22 Gift Ideas for Traveling Teens
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22 Gift Ideas for Traveling Teens

As students get older, it can be challenging to find the perfect gift for the holidays or birthdays. The good news is that there are many options for teens interested in traveling. Here are 22 ideas to get the ball rolling:

Bags – Big and Small

Of course traveling teens need bags to carry things when they hit the road. Here are some items that make this easier:

A Sturdy, Easy-to-Carry Duffel Bag

Rustic Pathways recommends students have a duffel bag that’s 40-50 liters in size when traveling. There are ones that can be carried on the shoulder, the back, and even ones with wheels. Carefully consider these options when making a selection so it’s not difficult for your teen to handle.

Rustic Pathways students arriving in Costa Rica gather with their bags as they wait to board the bus.

Students arriving in Costa Rica gather with their bags as they wait to board the bus.

Other factors include the bag’s compartments, its collapsibility, and if you want waterproof or anti-theft options.

In addition, cost is of course a consideration. Well-known brands like Yeti and Patagonia are known for being rugged, but they can be more expensive. Gonex offers some more affordable options for budget-minded travelers.

Daily Backpack

In addition to a duffel bag, many teens prefer having a smaller backpack they can carry on a plane and use on a day-to-day basis for outings. There are many options for this, ranging from ones that are somewhat fashionable to a standard bag that doubles as a school backpack.

Rustic Pathways students get lessons on environmental conservation on Hawaii’s Big Island. @2022

Toiletry Bags and Accessories

On the road, students will appreciate having a toiletry bag that they can easily grab when they’re getting ready for the day or for bed. Many stores carry bag options.

To make things even easier you can take advantage of some of the creative toiletry items designed for travel. This includes folding toothbrushes that have a compartment for the toothbrush head, like the Radius Travel Brush or brush head protectors like the Steripod.

To carry items like shampoo you can buy reusable bottles in most stores or you can buy flat toiletry pouches. You also can get some easy-to-use travel soap sheets or wipes.

Gadget Organizers & Electronic Needs

For electronics, there are a number of organizers designed to hold items like a charger. A Cocoon Grid-It organizer is one option. While you’re grabbing one of these, you can consider adding in a power adapter and a portable charger.

Packing Cubes & Shoe Bags

Packing cubes are another tool travelers can use to organize items and fit things tightly into bags. And if you always struggle with how to handle shoes while traveling, you can buy travel shoe bags.

Money/Passport Holders

In many cases students won’t want to carry a bag at all, but they may need money, cards or their passport. The program leaders on Rustic Pathways trips often collect passports for safe keeping, so it’s not as much of a concern. Regardless, traveling teens may want a running belt that can secure valuables around the waist and is more modern and smaller than a fanny pack.

Another popular option for money and cards are the lanyards that many teens now wear around their neck. They just have to make sure they’re not doing something where having something around their neck isn’t a safety hazard.

There also are travel wallets that are designed to hold passports.

Dry bags

If a program involves time in the water, dry bags are a good idea. Sometimes you can buy them in sets if you need different sizes.

Waterproof Phone Case

Like dry bags, waterproof phone cases are designed for activities in and around water. You actually don’t need to bring your phone while doing many popular Rustic Pathways activities like white water rafting. However, if you’re tempted to bring one during a boat or beach outing, this hopefully will protect your phone.


Students need comfortable clothing as they encounter different weather conditions and do different activities. Here are some possible gifts:

Hiking/Walking Shoes

No doubt most trips require a fair degree of walking. Keeping your feet comfortable makes a huge difference. For programs with lots of trekking, splurging on great hiking shoes is worthwhile. For journeys with less intense hiking, lightweight running shoes may work well.

Trekking in Nepal

You’ll want good shoes when you head out trekking in countries like Nepal. Photo: Krish Khemlani

Weather-Appropriate Socks

If you need warm socks, a sky shop is a good bet to find them. For hot climates, socks that are moisture-wicking should work well.

Water Repellent Shirts

These lightweight and breathable cotton shirts are eco-friendly and repel liquids, stains, and odors. They’re also quick drying. They cut down on the need to do laundry and are comfortable in all kinds of conditions.


A lightweight jacket that’s water resistant and shields you from the wind is a practical option. It helps if it has a hood.

Rustic Pathways students in Alaska pause for a photo.

Rustic Pathways students in Alaska don windbreaking jackets during their scenic hike.

Accessories & More

Quick Dry Towels

These are great for journeys where you’re doing water activities. It helps avoid problems with putting a wet towel in a suitcase. Just research your options carefully. There are some options listed as quick dry towels that are really more like tablecloths and don’t actually work in humid conditions.

Water Bottle

A water bottle is a must in many scenarios, including locations where single-use plastic is banned, such as the national parks in Costa Rica. If you’re traveling to more remote areas, buying a bottle with a filter is a great idea.

If you’re worried about the bulkiness of a water bottle, there also is the option to buy a flexible water bottle like the Vapur Anti-Bottles.

Copyright: © 2016 Rustic Pathways

Sleeping Bag

For programs with camping, a good sleeping bag is a must. It can make the difference between having a blast and being miserable. Pay close attention to the temperature rating and then add ten degrees. So if the temperature rating is 20 degrees F add ten degrees so that realistically you could expect to be comfortable at 30 degrees.

A Rustic Pathways students keeps warms in a sleeping bag in Alaska.

You’ll want a nice and warm sleeping bag when you travel to places like Alaska and Peru.

Much of this depends on whether your student gets cold easily. The comfort rating on a sleeping bag is generally designed for sleepers who get cold easier and the limit is meant for warmer sleepers.


Yes, every phone does have a camera now and that may suffice. However, if you have a student who is very interested in photography, getting a nice camera is a fun investment.

Copyright: © 2016 Rustic Pathways


New Bank Account or Credit Card

This may seem like an odd present, but opening a bank account with a little bit of parent-provided money is a rite of passage and is helpful both for traveling and life in general. The only downside of using a debit card while traveling is that many of them add fees for international purchases.

There are credit cards that can be used to avoid these fees, so that’s an option. However, it can be harder to teach fiscal responsibility with credit cards, so proceed with caution!


Travel Journal

Teens will later cherish the memories they write in a travel journal. It’s one of the best ways to capture the most memorable moments.

Travel Books

There are many travel book options. Your teen may be inspired by paging through a book with beautiful travel photos and trivia from various countries.

Uno Game

This card game is commonly played during our programs. Students can get some practice rounds in before traveling. One great advantage of Uno is that it can be played with groups of varying sizes from just two people to a larger circle of people.

Specialized Maps

Maps that help students keep track of where they’ve been are a fun item for a gift. There are scratch-off maps that offer this option. There also are maps and globes with flag push pins or colored tacks that work as well.

The Best Gift

Gift of travel

There’s absolutely nothing better than the gift of a travel program. The long-lasting intangible benefits of such a present are immeasurable.

To get started, visit our program page for details. Most of our program sessions are now available. All of our summer options will be in place by December 15. You can call one of our travel advisors at 440-975-9691 for more details.

About the Author

Mary Rogelstad

Lead Editor

Mary is the Lead Editor at Rustic Pathways. She has been a writer and editor for nearly 20 years. Prior to covering student travel, Mary created content for the music education company J.W. Pepper & Son. She also was a writer and producer at CNN International and a communications director for a social service agency and a K-12 private school.