Finest vacation items beneath $250 for 2020

This story is part of Holiday Gift Guide 2020, CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.

Identical to all the pieces else in 2020, the holidays are going to be weird and different this 12 months — and a number of us shall be avoiding journeys to the shop and as a substitute trying on-line for the right present for family and friends.

The $100 to $250 vary might be a candy spot to discover a considerate current on your family members that sparks pleasure with out wreaking havoc in your present budget this vacation season. Whether or not it is a cool new machine or gadget, or a candy accent, there’s some great things right here — even for that difficult-to-shop-for-person in your life (everybody’s acquired one, and that particular person is the bane of their Christmas present listing). On this vacation present information, you will discover a variety of concepts in our picks for one of the best items beneath $250 for any vacation event.

Solo Range

Yard hearth pits have been a keystone for social exercise in the course of the COVID-19 period — and that is one of the best of them, hands-down. Constructed from sturdy stainless-steel, and with a vented design that promotes air stream, the Solo Range produces a lovely and deeply warming hearth with little or no smoke or airborne ash. (Maybe better of all, your garments don’t reek of smoke the morning after.) Obtainable in three sizes and costs, this can be a slam dunk vacation present for any hearth pit fanatic. 


It wasn’t till I found the opening within the heart of the Bobcat backpacking quilt that its true potential was revealed. Sure, this 600-fill duck down insulated blanket is loads heat and, weighing a mere 20 ounces, mild sufficient for tenting (or sofa browsing). Nevertheless it’s the quilt’s poncho mode that makes it the perfect accent for hanging exterior on the hearth pit. This quilt will go on sale for 20% off on Dec. 1.


There are many inexpensive photo voltaic panels that serve the identical goal as this one — capturing (and storing) the solar’s vitality and making it accessible to your telephone, pill or different machine through a USB-C connection. However Grouphug’s model is worthy of show, with its tasteful bamboo body, clear design and handmade aesthetic. The built-in 3,400-mAh rechargeable battery takes lengthy whereas to cost — about 10 hours in direct daylight — however who’s in a rush today, anyway? 


I used to be skeptical that I may get an actual cardio exercise — in my cramped front room — by strapping on a VR headset. However Supernatural rapidly set me straight. The essential premise is not distinctive: The app units gamified, choreographed exercises to standard music. However the high quality and diploma of immersion, due to the Oculus Quest VR expertise (sold separately, starting at $299), is distinctive. And it is not a gimmick: Supernatural’s deep bench of interesting instructors, frequently up to date choice of exercises — starting from meditative yoga periods to difficult cardio burners — and dialed-in playlists put it on par with what you get on the trendiest (and priciest) NYC gyms. The annual membership prices $179.

David Carnoy/CNET

In the event you’re trying to maximize your visibility whereas using a motorcycle, scooter or one other private transportation machine, the Lumos Matrix actually does job ensuring you are seen. This sensible helmet not solely has a lightweight on the entrance however an LED matrix on the again that is totally customizable through a companion app. You’ll be able to have all the pieces from customary flashing crimson triangles to eye-catching patterns to quick messages scroll throughout the again of your head in ticker-tape style. There’s even a PacMan animation (pictured), in addition to a wide range of coloration choices.

Moreover, the helmet features a small distant that permits you to allow you to activate a flip sign (on the again show), letting these behind you realize what your subsequent transfer is. Obtainable in black or white, the Matrix is slightly heavier than your typical bike helmet. It suits head sizes from 22 to 24 inches (56 to 61cm) and has an impact-resistant EPS foam liner and ABS shell that provides first rate safety. 

That is Lumos’ present flagship mannequin. The Extremely, a brand new, extra inexpensive sensible helmet with extra restricted lighting is offered for preorder now for $84 (it is set to ship in April). It is obtainable in youth sizes.


In the event you’re trying to get your youngsters offline and out of the home — or need to really feel like a child your self once more — the Traxxas Stampede is cool (and quick) sufficient to get anybody to search for from their telephone. With a prime velocity within the 30-mph vary, this high-performance distant management monster truck can roll over a wide range of terrain and, courtesy of its waterproof electronics, by way of any mud puddle. I laughed and howled like a 10-year-old throughout my first few take a look at rides.

Although there’s slightly little bit of a studying curve — you will have to bone up on lithium polymer batteries and recharging peripherals — it is no extra difficult than organising a brand new smartphone. (An entry-level LiPo battery and charger combo will run you one other $60 or so.) And learners will profit from the truck’s “coaching mode,” which cuts its appreciable velocity in half that can assist you domesticate your dealing with abilities. I’ll admit to having crashed this automobile repeatedly — but it surely nonetheless performs flawlessly, with just a few beauty nicks to point out for it. And if you happen to do wreck your rig, it is OK: Traxxas is thought for its fairly priced substitute components and restore charges.

David Carnoy/CNET

New for 2020, Bose has simply launched its second-generation Frames. Sure, they’re sun shades with wi-fi headphones built-in. In addition they sound extremely good. We actually just like the Tempo fashion proven right here, however you can too go for the Tenor or Soprano styles as a substitute.

Read our Bose Frames review.

