
If there’s one piece of advice I have for novice travelers it’s to use a duffel bag instead of a roller suitcase for your carry-on luggage. Over about a decade of flying, I’ve never had a gate agent ask me to check in one of my duffel bags, even when I was about to board a full flight. Bellroy makes a few great duffels, but I like the Lite model for its lightweight yet durable construction and army of pockets. Those features make it great for weekend trips since you can pack more than the Lite Duffel’s 30L capacity suggests. For longer trips, Bellroy also has its excellent Weekender model in 35L, 40L and 45L capacities.
Fjallraven Ulvo Hip Pack
Once your grad reaches their destination, they will want a way to carry essentials like their phone and bank cards around. After many years of using a backpack for that purpose, I recently switched to a hip pack. I like the weight savings and added security they offer. If your giftee ever feels like their belongings are at risk, they can carry their hip pack at the front of their body. After trying a few different models, I eventually settled on the Ulvo Hip Pack from Fjallraven. I like the medium version for its waterproof construction, 2L capacity and backside security pocket. I’ve found the Ulvo to be big enough to carry my passport, wallet and mirrorless camera, making it perfect for day trips.
The Fujifilm X-E4 is the successor to the X-E3, a camera I’ve packed on every trip I’ve taken since 2017. What I love about the X-E3 is its unimposing exterior and size. It strikes the perfect balance between portability and image quality. The $849 X-E4 makes an already ideal travel camera even better by adding a tilting 3-inch LCD touchscreen, USB-C connectivity and Fujifilm’s 26.1-megapixel X-Trans 4 CMOS sensor. And did I mention it’s the company’s smallest interchangeable lens camera and weighs less than a pound? Add to that Fujifilm’s film simulations and Bluetooth connectivity, and you have a camera that will allow your kid to take great photos and easily transfer them to their phone to share over social media.
What’s more, you can buy the X-E4 with a 27mm pancake lens. Don’t judge this lens by its small size, though: It’s sharp across its entire aperture range and has a field of view that will make composing shots easy. It’s worth noting Fujifilm has one of the best and most comprehensive lens ecosystems of any camera manufacturer. For almost every expensive piece of glass like the 56mm f/1.2, the company offers a more affordable f/2 alternative that is light, compact and weather-sealed. That makes the X-E4 the perfect starter camera.
Twelve South AirFly Duo
If your grad already owns a decent set of Bluetooth earbuds, you can instead gift them the AirFly Duo. It’s a device that will allow them to use their wireless headphones with a plane’s inflight entertainment system. All they need to do is pair the AirFly Duo with their earbuds and it into their seat’s headphone jack. If they’re flying with a friend or partner, they can even use the AirFly Duo to stream movie audio to two pairs of headphones.
Every trip involves some amount of downtime. Between long flights and train rides, as well as lengthy layovers, there are plenty of opportunities to catch up on some reading. For that reason, an e-reader like the Amazon Kindle makes for the perfect travel companion.
A previous version of this gift guide recommended the Paperwhite but with all the enhancements Amazon added to the 2022 Kindle, there’s little reason to stretch your budget for the more expensive model. Our favorite budget e-reader, the standard Kindle, features a 300ppi display, 16GB of storage and USB-C charging. Best of all, with a battery that can go up to six weeks on a single charge, there’s one less cable and charger for your grad to carry on their next trip.
Peak Design Tech Pouch
Peak Design is known for making some of the most practical camera bags and accessories you can buy. But over the last few years, it has also made a name for itself in the travel bag space. If you want to help your grad organize all their cables and gadgets before they leave for their next trip, look no further than the company’s Tech Pouch. Exterior handles make it easy to open and hold the pouch, even on a plane flying through turbulence. Inside, you’ll find loops and Peak’s signature origami dividers that make it easy to organize things like pens, SD cards and batteries. Another handy detail is a cable passthrough that allows you to keep a power bank in its interior and connect it to your phone in the front pocket. Plus, the nylon exterior is water-resistant, so your grad can relax knowing all their electronics are secure from most accidental water damage.
Otterbox Fast Charge
At some point during their trip, the battery on your grad’s phone is likely to run low or even die at a critical moment. It could happen when they’re trying to navigate a complex subway system, which will make an already stressful situation more dire (especially if they don’t speak the country’s language). Help them avoid situations like that with a power bank. There are a lot of capable models out there, but we like the ones from Otterbox. For an affordable option, consider the 10,000mAh model that’s on Engadget’s best power banks list. It offers 18W multi-device fast charging, enough capacity to fully charge a smartphone more than once and a set of both USB-A and USB-C ports. Best of all, it costs less than $50.
MiiR Insulated bottle
I never leave my house, let alone travel anywhere, without a water bottle. Seattle-based MiiR makes some of the best reusable bottles in the business, with one of my favorites being the company’s 23-ounce, insulated, narrow-mouth style. It’s perfect for travel because it can keep liquids either hot or cold for long periods of time, and it won’t sweat or transfer any flavors to a drink thanks to the medical-grade stainless steel that coats the interior. It also looks great and comes in a variety of vibrant colors, so there should be one that will appeal to your grad.
Manta Sleep Mask
Between flying and the eventual jet lag that sets in after hopping countries and continents, getting a full night’s rest can be a challenge. That’s where a sleep mask can help and the best one I’ve found is made by a company called Manta. At this point, it makes a lot of different models, so take a look at their website to find the one that will best suit your kid. That said, the original Sleep model is a good all-purpose option. What makes it stand out is that the eyecups aren’t sewn into the mask. Instead, they’re attached using velcro, allowing you to reposition them to make the mask as comfortable as possible. The company says they’re also 100 percent effective at blocking out any light, a claim I’ve found to be accurate.