Gifts for Grads Taking a Gap Year

Help them make the most of their time off.

By Zoe Sayler

The products listed here were independently selected by a member of the editorial staff. Should you choose to purchase a product through a link on this page, we may receive an affiliate commission.

Not your velcro passport holder.

Find me a college freshman and I'll show you someone who either: A) Wishes they'd taken a gap year, or B) Did take a gap year, and extols its virtues to every teen who'll listen. Here's what we're gifting those lucky (and wise) enough to give themselves a break.

Primary Recycled Leather Passport Case, MoMA Design Store


Lanyards are so freshman year. Grads needn't sacrifice design, or their newfound maturity, for a protected passport.

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She's Birdie Personal Safety Alarm, She's Birdie


Image: She's Birdie

Provide peace of mind for a traveling graduate—and their nervous parents—with a personal alarm that's TSA carry-on friendly (can't say that for pepper spray) and lets off an attention-grabbing siren and a strobe light with the pull of a pin. 

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Geoduck Travel Pillow, Feathered Friends Local


Airplanes, hostels, tents, trains—name one traveling scenario that couldn't be vastly improved by a packable pillow filled with actual down.

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Protect Puget Sound T-Shirt, Viaduct Local


Image: Viaduct

Help expedite the meeting-new-people process with a conversation-starting, PNW-repping tee from our favorite local gear brand.

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Cotopaxi Allpa 35L Travel Pack, REI Local


Image: REI

The most crucial big-ticket item for a grad on the move? A big bag (that won't add any more strain to their back than all those textbooks). Cotopaxi's 35L travel bag features a backpacking harness with a removable hip belt, tons of organization and security measures, and carry-on-friendly dimensions.

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The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, Penguin Random House Local


Gap years aren't all about physical exploration—they're also a fantastic time for introspection. Renowned American poet Theodore Roethke, who taught at the University of Washington from 1947 until he died in 1963, shares wisdom (and woes): "I teach my sighs to lengthen into songs, Yet, like a tree endure the shift of things."

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Pourigami Travel Coffee Dripper, Miir Local


Image: Miir

Real Seattleites don’t let a backpacking trip get in the way of their artisanal beans. Wallingford-based Miir’s pocket-sized foldable dripper makes a great gift for travelers with little space and lots of caffeine-related opinions.

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Smiley x Smathers and Branson Smiley Face Needlepoint Luggage Tag, Nordstrom Local


Image: Nordstrom

We have a rationally irrational fear of losing luggage—about one in every 250 bags gets lost at least temporarily, per Travel and Leisure. This recognizable tag makes us feel a little more optimistic, not least because of its reassuring smiley face.

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Breda Sky Play Watch, Prism Local


Image: Prism

Watches feel like a classic graduation gift, but the conspicuously expensive, wear-with-a-suit type won't cut it for an intrepid adventurer. This simple recycled watch stands up to heat, water, and at least one gap year's worth of serious living.

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