10 Great Travel Gifts to Give or Receive Paul Eisenberg
It’s that time of year again when our mail and email boxes as well as our favorite websites, newspapers, magazines, and cable channels are relentlessly overrun with astounding sales on merchandise that retailers couldn’t get consumers to buy at higher prices the rest of the year.
Though if you think about it, this time of year is pretty much like every other time of year, and if you’re in the market to buy…well, anything, for yourself or someone else, the overwhelming choices will make you downright anxious. How do you choose a good gift, especially if you have little or no time to research one?
You rely on guys on me. And if you’re looking to buy a travel-oriented gift – be it a stocking stuffer for your favorite cousin or office Secret Santa, a mid-range present for that special someone, or a big-ticket item for that really special someone, you’ve come to the right post. Here now, ten great travel gifts that would be swell to give – or get – this holiday season or, really, anytime.
Gifts Under $20
Great For: Outdoorsy travelers, road trippers
Having a flashlight handy on vacation is always a good idea and having a working flashlight without dead batteries is an even better one, which is why this model packs appeal – it’s powered by a hand crank and, alternately, by a solar panel – in lieu of conventional batteries. Crank it for a minute and you’ll get 15 minutes of light; charge it indoors or by sunlight for eight hours, and you’ll get two hours of light. Plus, at 4 ¼”high and 2 ½” wide and weighing in at less than 4 ounces, it’s easy enough to stow this gadget in your carry-on, coat or glove compartment.
Great For: Air travelers, wheelie bag fans
I’m lucky to know several flight attendants who not only share juicy passenger stories but also give me great advice about what to pack, and the Tugo often crops up as a favorite gadget. It’s a coffee cup holder that nestles said cup between the handles of your wheelie bag, and through a mix of physics and sorcery knows to pivot the cup, depending on whether you’re pulling your suitcase or leaving your bag upright. Not only does the Tugo leave you with a precious free hand, but it’s easy to untie and shove into your suitcase when you don’t need it anymore. If you’re not a big coffee drinker, there’s a Tugo designed to carry overpriced bottles of airport water, too.
Great For: Traveling moms, women business travelers
While I favor a gallon-sized zip-top bag for storing wet garments, you might have someone on your gift list who’d like a more elegant solution, such as this bag constructed of a “leak-proof polyurethane laminate lining and cotton exterior.” It also has pretty designs on the outside. And, it’s machine washable, useful if you’ve used the pouch for garments that are both wet and dirty, such as soggy gym clothes or chlorine-saturated bathing suits.
Great for: All travelers
As a stocking stuffer gift this is pretty lame on its own, but it’s an undeniably thoughtful item to add to the mix in everybody’s stocking, especially since cold and flu season overlaps so neatly with the winter holidays. And given that handy loop on the carrier, there’s no excuse not to attach one to every backpack or carryon that you take on the road.
Mid-Priced Gifts: $20-$40
Great for: Business travelers
Yes, I know there are many travelers and technophiles who view travel alarm clocks as both antiquated and redundant in an era when smartphones, hotel room clock radios and wake-up calls can prevent us from oversleeping, but you know what? Every one of those methods has either failed me or left me wondering if it’s going to fail me. Like many travel alarm clocks, this one is small, light, and smart looking and it also has an inoffensive amber backlight and “large-format display” (aka big numbers) to spare you from fishing for your eyeglasses if you need to check the time.
Great For: Family travelers
If you spend a fair amount of your life searching for lost stuff – keys, wallets, cell phones, chargers, eyeglasses – the Tile will likely give you many of those hours back. Attach a tile to your commonly misplaced item, proceed to misplace it, and then use the Tile app on your phone to locate it. The closer you get to the lost item, the stronger the app’s tracking signal gets. A celebratory song plays when you locate the item. And if the scatterbrains in your brood constantly misplace their cell phones, you can use tiles to track those, too. The app will track up to eight tiles, and will even remember the last place any given tile-tethered item was tracked, which can be particularly handy at large hotels and resorts, favorite places for families to spread out and misplace their stuff.
Great for: Active travelers, hotel gym aficionados
I never really considered myself an active traveler or availed myself of hotel gyms, but that changed last year when I was unexpectedly accepted into the New York City Marathon, and I’ve been using these earphones virtually every day since I received a pair last May. They’ve endured every workout, the ear hooks ensuring that I never have to fiddle to keep the earphones in place, and were every bit as reliable during the marathon. The durability and reliability of these headphones is just as important to me as the sound, which is also terrific. Philips doesn’t appear to sell this product directly anymore, but you can find it through Amazon sellers fairly easily.
Great For: Family road trippers
As much time as the human race spends looking for its lost stuff, we probably spend almost as much time looking for a place to charge that stuff and worrying when we can’t find one. I touched on a few charging solutions in a previous post and even though I don’t own a car, my family and I spend enough time renting them to see the need for this item. It converts your car outlet into a four-port USB charger that not only charges up to four gadgets, but also delivers only as much charging power as each gadget needs. The charger will instantly end arguments about who needs the charger more. Though here’s a reality check: If all four USB ports are constantly in use, is that a sign that your family should try to, you know, talk more during your car trip? Nah…
Big Ticket Items: $160-$300
Great for: Traveling dads and other men who have been really good this year
As a parent for 15+ years it almost goes without saying that I can’t have too many pockets in my clothing when I travel, between my own personal belongings, the items my wife and children want me to carry, and the things I would rather my kids not carry. And while I often say that as a parent I surrendered my dignity long ago, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like cool-looking jackets that do cool things, like this fleece number that not only has 23 pockets (including one that holds an iPad), but get this, you can zip off the sleeves if you want to wear the garment as a vest. As the owner of several pairs of dorky-looking pants with zip-off legs, I would describe the overall look and design of this jacket as decidedly non-dorky, which is why this item is at the top of my wish list.
Great for: The traveler at the top of your nice list
Earlier this year I won this watch during a Twitter party, and my first thought was, I lived without wearable tech for this long and I really don’t need a new wristwatch. Well, any thoughts of selling the Gear 2 on eBay disappeared the first time I slipped it on.
For starters, I have thin wrists, and the watch band adjusted easily so it looks like it was custom-fitted. And then there’s the feature I soon realized I didn’t want to live without, the pedometer, which dutifully counted every step of my marathon training these last few months. Features I seldom use but that you might find useful include a heart monitor, TV remote, and voice recorder. And if you sync the watch via Bluetooth to your Samsung smartphone (luckily I already had one of those) any texts or calls you receive on your phone will register on the watch, handy if you can’t take your phone out of your pocket. There’s also a good camera built into the watch – which has proved useful during several travel situations – and if your watch and phone are synced, any photos you take with the watch will automatically transfer over to your phone’s photo gallery.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the watch is that virtually everyone I encounter – friends, family, and especially strangers – makes a comment about it. A woman who noticed it on the subway recently said it was the type of gadget she thought her son would enjoy receiving as a gift, and I couldn’t disagree.
Those are my picks for top Holiday Gifts - what's on your Wish List this year?