Holiday Gear Guide: 4 Sub-$50 Gifts for the Modern Traveler


Modern Nomad is a weekly column dedicated to mobile gear, must-see world destinations, tips for life on the road, and traveling better through technology.

For gearhead travelers, there seems to be no shortage of clever, useful new gadgets and accessories launching every three months. Just in time for the December holidays, here’s a brief gadget guide to four of our favorite travel gift ideas for under $50.

Catalyst Waterproof Smartphone Case

Unless you never step foot outside your house, chances are you’ll drop or give your smartphone an inadvertent bath at some point. LifeProof and OtterBox manufacture great “everything-proof” cases, but they typically sell for north of $100 each. Thankfully they’re not the only two in the game. Catalyst’s well-reviewed smartphone cases meet military specs for waterproofing and shockproofing, in a sleek, ultra-slim form factor. The best part is that they can typically be found for less than $50 on Amazon.

Related: The Traveler’s Gift Guide

Handmade Passport Wallets

Passport covers have long been pretty boring. To really step up your gift-giving game, shop Etsy for handmade and vintage passport covers and wallets. For the vintage-loving traveler in your life, a number of vendors sell stunning, yet affordable, one-of-a-kind offerings. For the more reserved, sophisticated traveler in your life, check out the handmade offerings from Rocky Leather Design and The Rootless Spruce.

Cocoon Grid-it Organizer

Even the most minimalist traveler packs an array of gadgets these days. With all that tech comes the inevitable clutter of power cords, USB cables, backup battery packs, and the like. Cocoon’s Grid-it organizer is designed to keep all those extra bits in place with a clever system of secure elastic loops in varying sizes. It’s an ingenious and — at just $15-$50 — inexpensive way to keep essential gear accessories and miscellaneous travel bits organized.

Eagle Creek Travel Cubes and Organizers

Even for light packers, keeping like items corralled is the easiest way to organize an otherwise messy travel bag. Eagle Creek offers a variety of Pack-it Cubes that are ultra-lightweight, compact, and constructed of durable, water-repellent ripstop silnylon so they’re virtually guaranteed never to rip, no matter how much you stuff into them. For travelers who routinely pack dress shirts and other wrinkle-weary clothing, the company’s Packing Folders are a godsend. They’re made of the same material as the aforementioned packing cubes and embedded instructions reveal the simple three-step process to keeping shirts and pants properly folded and crease-free.