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.Reopen the World: Gift picks for travel and yoga

Gifts for the 2022 Traveler

Not everyone is ready to get back out on the road—but many are. If someone on your gift list is planning a trip, long or short, here are some ideas for presents that will pack a lot of usefulness for years to come.


Even seasoned travelers don’t agree on the check/don’t check luggage debate. When most airlines began charging for checked bags, the Great Overhead Wars began, which is why I check my bigger bag. But here are some top picks for great gifts for those who need to speed through the airport or just don’t trust their possessions to the cargo hold.

Mother Lode 21-inch Carry-on Rolling Duffel 

eBags updated this popular bag in 2019 in response to customer feedback. It frequently lands on the “Top Ten Luggage” lists. The company describes it as “hardside meets softside,” because its molded backside is coupled with a softside front. Zip expansion allows extra packing space, the handle adjusts to three heights and two front “feet” limit tipping. It comes in seven colors. Excellent value.


Baboon to the Moon Go-Bag (Small)

First of all, how can we not love a company called “Baboon to the Moon”? On top of that, it makes fabulous, duffel-style bags that are TSA-approved carry-ons. This size is designed for 3–5 days of clothing. It has a waterproof shell, four external grab handles, four pockets and adjustable shoulder straps, and comes in multiple fun colors with the option to choose inner print designs.


Crckt Hardside Carry-on Spinner

Kids love having their own luggage, and this 21-inch hardshell case weighs only six pounds, holds 30 and comes in the coolest prints, including T-Rex skeleton, unicorns, drawable exterior, and many more.


Cosmetic/Toiletry Cases

It’s important to make sure liquid items don’t ruin the trip by leaking all over packed clothes.

BÉIS On the Go Essentials Case

Many travel sites/publications rate this case at the top for women’s toiletries. It sports a faux-leather exterior, poly lining, a dual top zipper, two compartments and a compact mirror—plus stylish design.


New Life Project OuterKnown W-Zip Pouch

This pouch is expensive, but designed for years of hard use by the New Life Project’s sustainable travel accessories. It boasts a double-zipper, a phosphorescent rope handle, internal organization pockets and a water-repellent coating.


Women’s Travel Handbags

I made the mistake of taking a bag on an international trip. It looked great—and was impossible to find anything in. This travel-proven bag will solve that issue.

VaultPro Gateway Grande Bag

Not only does this crossbody bag have multiple easy-access compartments, it’s made with slash-proof mesh between fabric layers and has radio frequency-blocking credit card slots to prevent distance scanning. It’s also made of water-resistant nylon and comes in six colors.

$56.25 (holiday sale)/

Passport covers/luggage tags

Trust Etsy to have the best selection of groovy passport covers and luggage tags. Below is an example:

EcoEngrave Personalized Custom Passport Holder/Passport Cover & Luggage Tag Set

Etsy customers give five stars to these engraved luggage tags and passport covers, which are custom laser engraved to the buyer’s specifications. The vegan leather covers and tags can be personalized in multiple ways. These make for thoughtful, unique gifts for travel-lovers.

$32.99 passport only/$46.99 passport plus two tags/ (EcoEngrave shop)

Matr Boomie Passport Cover

This handcrafted leather passport cover from India is just plain beautiful, with several classic Indian art designs available. It is ethically sourced from eco-conscious vegetable-tanned, screen-printed, cruelty-free leather. $25/

Money belts

Yes, we still need them. In Bratislava recently, a fellow traveler was pickpocketed of all their available cash. Not a glamorous gift, but a truly useful one.

Raytix Travel Money Belt

Top-rated, thin, lightweight, with adjustable straps, this money belt blocks Radio Frequency Identity (RFID) transmissions.

$22.94/ (Sears Marketplace vendor)

Travel Sleep Sacks

Bedbugs have been on travelers’ minds ever since some studies showed that even higher-priced hotel chains can have them—nevermind the No-Tell Motel. Also, germ-conscious folks are leery of plane seats, with good reason. So, travel sleep sacks are now a thing, and come in all fabrics and price ranges. This pick is reasonably priced and gets outstanding reviews.

SHEEX Performance Sleep•Sax

This is a one-piece lightweight sack, designed with a built-in pocket for a pillow. The sack is made from the company’s proprietary “technical” fabric, which is stretchy, silky and soft, and wicks moisture away from the body for a cooler sleep. Folded, it weighs less than two pounds, and it easily packs in carry-on or checked bags.


Neck support

For most of us, an overnight flight is spent hunched in our economy seat. A quality neck pillow can make the difference between unremitting soreness and a good night’s sleep.

Infinity Pillow

Here’s an innovative take on the neck pillow, from Amsterdam-based BCXSY. Its Möbius shape twists and molds to fit the space the wearer’s in, even if it’s just at home on the couch. The company says, “Neck support, lumbar pillow, window pillow, desk pillow, eye mask, noise-canceling pillow—you’ve got them all in this unique design.”


Noise-canceling headphones

I find the earbuds provided by airlines infuriating. They don’t stay in my ears and are really uncomfortable, to boot. Plus, they’re not created to block the noise of the teenager playing video games in the next row. But these highly rated headphones are.

