Margaret Schindel has traveled for business and pleasure for 40+ years. She shares travel tips to help others make the most of their trips.
Gifts to Help Business Travelers Relax and Recharge
As any "road warrior" will tell you, having to live out of a suitcase, deal with airlines, airports, long car trips, and checking in and out of hotels on a regular basis is stressful, uncomfortable, and tiring. That's why I've handpicked these terrific items you can give to help make their routine trips for work more productive, comfortable, and stress-free.
Instead of chocolate, flowers, jewelry, or champagne, choose a gift that will make your spouse, partner, or significant other have an easier time and think of you fondly during their business trips! These presents are also perfect to congratulate someone special on a new job that will involve frequent travel.
By the way, these gifts are awesome for leisure travelers, too. In fact, you may just find something to give yourself.
Luggage and Packing Aids
1. Packing Cubes
Packing efficiently for a business trip—or a vacation, for that matter—is a challenge for most of us. Frequent business travelers often find themselves living out of a suitcase, and packing and unpacking several times during the course of each trip can be a time-consuming chore.
Your gift recipients will be especially grateful to have a set of well-designed packing cubes if their suitcases are opened by airport security, since their clothes will stay neatly folded and organized and they won't need to re-fold and re-pack each item in the airport!
Here's how packing cubes can help solve common business travel challenges:
- Packing cubes help business travelers (and leisure travelers, too!) pack much more efficiently, letting them fit more clothing into each suitcase.
- They make it easy to keep clothing and accessories organized and neat during trips and keep clean clothing separate from dirty clothes that need to be laundered or dry cleaned.
- They help minimize wrinkles in clothing and encourage road warriors to fold their clothes neatly and keep them that way during the trip when not being worn.
- Packing cubes that feature a mesh panel on top allow their owners to see what's inside each cube and locate items quickly and easily.
- For the same reason, packing cubes with mesh top panels also allow airport security and customs agents to examine the contents of luggage without rummaging through loose piles of clothing, laundry, toiletries, etc. (that then need to be re-packed before boarding the plane).
- And packing cubes make packing and unpacking must faster, easier, and more efficient for frequent travelers, especially for trips involving more than one hotel stay.
Experienced road warriors highly recommend buying more than one set of packing cubes in multiple sizes.
TravelWise Set of 5 Packing Cubes
My husband and I were on vacation with friends who used the TravelWise Packing Cube System - Durable 5-Piece Weekender Plus Set, and we were amazed at how much clothing they were able to fit neatly and compactly in their luggage! They rolled up their clothes (as recommended by travel experts like Rick Steves) to maximize the capacity.
During the trip, they unpacked all their clothes and then, as they wore items, rolled them and put them back in the packing cubes. This made it easy to keep their clean clothes separated from the ones that needed to be laundered. It also meant that they had almost no packing left to do when they were preparing to return home!
Their TravelWise packing cubes seemed to be made extremely well, with durable fabric and sturdy seams. My friends say they're also thinner and lighter weight than many other brands of packing cubes, and that this five-piece set is a terrific value.
2. Durable Rolling Carry-On Luggage Bag
Business travelers depend heavily on their carry-on bags. Nearly all road warriors own at least one rollaboard suitcase, but few are happy with the roll-on luggage they own. That's why they will appreciate receiving a gift of a durable, well-designed rollaboard to replace their current carry-on suitcase.
