With less than a month to go until Dec. 1, we are now fully into the holiday season. That means it’s time to start strategizing about gifts. From smart home gadgets and devices to luxury items, wireless earbuds and jewelry, what are some of the best holiday gifts under $250? If you’re looking for something thoughtful while still staying on a budget, here’s a quick roundup of some of the best gifts under $250 — all great gift ideas that we think would make the perfect holiday that much better.
This thing rocks. Kids, adult gamers and frequent flyers will find it perfectly sized for handheld gaming, with everything they need to access Nintendo’s immense and celebrated library of games. It has a microSD card slot to expand its storage, and a USB-C port for charging and connecting to wired controller accessories. And it’s $100 cheaper than the full-sized Switch. Sure, you can’t dock it or detach the controllers — but neither of those are deal-breakers for most people. Straight up: This is probably the best mobile gaming system on the market.
Read our Switch Lite review.
Sony’s WF-1000XM3 ear buds deliver excellent audio quality, strong battery life and a quick-charging USB-C connection. My colleagues who’ve tested them tend to get a bit breathless when talking about them, claiming they’re hands-down the most comfortable earbuds on the market with active noise cancellation.
Read our Sony WF-1000XM3 review.
I wore the the Garmin Forerunner 235 all summer. It’s a full-featured fitness tracker that accurately captures all of the details of my workouts, whether I’m running or on my bike. I wear it around the clock, into the shower and while swimming in the ocean, and it tracks my steps and sleep. It has an optical heart-rate sensor and can offer up some pretty complex training data — including an estimate of my VO2 Max and predicted race times and recovery periods. The battery life is stellar; I charge it about once a week.
There’s a specific use case for this Garmin watch, and it fits me exactly. I wanted a watch that that was free from the uber-connectedness of an Apple Watch — I don’t need any more distractions. (I also tested the newer and more attractive Garmin 245, which is more refined but also $100 more expensive, and cluttered with more traditional smart watch features.) Compatible with both iOS and Android, I think the $230 Garmin 235 is a great choice for both casual and hardcore athletes who don’t want a phone on their wrist.
That noted, since introducing its newest model in September, Apple has marked down the Series 3 to a very reasonable $199. That’s a solid deal and a very respectable alternative if you’re already in the Apple ecosystem or want those emails, texts and other notifications streaming across your wrist.
Read our Garmin 235 review.
Apple released a new version of its flagship iPad in September, increasing the display size to 10.2 inches, adding a dock connector and — well, that was about it. Otherwise, it’s virtually identical to the 9.7-inch iPad Apple introduced in 2018, which remains the best deal in the lineup — when you can find it on sale for $250. That price is available often, but not always. At the moment, Walmart has the best deal, $299, on the 128GB model.
Read our 2018 iPad review.
These Technic Lego sets are expensive — but, in my experience, worth it. In my house, the kids are always excited about a new Lego set. They spend a few hours building it, life is great and then one of two things happen: they plant their new creation on a side table and never touch it again or jettison it into the colossal Lego morass we keep in an oversized cloth bag. Finis. Late-stage capitalism crushes us again.
But the Technic sets can have a longer lifespan. Because once you’re done building this 958-piece 4×4 truck, you have a remote-control car that you can drive with Lego’s intuitive Technic app. That has a bit more lasting power. The company says this set is designed for kids ages 11 and up, but I think that even younger kids will appreciate it — if they have the support of an adult to help them problem-solve.
Offering all of the comfort and warmth of a traditional down sleeping bag, Rumpl’s synthetic alternative is hands-down the coziest blanket I’ve ever used. Stuffed with the company’s 100% postconsumer recycled NanoLoft insulation and made with ripstop polyester, it’s incredibly lightweight, stylish and a joy to wrap around you.
A camping chair that’s legitimately stylish enough for the living room. This Helinox chair weighs just over 2 pounds but can accommodate up to 320 pounds (and I know this because my kids often sit on my lap when I’m in it). The aluminum poles are sturdy, lightweight and easy to set up, making it portable enough to bring almost anywhere. and the woven seat, which comes in 12 colors, strikes the right balance of style, comfort and durability.
A colleague bought this thing for me and it’s become one of my most prized possessions. It’s expensive — and I wouldn’t have spent my own money on it — but it’s become an essential, almost sacramental part of my morning coffee ritual. The concept is simple: The porcelain Ember Mug keeps your coffee the perfect temperature — technically, 130 degrees, though that’s adjustable via the iOS- and Android-compatible app — for a little more than an hour.
Note that Ember recently released a new, bigger and pricier version of the mug. My colleague Brian Bennett found that it’s marginally better — but even more overpriced. Fair enough. I’ll be testing it myself in the near future. For now, the older model remains available on Amazon at a considerable discount.
Read our take on the Ember Mug.
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