For this year’s review of gifts for the traveler, I asked some frequent travelers what items they find invaluable and what is on their wish lists. It was interesting to find commonalities concerning what is important to them. What follows are all manner of gift suggestions from stocking stuffers to more expensive purchases.
First, I want to mention some gadgets that I like. I recently discovered Travelon’s Bag Bungee ($10-$15) which helps secure a second bag or other item, such as a coat, to the telescoping handle of a carryon. In the past, when I traveled with a carryon and a second bag for my laptop, back up hard drive and other electronic devices, the second bag was heavy and awkward to carry. Since discovering the Bag Bungee, negotiating through airports has become so much easier. I love it.
When traveling, I like to use a handbag or convertible back pack that thwarts thieves yet is somewhat stylish. Through the years, I have accumulated a collection of Pac Safe and VaultPro bags in a variety of styles and colors. Both companies feature products that are slash resistant and have internal zippered compartments as well as clasp and lock closures. I like Pac Safe for purses and VaultPro for an all-in-one that can be used as backpack, purse or shoulder bag. They are available online from a variety of retailers and prices are less than $100.
I’ve been talking about it for years, and I finally invested in a windproof travel umbrella. So many times I have had to purchase a new travel umbrella while on the road because the wind destroyed the one I had with me. The one I purchased for about $35 at 11 inches long is a bit longer than I usually like for a fold up and weighs 12 ounces, but it works well.
Most of the frequent travelers I queried put an iPad or iPad mini at the top of their list of invaluables. With just one device, one has a camera, photo album, method to communicate with others, journal and an unlimited supply of books, entertainment and research sources. I like “bubble” cases for my devices for added protection. Just as bubble wrap protects fragile items, the foam interior of bubble cases acts as a shock absorber. Tuff Luv, rooCASE and Hard Candyare among the companies that make bubble cases which can be purchased from about $20 to $50.
Two of my traveler friends wished for something to organize and hold all the cords and cables that are needed for electronic devices. Online travel merchandisers sell a variety of organizer cases, with Grid It a popular brand. Prices start at about $10. One traveler wished for a universal cord that could be used for all electronics; on her last trip, she had to pack one each for her phone, Kindle, camera and tablet. There are 3-in-1 USB charger cables with 30 pin, 8 pin lightning and microUSB connections, however, some user reviews of such cables are not encouraging; and if it malfunctions, then you have lost the ability to charge all of your devices. A better option might be the Mophie USB Memory Flex Travel Kit for $40. It has three separate cables for 30 pin, lightning and micro USB, but they are only four inches long and flexible. Griffin Technology and Incase have similar kits at a somewhat lower cost.
A great gift for world traveler’s is flight001.com’s $25 color coded 4-in-1 adapter. Its clever nesting design makes it compact, and all one has to do is match the color of one of the adapters with an accompanying map to find the necessary plug.
Most of my frequent traveler advisors noted the importance of a lightweight carry on bag with good wheels. No one seems to have found the perfect one. Lightweight is key. I like soft-sided bags and those with four wheels. The four wheels are more maneuverable, and I can push my bag as well as pull it. I’ve read dozens of reviews of lightweight luggage; seven pounds is typically viewed as “lightweight” yet sturdy, although I’ve seen some come in at six and one as low as just over five. Travelpro gets consistently good ratings; IT seems to have the lightest bags. When purchasing carryons, do pay attention to the dimensions. Some of the airlines have changed what is acceptable and are beginning to actually enforce the limits. Some international airlines weigh carryons and impose the weight limit.
A monocular was noted as a favorite take along by my friends who spend six weeks in Europe every year with just carryons and backpacks. The monocular is lighter than and takesup less space than binoculars.
Looking for a gift of clothing for the traveler? It should be lightweight, a neutral color, wrinkle free, and if there are pockets, they should be deep, preferably zippered. Scott vest and other online travel companies have a range of clothing options with pickpocket dissuading concealed and zippered pockets.
One item sought after by a few of my advisors is a lightweight waterproof poncho. I’ve been looking at something called the Rain Wrap. It is water repellent, reversible, fast drying, folds up into a pouch and comes in a variety of colors. At $60, it just might appear on my wish list this year.
Another item that seems destined for my wish list is exofficio’s Sol Cool Hoody. More and more I look for clothing with sun protection. One of Backpacker magazine’s editors choice for 2014, the Sol Cool has xylitol woven into the fabric to cool the body and a UPF Sun Guard of 50+. This company’s quick-drying, moisture-wicking men’s and women’s underwear is a favorite of travelers.
A friend who takes frequent road trips shared that her must pack items are audio books to help pass the time and a small throw. She uses the throw in the car because she and her husband can never agree on the air conditioner temperature and also inside motel rooms for the same reason.
An idea for a stocking stuffer is an item I am never without when I travel: a pocket mesh over the door shoe holder. I place all my cosmetic items in it; it keeps them orderly and the sink area free from clutter. A small zippered bag, especially one that is mesh or see through to organize and hold daily necessities such as chapstick, aspirin, sun screen, glasses would be appreciated by female travelers.
A new trend in hotels is soap dispensers in showers; net scrubbies are inexpensive gifts that work better than washcloths with such devices.
Happy shopping and happy traveling!
Vickie is a former member of the Marco Island City Council and Artistic Director of the Marco Island Film Festival, and has been a volunteer for many island organizations. She is presently on the board of the Naples Mac Users Group. Prior to relocating to Marco, Vickie served as a school psychologist, Director of Special Services, and college instructor and also was a consultant to the New Jersey Department of Education.