The Best Practical Gifts For Travelers, Techies, and Everyone Else

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There are two types of great practical gifts. The first is the thing you know they need. Maybe they’ve been dropping subtle (and not so subtle) hints about how their waffle iron stopped working and oh, it’s the holiday season? What a coincidence.

These moments are great for the giver and the getter, because they get exactly what they want and you end up on their nice list for a long time. The second is the thing they didn’t know they needed, maybe didn’t even know existed, but will use on a daily basis once they have it. This type of gift is obviously harder to get right, which is why sometimes you need a little inspiration. Here are a few practical gift ideas for anyone in your life.

 Headphones

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Good quality headphones are something anyone can use, whether they’re at the airport, working out, or just running around doing chores. It’s definitely on the more expensive end of the gifting spectrum, but it’s something guaranteed to get a lot of use. The Bose Quietcomfort consistently gets positive reviews from tech sites and users. The price range is fairly wide, generally falling between 120 and 220 depending on the model.

Or: try Sony, which makes a wide variety of models at different prices.

Stovetop coffee maker/Pourover maker

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The casual coffee drinker may assume that proper espresso is something they can only have at their local cafe, or that they must empty out their wallet for an expensive machine that will eat up all the space on their countertop. The stovetop espresso maker begs to differ. The original, from Bialetti, has been around for 85 years. Best of all, it’ll only set you back between 20 and 40 dollars depending on the size. That’s substantially less than your standard coffee maker.

Or: try a collapsible pourover maker for that person on the go.

Chromecast

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The Chromecast is definitely not flawless. It sometimes won’t connect even when the WiFi connection is strong, and it doesn’t take an audiophile to know the sound quality isn’t the most crisp. That said, as far as tech gifts go, 35 dollars is about as affordable as it gets, and you get a good amount of bang for your buck. Set-up is a breeze, anyone on your WiFI network can use it, and you can easily cast from your phone or computer, (even from sites that aren’t supported like Amazon Prime Video). Even for the most tech-averse, it’s a no brainer.

Also: Check out this guide to things your Chromecast can do that you may not know about.

Wallet/Passport wallet

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When is the last time you replaced your wallet? It’s the kind of thing people tend to hold on to long after they should, once the leather starts to wear and sag. There’s nothing wrong with having that special heritage piece that wears in beautifully, but not all wallets are hand-down-to-your-kids worthy. Skip black and brown and go for an interesting color like mustard, olive, navy, or burgundy, and you’ll have something truly special. If it’s a true beauty, it’ll make them think of you every time they pull out their wallet (at least for a little while).

Or: try a handy passport wallet for that frequent traveler

Portable power bank

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It’s not the sort of thing that you’re likely to need or use every day, but once you need it, you’ll be very glad you have it. A portable charger is the perfect gift for the frequent flyer, but even someone who doesn’t travel often will get plenty of use out of it. Anker makes many models with different capabilities, depending on your needs.

Or: Belkin makes a slim version that comes in various colors for $30

Collapsible Water Bottle 

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A water bottle is definitely not the most romantic gift out there, but for anyone who needs to stay hydrated (which is everyone) but hates how much excessive space regular water bottles take (again, everyone) a collapsible water bottle is a surprisingly good gift. Que‘s relatively inexpensive water bottles are environmentally friendly and come in a host of colors. They collapse to fit in the palm of your hand when empty, and expand to fit either 12 or 20 ounces.  

Or: An 80 dollar smart mug sounds like the dumbest thing ever, until you realize it keeps your drink at the exact temperature you prefer, down to the last drop. Then it feels mildly revolutionary. 

Shampoo/Body Wash with Travel Kit

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Grooming and beauty gifts are tricky; unless you know what they want, people generally have their grooming regimens worked out. Getting someone an electric razor when they’ve been using manual their whole adult life may not be a surefire thing — old habits die hard. But everyone needs new shampoo and soaps. It’s a low risk gift compared to something like an electric razor, because if they don’t like it they’ll be done with it in a couple weeks. But we feel pretty confident that they’ll like The Lore Company‘s line of body washes, shampoos, and bar soaps. The packaging is beautifully designed, and the natural scents evoke the great outdoors.

Also: Give it inside a nice toiletry kit to make it feel special.

Handheld Vacuum

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This is not the type of gift you should give on Valentine’s Day, but a portable vacuum is remarkably handy for anyone who loves convenience but hates messes. A handheld  vacuum (this from Black and Decker) is especially good for anyone who has a hard time keeping their car clean. It’s a good practical gift because it’s not the kind of thing someone would necessarily think to buy for themselves, but will definitely use once they have it. 

Or: try Dirt Devil’s similarly priced model 

Loungewear 

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Accounting for taste is difficult when shopping for clothes, which is why loungewear is a popular, easy gift. Gift someone a nice pair of sweatpants that they can wear outside, or, if that’s not their style, they can wear while on the couch watching Netflix. Either way, it’s something that’s comfortable, simple, and will likely be appreciated. 

Or: try slippers, because cold hardwood floors aren’t very forgiving

Countertop Dishwasher

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This is a big gift, and one that takes a good amount of research. Not all sinks (or counters) can accommodate a portable/countertop dishwasher, and there’s actually a difference between countertop and portable. But it’s the kind of thing whoever you get it for will be appreciative of for a long time (unless they already have a dishwasher, obviously). Also, it’s more effective and less water intensive than hand washing, making it a sanitary and environmentally sound investment.  

But first: Check out this explainer on portable dishwashers, and this guide to picking the best one.

Keychain and Bottle Opener

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The menswear wizards at Apolis are uniquely good in the gifting department; they’re mostly known for their notoriously sturdy customizable shopping totes. For a nice small gift, try their bottle opener keychains. They come in a variety of colors, which are as practical as they are stylish. 

Or: For something playful and kitschy, try Various Keytags. There are hundreds of funny tags in a multitude of colors, and they even make a keytag that says “Last-Minute Gift,” if you like to give gifts that are brutally honest. 

Portable Speaker

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There are plenty of easy, inexpensive tech gifts that anyone can use, but portable speakers might take the cake. It’s perfect during the holiday season, when you might want liven up a Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s party with a little music. Ikea makes a predictably inexpensive but good looking model. 

Or: Try the ever popular Ultimate Ears


Also, check out our guide to surviving holiday travel.