holiday shopping

Gifts for your favorite traveler

Fun and useful items for you or someone on the go

Courtesy Airportag

Pack light. Avoid jet lag. Stay safe; but choose adventure.

These are the oft-repeated mantras of frequent travelers and buying gifts for them is often a challenge.  

To get you started on your holiday shopping, we gathered some gear, gadgets and great ideas for gifts to help travelers stay on course and find new adventures this holiday season.

Our list posted first on CNBC.

Help track great ideas on the go

Courtesy Field Notes

Smartphones and tablets are great for taking pictures and notes, but what about keeping track of feelings, impressions, sketches, perfect one-liners, overheard snippets of odd conversations and great ideas that arrive out of the blue when you’re on the road?

That’s why frequent travelers usually carry some sort of pocket notebook and why new and cool ones are great gifts.

In addition to classic and themed planners and notebooks (many of which can be personalized), Moleskine has city-specific notebooks, passion journals and a line of limited-edition pop culture notebooks celebrating David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and others.

Inspired by the promotional memo books seed, tractor and agricultural companies would give away to farmers, the modern-day Field Notes line of small notebooks are loved by detail geeks and hipsters alike. Give a Field Notes e-gift card, a limited edition set celebrating National Parks, Space expeditions or the band Wilco, or a year-long subscription ($110) that delivers four quarterly mailings with the two-sets of the newest limited editions design and bonus surprises.

Daily travel inspiration

Books that inspire and inform travel or offer historical or political context for a planned trip are always great gifts, as are calendars that can serve as daily reminders of favorite destinations and those places still on “want to go” lists.

Two books to consider for frequent travelers: Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders; 2nd edition (Workman; $37.50) by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, is filled with (even more) odd, entertaining and must-see spots around the world. Airline Maps: A Century of Art and Design, by Mark Ovenden and Maxwell Roberts (Penguin Books: $30), offers a richly illustrated and detailed story of the development of airline flight maps over a century.

E-calendars are useful, but for marking the days until the next trip, travel-themed calendars are far more fun. Look for the 2020 wall or page-a-day versions ($14.00 to $16.99) of “1000 Places to See Before You Die,” “Atlas Obscura,” and “Rick Steves’ Europe.”

Delight those devoted to travel

Many airlines, hotels and cruise lines offer plastic, paper or virtual gift cards and certificates that can be used towards booking flights, adventures and stays. The cards are super-convenient but be sure to check for restrictions and any expiration rules if you go this route for gifts.

Find special gifts for aviation geeks and travelers devoted to certain airlines on airline company store websites. Southwest Airlines may no longer serve peanuts, but it does sell a retro-style lunchbox with the airline’s peanut-pack image on the outside and two 10-oz bags of peanuts (honey-roasted and lightly salted) inside; ($29.00). And fans of the new custom-designed uniforms fashion Seattle designer Luly Yang created for Alaska Airlines can purchase Yang-designed socks, sunglasses, scarves, shoes and handbags and weekend bags online at the Alaska Airlines Company Store.    

Courtesy Airportag

Over at the Airportag aviation and travel gift shop, the choices range from travel bags and bedding to fashion, gear, gadgets, art and housewares that all have airport, airline and travel-related themes. Bonus: much of the gear is customizable.

Travel-sized gifting

Need to fill some stockings? Travel-sized versions of lotions, potions, snack-foods, personal care items and first-aid staples can do the trick. And a box or bag filled with a dozen or more hand-picked travel items makes a great gift.

Travel PAKT creates customized kits of travel-sized toiletries with an eye to sustainable sources, natural ingredients and recyclable or compostable packaging. carries more than 2500 travel-sized items as well as pre-made sets, including an Eco-Traveler gift set, an Avid Traveler Essentials Gift Set ($65.48; 60 items) a Business Traveler Kit ($24. 24; 15 items) and a Carry-On Caddy for men ($16.72) or women ($16.10).

Interesting eating

Courtesy Traveling Spoon

Finding a great restaurant on the road is a treat, but a variety of dining-with-locals programs connects hungry travelers with amateur chefs. “These programs follow the Airbnb model of connecting travelers with locals worldwide,” says Seattle-based travel writer and Carol Pucci, “Not with a room but with a shared meal in a private home.”

Eatwith, Traveling Spoon, and (by December 15) Meal Sharing are among the programs offering gift certificates that will send your favorite traveler on a tasty new adventure.  

Gifts that do good

You feel good giving a gift. The recipient feels good getting a gift. But it doesn’t have to end there.

The World Wildlife Fund offers symbolic species adoption kits ($55 and up) that include a plush version of one of 100 animals (search by popularity or threat level: extinct, endangered or near threatened) as well as a photo, adoption certificate and a species information card. Gift a ‘virtual’ adoption of animals ranging from African Elephants and Hammerhead Sharks to honeybees and zebras and more of your funds go to saving animals travelers may get to see in the wild.

Gifts for Good helps companies and corporate gift-buyers find and create gifts that give back in some way to a wide variety of social causes. Travel-related gifts include everything from socks adorned with world maps ($14.95) to stainless steel water bottles ($25) and upcycled backpacks made from old vinyl billboards ($68). Some, but not all, items on this site have minimum orders.

More things to buy at airports. Plus an avgeek ornament

If you’re spending a lot of time at airports over the next few weeks or shopping for ‘avgeek’ gifts, here are a couple of things I’ve found – so far – for a list I’m putting together.