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Since dropping in value throughout Amazon Prime Day, the Apple AirPods are simpler to advocate as a killer pair of wi-fi in-ear headphones. With a successful design and match, strong sound high quality and bass efficiency, and really efficient noise canceling, they’re wonderful for making calls and listening to music — even throughout a exercise. In addition they now supply an amazing spatial audio feature when used with appropriate Apple gadgets — one thing you will not discover on different true wi-fi headphones.

Read our Apple AirPods Pro review.


The Glow lamp is a extremely moveable, rechargeable night-light that is undeniably stunning, straightforward to setup and nice to make use of. It is turn out to be integral to my household’s bedtime routine, and we now have two of them. We use them each night time and take them with us wherever we go. (And that is one other factor — they’re surprisingly robust.) 

Due to its built-in gyroscope, you flip the Glow over to show it on and off, twist it to dim it up or down or shake it to set off the low night-light setting. The lamp produces a pleasing ambient glow — therefore the title — that dims steadily over 15 to 60 minutes. You’ll be able to management the span utilizing Casper’s streamlined iOS and Android-compatible app, and set the sunshine to come back on within the morning — a reverse night-light, of types.

Read our Casper Glow preview.

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In the case of gaming consoles, your entry level for the brand new, cool stuff is mainly $300 — that is the value tag for the Xbox Collection S, the Oculus Quest 2 or a full-featured Nintendo Switch. However you may get in on our sub-$250 funds right here with the Nintendo Swap Lite, which drops the removable controllers and the TV-out performance of its older sibling in change for a extra wallet-friendly $200 value level. You may nonetheless have the ability to play almost all the identical video games, together with Nintendo-only exclusives from the Animal Crossing, Zelda and Mario collection. After disappearing from (digital) retailer cabinets early on within the pandemic, the Swap Lite is more and more, although nonetheless intermittently, available from multiple national retailers.

Read our Switch Lite review.

With a number of households working, studying and streaming from dwelling, family wi-fi networks are being examined like by no means earlier than. We put in a Google Nest Wifi system at our home this spring and have been impressed with its speedy efficiency. The connection is perceptibly quicker, extra expansive and extra strong than our prior setup, and the $169 router (at the moment $139 at Amazon) will probably be ample for many properties. That stated, the range-extending Wifi level — which doubles as a Google Assistant sensible speaker — could also be value the additional dough. Additionally regulate the Eero mesh networking set. The older three-node model typically drops as low as $200, with a freebie Echo speaker thrown in, and the corporate simply debuted a new model for 2020 that folds in help for the Zigbee dwelling automation wi-fi customary.

Read our Nest Wifi review.

Vanessa Hand Orellana/CNET

Essentially the most inexpensive Apple Watch ever launched, the Apple Watch SE boasts a extra highly effective processor, a Retina show that is 30% bigger than the Collection 3’s show and help for Apple’s new Family Setup plan. Although it retails for $279, we have seen it on sale for $230, however the value fluctuates fairly a bit — particularly round this time of 12 months. If the SE is slightly too dear for you, the Apple Watch Collection 3 is at the moment promoting for $169, making it the least costly choice within the present lineup.

Read our Apple Watch SE review.


Having spent a whole lot of {dollars} on awful suitcases through the years, I can say that the Monos Carry On is definitely worth the cash, and it is the right present for journey lovers. With an identical aesthetic and value level as Away’s lineup of recent suitcases (which you could have seen on Instagram), Monos delivers all the pieces you need in a curler bag: a light-weight however sturdy shell, a pleasant number of compartments, pockets and straps and a well-engineered retractable deal with. Plus, it comes with a 100-day free trial and lifelong guarantee.


Created from recycled ocean-bound plastic bottles, this implausible duffle bag has precisely the correct amount of storage capability, with handles on each floor, and it may be worn on the shoulder or as a backpack. Personally, I like the Olive Dot Camo design.

Swiss Military

I have been utilizing this stunning Victorinox chef’s knife for the previous 12 months and it is turn out to be considered one of my indispensable kitchen instruments. The blade is fluted, so it will not stick with what you are reducing, and the elegant wood deal with offers it the right quantity of heft. It is sharp sufficient to make reducing meat, fish, fruit, greens and cheeses an absolute pleasure.

Williams Sonoma

Having gone by way of a collection of overcomplicated meals processors, the simplicity of this Cuisinart mannequin is interesting. There are two paddle buttons — on and off, which doubles as a “pulse” choice — and the massive 14-cup bowl is sturdy and simple to wash. It comes with three blades and discs — do you really want greater than that? — and the 720-watt motor is powerful sufficient to energy by way of no matter you throw at it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

I’ve a small, easy one-zone dwelling, the place the thermostat controls solely the furnace. Final 12 months, I purchased a number of completely different top-rated sensible thermostats and, with the help of my neighborhood electrician, put in and examined them separately. The Nest was the one I saved. It is a snap to arrange and it completely delivers on the few options I needed: scheduled temperature adjustment, interesting aesthetics, an intuitive interface and absolute management through iPhone or Android. 

That famous, CNET’s present prime choose for best smart thermostat, the marginally pricier Ecobee Good Thermostat is unquestionably value a glance.

Read our Nest Learning Thermostat Third Generation review.

Extra vacation present concepts

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