15 Awesome (and Affordable) Gift Ideas for Graduates

young travelers

Written by Alexandra Baackes on

Alexandra Baackes is a traveling writer, designer, and underwater videographer. She is currently in her fifth year of living as a full-time nomad—follow along on her website.

young travelers


Looking for an affordable gift idea for a recent high school or college grad? Trust us: These presents are way better than Christmas lights or mini-dry erase boards.


It's that time of year—caps winging through air and recent graduates are looking ahead to life beyond. This is a major milestone for them, so if you know a student graduating high school or college, don't slip a gift card or a check into a card (boring!). This is the time to celebrate that next big step in your friends’ lives and buy that person a graduation present he or she will truly love (and use!). No matter your budget, you're sure to find a perfectly unique gift idea they’ll love and use for years to come.


1. Bag for Trips

If your graduate thought dorms were bad, wait until he or she tries living out of a backpack. Make the transition as seamless as possible with a new backpack that works just as well for commuting to classes or work as it does for travel—the  Wayfinder Backpack will fit their new life trajectory to a T.  The organizational pack boasts multiple safety features (like a hidden tech pocket on back panel), a padded 17” laptop compartment with additional tablet sleeve, plenty of storage space, and lockable, self-repairing zippers. Oh, and your grad will love knowing it’s also made from Bluesign® approved fabrics and recycled materials harvested from landfills.


2. Unusual Deck of Cards

It’s hard to transition from the rigid world of academia to the rules-free world of travel. Ease the graduate into it with the Anywhere Travel Guide, a whimsical deck of cards that contains prompts such as, “Ask the next person you meet where his/her favorite street is. Go there.” Another: “Write down what you like about this city on a small piece of paper. Leave it where someone else will find it later.” Now that’s what we call fun homework!


3. Quality Watch

Now that they have a high school or college degree, it’s time to clue your friend in to a professional’s best-kept secret: There are non-ringing devices that actually tell time! Introduce your graduate to a real wristwatch as they enter the real world. 


4. Lightweight Library

Life after graduation means there's more to read than just assigned books and textbooks. A Kindle Paperwhite e-reader takes up a fraction of the space of a single paperback, and ensures that your favorite graduate has an entire library at his or her fingertips.


5. Waist Pack

Fanny packs are back and your grad will dig the versatility of the Wayfinder Waist Pack, which will hold their smartphone while they're out adventuring and keep their wallet and important items close. For a stylish option that comes in a range of colors, consider the Stash Cross Body Bag as a perfect graduation gift idea. 


6. Leather-Bound Journal

As your graduate ventures off to the next exciting chapter, make sure they are keeping track of their adventures. Not only will keeping a journal help them remember this time in their life, but will help them keep track of their day-to-day adventures, emotions, successes, and challenges. This personalized leather-bound journal will last even longer than those student loan payments.


7. Solid Shampoo & Accessory Pouch

After years of buying toiletries on a student budget, recent college grads will love the chance to upgrade to the much-touted Lush solid shampoo. Not only is the bar form leak-free for when they’re traveling, solid shampoo is also lightweight and eco-friendly (less single-use plastic in landfills!)—oh, and they smell phenomenal, too. If you’re springing for one of these, pair it with an upgraded toiletry kit for your graduate. The  Pack-It™ Reveal Hanging Toiletry Kit is made with a durable, water-repellent, material which will last them for many years of travel to come.


8. Portable Phone Charger

Now that the recent graduate in your life is either headed to college or beginning the job hunt, help them be certain they always have enough power for their phone with a portable smartphone charger that’s not much bigger than a credit card. Less than ten ounces, this pocket-sized power pack won't feel heavy in any bag, fanny pack, or wallet.


9. A Filtering Water Bottle

 Gift the LifeStraw Go—a high quality filtering water bottle—if your grad’s travel adventures will take them far off the beaten path. To take the gift to the next level, stash the water bottle in the side pocket of a Global Companion backpack, which is sturdy enough to see your grad through years of round the world adventures.


10. Set Of Packing Cubes

Packing cubes are the single best way for your grad to organize themselves while they travel (and in their dorm rooms too, if your high school grad is heading to college!). Gift your grad the  Pack-it Reveal Cube Set to start their collection—it comes in several fun colors and will certainly upgrade your graduate’s travel experience.


11. A Tech-Enhanced Travel Wallet

If there’s one thing the majority of college graduates have in common, it’s debt—and uncertainty over how to get rid of it. While taking on that student loan payment may be just out of your gift budget (by a few zeros!), a bit of fun money is a gift universally appreciated by college grads. Stash a green surprise away in an  RFID Travel Zip Organizer ($25) or RFID Wristlet Wallet—just make sure they know it’s in there!


12. The Ultimate Travel Sleep Set

Sleeping in hostels—on uncomfortable beds, surrounded by strangers who can come and go and turn the lights on and off at any hour of the night—is not easy. Neither are increasingly cramped plane rides. Help your grad get better zzz's while traveling by giving sleep essentials like a  Memory-Foam Neck Pillow,  Travel Ear Plugs, and a Sandman Eyeshade to help them sleep.


While there’s still no comprehensive how-to guide for the “real world” for a college grad, these unique gifts will help them transition from “students” to “alumni.”



Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

20 Gifts Perfect for Millennial Travelers

Best Travel Gifts for Men

Best Travel Gifts for Women