This ornament ($10) made of tiny little airplanes is for sale on the Boeing Store site, part of the Jet Snowflake collection.

This adorable little box of raspberry gummies is for sale at the Frivolous shop at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, DTW.

And at Nashville International Airport, several brew pubs sell single bottle and six- packs of local beer to go.

More to come…

Phoenix Sky Harbor has a holiday gift catalog

I’m a big fan of doing all my holiday shopping at airports and this year Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport has made it super easy and ultra-enticing to head there to get presents for everyone on my list.

The airport has created its own holiday catalog featuring items available in the shops at Sky Harbor. Flip through the catalog and you’ll see the price, airport shop name and location listed with each gift idea.

Arizona-centric and local gifts are featured and you’ll find items from local retailers such as Bunky Boutique and Roosevelt Row, holiday cookies from Tammie Coe and growlers of local craft beer from O.H.S.O Brewery.

There’s even a page featuring cactus candy and a variety of Arizona-themed chocolate ‘poop’.

It is only Tuesday, but this airport holiday catalog is definitely in the running for Airport Amenity of the Week.


Gifts for Avgeeks

I’m gathering up a list of cool aviation-related products and handicrafts, just in case Santa reads, or in case you’re looking for some cool gifts this holiday season.

Two for today:

Jerome Daksiewicz has a kickstarter campaign going to create a boxed set of his runway prints of 30 of the large hubs in the US and a screenprint illustrating all the runways.

And Matthew Mahler at Skyebags has a refreshed line of items – a wallet, a tote and a Dopp kit – made from upcycled leather from old Delta Air Lines seats.

7_Skyebags Dopp Kit

Have a great avgeek gift to recommend? Send in your suggestions.

Do your holiday shopping at the airport – or on the plane

Last minute shopper? Consider this alligator head; for sale at Miami International Airport

Low-quality T-shirts, key chains and shot glasses emblazoned with slogans from your hometown are a sure-fire giveaway that your holiday shopping was a last-minute gift-grab at the airport newsstand.

If you’re heading to the airport this holiday season with that same routine in mind, do your friends and family a favor: Once you get past the security checkpoint, look around.

Shopping is easier than ever, and airports offer kiosks and shops that offer presents far more desireable than previous years.

Early flight or late-night red-eye? No problem. Most airport shops keep travelers’ hours.

Worried about price-gouging? Don’t be — many airports have a street pricing policy, which means items for sale inside the terminal must cost no more than they do at the mall.

Been too busy to shop? We have you covered. Here are some fun, locally-themed airport items:

Any holiday tree surely has room for one more ornament. At New York’s JFK Airport, the Metropolitan Museum of Art Shop in Terminal has New York City-themed ornaments, including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, New York taxi cabs and Rockefeller Center. Plus, travelers can buy one and get another (of equal or lesser value) for half-price.

Shops in Central Terminal B at New York’s LaGuardia Airport include Discover NY and InMotion Entertainment and all but a few retail outlets (and restaurants) there are honoring the universal 20 percent off coupon available on the Food & Shops website.

At Phoenix Sky Harbor International, fliers can purchase area-appropriate gifts such as Arizona Prickly Pear chocolate bars and taffy or bundles of holiday tamales (both El Bravo and Sir Veza’s Taco Garage offer them) that are cooked, packaged, frozen and ready for travel.

Full bottles of wine don’t make the cut at airport checkpoints these days, but Vino Volo has 14 post-security branches with retail sections offering quality local and national selections. The branch at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, for example, has several wines in stock made and only marketed in Michigan. Rather bring chocolate? Gayle’s Chocolate based in nearby Royal Oak, sells chocolate Model Ts, Corvettes and other car models, as well as chocolate motorcycles (prices vary from $16 to $45) at Detroit Metro Airport as well.

Travelers flying south from Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Alaska can pick up reindeer meat jerky ($10.05/12 ounces) at Moosellanous or stop by Alaska Luggage and Seafood to get halibut, salmon, shrimp crab or scallops packed for travel in carry-on boxes. A branch of Silver Gulch, a brewery near Fairbanks, opened at the airport this month and offers growlers ($10-$14) and six-packs of Epicenter (named in honor of the 1964 earthquake) and other beers to go.

In Oregon — where there’s no sales tax — even locals with no flight plans head to Portland International to shop on the pretty, pre-security, indoor street filled with branches of name-brand local shops. The Pendleton shop has roll-up motor robes with nice leather carrying straps ($88) and the Made in Oregon store stocks conversation-starter T-shirts and caps that say “Keep Oregon Weird” (under $20).

Genuine alligator heads and claws ($12.95-$34.95) as well as locally-made, hand-rolled cigars ($8.95) are popular items at the Gifts to Go stores at Miami International Airport while, up north, the AMERICA! stores in Newark Liberty, Dulles and Reagan National airports stock Commander-in-Chief hats, jackets, cufflinks, pens and other items as well as many First Lady-themed gifts.

And if you are one of the last-LAST-minute shoppers who find yourself seated on your plane but still without gifts, there’s one last-gasp option: buying gifts on the plane. In-flight Wi-Fi usually provides access to shopping sites — even for travelers who don’t pay for Internet access.

In other words, if you’re flying Christmas Eve, you can buy gift cards and other e-deliverable items that should arrive just about the time Santa and his reindeer head back to the North Pole.

(My story about holiday shopping at the airport first appeared on NBC News Travel)