Sony WH-1000XM4

This model is an update of Sony’s popular XM3, featuring closed-back, over-the-ear headphones with active noise cancelation, a form-fitting headband with relaxed, breathable earcups, Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity for wireless music listening and phone calls with compatible smartphone, and other high-tech upgrades. These are not just for travel, and will surely score mega-points with the giftee.


Gifts for Yoga-Lovers

After decades of practicing all kinds of yoga, I’ve learned that the right “yoga stuff” can make a big difference in enjoying yoga class, whether in-studio or at-home. Of course, what is “right” is a very individual choice, but for those who know their yoga buff well, one of these picks could be a holiday hit.

Yoga mats

Honestly, we can all use another good yoga mat. The range of mats out there is overwhelming, but here are three tested possibilities for holiday gifting.

Gaiam Classic Yoga Mat

Well-established company Gaiam makes a range of yoga mats, but for the non-fussy practitioner, their basic “Classic” mats, which come in a range of colors and prints, are a fine choice. Their thickness is 4mm, and they are latex-free.


Manduka eKO Lite Mat

Manduka’s eKO Lite Mat promises “a naturally grippy surface,” always helpful in Downward Dog. It’s made from biodegradable, non-Amazon harvested tree rubber and is 4mm thick.


Toned by Baggedem “The Sisters” mats

Recommended by master yoga teacher Kip Taylor of Richmond’s Gaia Yoga, these mats are designed and manufactured by two Black female yogis. Features include an extra-long length that can accommodate taller people, and a bit of extra cushion at 5mm thickness. Made from microsuede and 100% natural rubber, they proudly display Black women in various classic yoga poses.


Yoga mat bags

Sure, people can schlep their mat and props to class without a bag, but why? Here are two very different choices, one big enough to hold everything—and inspiring fond memories of early yoga days—and one hi-tech and streamlined.

Kindfolk’s Yoga Mat Duffel

Made from vegan and environmentally friendly materials, this canvas duffel will hold mat, towel, blocks and strap, plus has an exterior pocket for keys and phone. Also, as with all Kindfolk products, $1 of the purchase price will be donated to one of the company’s three nonprofit partners, “to help empower women around the world.”


The Nature Collection/Nature Core Yoga Bag

There is no question that yoga can be sweaty. The germaphobe yogi will appreciate this bag, which is made from silver-embedded healthcare-quality material, inside and out. It’s designed to carry just the mat, but with clean, “antimicrobial style.” Detachable strap included.


Yoga eye pillows

The final resting position in almost all yoga classes, shavasana, is enhanced with the use of a weighted eye pillow. This pillow recommendation also comes from Gaia Yoga’s Kip Taylor.

Sonoma Lavender Lavender Eye Pillow

This silk pillow is filled with flaxseed and scented with real lavender. Placed over the eyes, its gentle weight relaxes eye strain and blocks out the light, as the calming lavender scent aids in relaxation. It comes in a pretty slipcase.


Yoga socks

Bare feet are still the norm in most classes, but I now prefer to use yoga socks. Most socks are, of course, the traditional “most boring” gift—but not these. The pick below is actually more like a very lightweight shoe, but stays on well and comes in a wide range of colors and prints. It is also recommended for barre and Pilates.

Tavi Noir Emma Grip Socks

“Mary Jane”-style design, with an added heel tab to protect the Achilles tendon. The company’s “stellar grip” bottom-of-the-sock pattern keeps a good foothold, especially helpful in balancing poses.


Yoga blankets

In California, at least, the favorite yoga blanket has always been the Mexican “falsa” blanket, made of washable acrylic. They roll up easily to use as a prop, and provide warmth and comfort during shavasana. Many more blanket styles are available now, but the oldie-but-goodie remains a perfect choice. Take a look at a slightly upgraded version, below.

Benevolence LA Mexican Premium Serape Falsa Blanket

Made by Mexican artisans, of hypoallergenic recycled synthetic material, the Premium Serape Falsa Blanket measures 79 by 51 inches, comes in a variety of bright colors and prints, is machine washable and should be line dried. Benevolence LA gives back through its charity partners with every purchase—in this case, to the Water Mission.


Yoga Music

Some prefer complete silence when doing a yoga session at home, but I like music that complements the practice. I have a special place in my heart for music company Putumayo, which has done so much to bring all kinds of music from all over the world to U.S. music fans. Its site lists several “yoga music” offerings, but the two below are my picks.

Putumayo Presents Acoustic Yoga and World Yoga

Simple, melodic tracks can be the most soothing, as in Acoustic Yoga, but if a more vigorous session is in progress, World Yoga, with selections from Mali to Nepal, may be just the thing. It’s hard to gift wrap downloads and streams, but Putumayo has those available as well, including a 320-bit MP3 digital download.


Muscle/joint relief

Moon Valley Organics Herbal Muscle Rub

This final pick is from Gaia’s Kip Taylor, who loves the Washington State–based company’s whole line. The rub contains only organic ingredients, including safflower oil, beeswax, sunflower, safflower herb, orange essential oil, cayenne, ginger, lobelia, arnica, habanero, clove essential oil and Vitamin E made from sunflowers. It’s worth getting sore muscles just to use it.$12.99/ (search “muscle rub”)

East Bay Express E-edition East Bay Express E-edition
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