If someone you know is a frequent air traveler, their needs are very particular, favoring light weight, low volume, and anything that can reduce the pressure cooker stress of a modern airliner interior. Here are a few choice picks.
Most of the needs of the frequent flier are obvious, but if you’re not one yourself, there are eccentricities that can be hard to predict. Noise-cancelling headphones, for example, aren’t just to decrease the sound of the incessant toddler in the next row: they double as handy earmuffs for colder destinations. The following selections range in prices and application, but you should be able to find something useful for anyone who needs to trek to an airport more than once a month.
To Keep Their Gadgets Going: Heloideo Charger ($39)
Long distances away from power outlets might drain even the most capacious of phones, so a rechargeable battery is an excellent travel companion. You can check out all our recommendations here, but my personal favorite remains the 10,000mAh Heloideo charger—I haven’t taken a trip without it in over a year. It features plenty of juice for two or three complete phone recharges, an integrated wall charger, and tuck-away cables for Apple Lightning, MicroUSB, and USB-C, so all the connections it needs are right there in the same package. No matter what someone’s gadget is, this battery has it covered for power.
To Keep Their Stuff Safe: TSA-Approved Luggage Locks ($12)
Sure, frequent travelers probably already have their own locks. But like nail clippers or pens, they have a frustrating tendency to disappear (all too often while the TSA is giving a bag one of its oh-so-careful inspections). Grab a few for your friend, and sooner or later they will be happy you did. This Lewis N Clark model can lock to zippers and luggage handles at the same time, or clip things like a smaller bag or water bottle to rolling luggage for easier carry. Speaking of which…
To Keep Them Hydrated In Flight: Collapsible Water Bottles ($25)
Staying hydrated during flight is a necessity, and even the most attentive flight attendant might not be able to get a passenger adequate water. This water bottle can fold flat and roll up to fit easily in a bag and get through security, then unfold for a full 22oz when your recipient gets to a water fountain. Unlike some similar designs, it stays stiff even when near empty thanks to a sliding lip, and a screw-top cap makes for easy refilling.
To Keep Flight Essentials At Hand: A Backseat Bag ($68)
Your gift recipient probably already has a travel bag, but if they happen to be someone who prefers to check baggage and keep it light on the flight, check out this design from Genius Pack. It includes straps on the back that hang off of the in-flight meal tray, allowing the user to zip it open and get instant access to frequently-used items like a passport, phone and charger, or tablet (with its own dedicated pocket). When they arrive, the bag will clip onto rolling luggage with ease.
To Keep Them Occupied: Kindle Paperwhite 2018 ($100)
Amazon’s e-readers have always been popular travel items, but last year’s upgrade to the workhorse Paperwhite model is of particular note. In addition to a new flush touch screen (don’t worry, it’s still matte anti-glare) and waterproofing for tub or beach readers, it includes Bluetooth, allowing users to load up and listen to Audible audiobooks. As a secondary device, it’s a great way to save battery life on a phone if one needs it for constant work or navigating.
To Keep Them Sane: Noise-Cancelling Headphones ($100-350)
You knew we were going to mention this, right? Noise-cancelling headphones are pricey, but they’re also a godsend in the unpredictable social interior of an airplane. At the moment Sony makes some of the best on the market, with the Bluetooth-equipped WH-1000XM3 being a good middle ground. They’re compatible with high-resolution, high-bitrate audio, feature fantastically understated styling, and use USB-C charging (still a rarity). If $350 for a set of headphones is outside your budget, Anker makes a very serviceable set for $100 in its Soundcore sub-brand.
To Pack Way More Stuff: Compression Travel Bags ($18)
If your recipient constantly tries to shove more in their checked bag than it’s really capable of holding, they need to try these RoomierLife vacuum-sealing bags. They’ll compress clothing down by a factor of two at least, allowing for much more space in almost any luggage. They will need an iron to press clothes when they come out, but not a vacuum for the return trip: special valves built into these bags push air out and don’t let it back in.