Best Gifts for Traveling Mothers & Fathers

Whether you’re almost ready to go or just thinking about going, travelers love a gift they can use on the road. We asked ROAM contributors what travel gift they’d like to get this year. The result? A gold mine of ideas for your next Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, birthday, anniversary, Christmas or personal shopping expedition.

Sling Bag – I have not forgotten the first time I saw a Patagonia sling backpack. It was on a dad skiing with his kids about 6 YEARS AGO. Do I have an obsessive problem? Perhaps. But this bag looked so nice and small on the mountain, with just enough room to jam in a water bottle, wallet, one of your kid’s gloves, and a pack of Peanut M&Ms for bribes. I like Kavu’s Rope Bag equally well – and it comes in about 6 dozen different colors/patterns. And it might serve as a big bigger cushion to provide more padding for my frequent falls while outdoors. – Maryann

Patagonia Board Shorts Gentlemen… Have you ever gone to the tropics and ended up with massive chaffing on the inside of your thighs thanks to your long swim shorts?  It’s a total drag, extremely painful, and can ruin a holiday. One solution would have been to embrace my German roots and go full Speedo.  I opted, instead, for Patagonia’s Light & Variable Board Shorts. These trunks weigh almost nothing, pack up to the size of a lemon, and dry in minutes.  I have relied on this model for several years, and have had no issues with rubbing, chaffing, or any other irritation.  They are not cheap but are built to last.  And they keep me from having to rock the Speedos on holiday. – Paul

Lonely Planet Pocket Guides – These mini guidebooks are easy to tote around in a big city when you’ve already got half a daypack’s worth of kid gear in your bag. There are a lot of neighborhood maps so you don’t need to be constantly checking a mobile phone. And they’re by Lonely Planet so you know you can trust the authors to have great ideas for off-the-beaten-path stuff to do. They fit perfectly in a small purse so you don’t need to carry the 976-page Italy guide when you are only visiting Rome or Florence. And LP publishes a pocket version for just about every touristic city in the world. Collect them all! – Dina

Travel Cutting Board/Knife When road tripping, I love having a small cutting board and knife in the car for stops at farmer’s markets, wine tasting, and impromptu picnics. Fresh fruit/vegetables/cheese/bread always makes a trip more delicious. – Carolyn

Hydro Flask Water Bottle Your spouse doesn’t have one? Well, your shopping is done. These flasks are so sleek that every parent wants one but they are so expensive that few parents can rationalize buying one for themselves. I’m saving up for the 20-ounce sport top version or the 32-ounce wide-mouther in Mango with the optional travel mug flip lid. Someday… – Maryann

Packing Cubes Boring gift? Yes! I wish I could think of something more fun but packing cubes are so darn useful. I want more! – Sarah

Yeti Tundra 75 Cooler If your spouse drools walking through REI and money is no object, buy the Yeti 75 – it’ll be the last cooler you’ll ever need. In fact, the “Rotomolded Construction” is so durable, you could probably use it as a fallout shelter – or at your next rodeo, as the cowboys atop this article have proven. For now, it holds 66 pounds of ice and 50 cans of beer. And if you’re gonna do it, you may as well go all the way and get the Badger Wheels single-axle cart so you can still get it to the campsite when you’re camping with the grandkids. – Don

Rolla Roaster Campfire Forks No more unraveling “wire hangers!” Invest in the right tools for your family’s hot dogs and marshmallows. Rolla Roaster’s forks telescope to 42 inches, keeping small hands safe from flames at your summer cookouts. – Maryann

REI Ultralight Backpack When I head out on a morning bike ride, it is usually cold – well, Northern California cold, not Minnesota cold, but still cold. That means once it warms up, I have gloves, a jacket, and a helmet liner to deal with.  Not to mention the wallet, phone, keys, and sometimes the camera I left home with.  I never used to like wearing a backpack while riding, but the REI Flash 18 essentially disappears once I start pedaling. It boasts not a bell nor whistle – well, except for the safety whistle on the sternum strap – but it is cheap and so light – 10 ounces – that I forget it is there. It’s the backpack for the person who hates backpacks.  It won’t carry a lot, but that’s the point.   – Paul

Stainless Stemless Wine Glasses No parent really needs another set of wine glasses – but isn’t that what gift getting is all about? Something about these stainless glasses screams, “Book that campsite now!” – Maryann

Cotton Thermals – I always pack my Champion Duofolds on our family trips. These separates are incredibly versatile; my top and pants do double duty as underlayers and PJs. They come in a variety of weights, colors, and versions for men, women, and kids. And they are comfy to wear on the car/plane ride home when everything else is filthy. – Bethany

Zeal Optics Sunglasses Sunglasses are a very personal thing – and I know because  I have pretty specific needs. Number one,  I want something that doesn’t make me look like an idiot. Tall order? Yes. And, I want to use the same pair in a variety of conditions – from bright sun on snow, to wet road glare, to shady single track in the redwoods.  After years of trial and error, I stumbled upon sunglasses from Zeal. Their polarized copper lenses are the best all-conditions sunglasses I have found.  And although they are not free, they are less expensive than many other brand name sunglasses.  Best of all, they are built tough:  Mine have survived multiple drops, crashes, and dunks in the river – and they keep on ticking. – Paul

Lululemon Travel Pants This Lululemon investment has paid off. I fly – and only fly – in my Travel Pants on every trip. They’re lightweight, comfortable and always reasonably clean for the trip home. – Christine

Cotton Scarf – I love bringing a thin, large scarf along on family trips. It doubles as a sarong for the beach, a thin layer for yourself or your child on a plane, and wraps around your neck for evenings out when you’re trying to look European. – Dina

Bose Noise Reducing Earbuds – Splurge-y ? Yes, but this Bose headset is worth it. And your kids can’t steal them and say they thought they were theirs. – Christine

O’Neill Hybrid Board Shorts Whatever magician invented this quick-dry fabric and cut it into shorts is my fashion hero.  Amphibious shorts?  Where were you all my life?  Seriously. O’Neill’s Loaded Hybrid Board Shorts seem like they were made just for me.  They look like shorts you can wear for a paddle, swim, or surf, and then head out to dinner afterward – like “fancy shorts” (is that a thing?). I now have amphibious shorts from O’Neill, Billabong, and Quicksilver, and notice more companies jumping into the market every year.  I love this pair of O’Neill shorts in black. I wear them every day to work. – Paul 

Gifts for the Road Didn’t find something you liked on this list? Flip through the ROAM Gear & Gift Guide for more ideas to make your traveler a happy camper.



by The ROAM Team of Traveling Parents, May 2017

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Keywords: family vacation, family travel, travel with kids, best travel gifts, best mother’s day gifts, best father’s day gifts


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