Cheap bags are no bargain when the zipper splits or the wheels get stuck. Invest in a sturdy, well-made bag with the features that matter to frequent flyers for a gift that will be appreciated and work reliably for many years. Look for the following features when choosing a rollaboard suitcase as a gift:
- Durable, ballistic nylon fabric that will hold up well to frequent use
- Sturdy, aircraft-grade aluminum, telescoping handle on the top and a separate side handle to make it easy to lift the bag into an overhead bin / compartment (or onto a hotel room luggage rack); telescoping handle at the top should be long enough to pull the luggage comfortably when extended to its full length; a multi-stage telescoping handle provides adjustable height for comfort
- A zippered outer pocket for easy access to files, magazines, and other flat items without opening the whole suitcase
- Expandable zippered gusset for extra depth, since business travelers often return with more items than they packed initially (note that expanding the bag may prevent it from meeting carry-on regulations or fitting into overhead compartments)
- Sturdy enough to hold up to the rigors of luggage carousels and baggage handlers if you need to check your bag
- Small and compact enough to fit in the overhead compartments of international airlines, trains, and buses while still roomy enough to pack business travel necessities for short trips
- Smooth, 360-degree swivel wheels—preferably 4 recessed wheels—that make it easy to maneuver the suitcase through airports, train or bus stations, streets and hotel corridors
Music, Audiobooks, Podcasts, or Blissful Quiet!
3. Noise-Canceling Headphones
Frequent business travelers often need to work during the actual travel portions of their business trips. Whether they need to prepare for their upcoming business meetings or events with reading, writing, creating presentations or email, the background noise on planes, trains, buses, and taxis can be extremely distracting and make focusing on work a challenge.
That's why they'll really appreciate receiving high-quality, effective noise-canceling headphones.
Look for the following features when selecting noise-canceling headphones for travel gifts:
- Significant noise reduction (not all noise, just unwanted background noise)
- Comfortable ear cushions that combine a comfortable fit with a tight-fitting seal that can block out maximum background noise
- Good sound quality(it's not easy to find noise cancellation headphones that offer both superior noise cancellation and also good sound quality)
- A sturdy carrying case to protect the headphones and carry extra batteries
Reminder: No noise-canceling headphones will provide sound quality a good as regular headphones without noise cancellation features.
Bose QuietComfort 35 II: Award-Winning Headphones
Bose QuietComfort noise-canceling headphones have been winning awards for years. Now the latest model, the Bose QuietComfort 35 Series II, follows in its predecessors' footsteps, earning the PC Magazine Editor's Choice award and a spot as one of CNET's Best Noise-Canceling Headphones of 2017.
A British friend of mine who has lived in the United States for many years is a veteran transcontinental traveler. He flies to Europe and back at least twice a year, has made a couple of trips to Asia, and travels extensively within the U.S., for both business and vacations.
He's also a true connoisseur of practically everything. When I asked him for some gift suggestions for frequent flyers, one of the first things he mentioned was noise-canceling headphones. Since he's also a technophile, I asked for a recommendation of a specific model. He was quick to suggest the Bose QuietComfort 35 noise-canceling headphones.
He pointed me toward a CNET review that described them as "The best overall active noise-canceling wireless headphone to date." With the Series II update that adds a dedicated button for Google Assistant, CNET says "The already excellent Bose QuietComfort 35 II gets a touch better."
In the latest version of these iconic cans, Bose widened the headband to improve the fit and sturdiness and introduced a new digital equalizing system that balances the sound regardless of volume. And the built-in, rechargeable battery is rated at 20 hours.
One of the things both my friend and the CNET article pointed out was that you can also use the cord that comes with these if you need to use them temporarily as regular, wired headphones (to plug into an airplane's in-flight entertainment system, for example, or if the battery needs to be recharged).
4. Memory Foam Travel Pillow/Neck Pillow
Business travelers want to arrive at their travel destination rested, refreshed, and ready to meet with clients, prospects, agencies, etc. Anyone who has traveled for long distances on a train, bus, or airplane knows how difficult it can be to find a comfortable position in which to take a nap or just relax without getting a stiff neck.
That's why a well-designed memory foam travel pillow is such a great gift, especially for frequent flyers.
Look for the following features when choosing memory foam travel pillows:
- Dense, high-quality memory foam
- Lateral head supports to support the traveler's head and neck comfortably in an upright seated position
- Removable and washable cover to keep the travel pillow clean and hygienic
- Adjustable for maximum comfort and support
- Travel bag for easy carrying and to keep the travel pillow clean
- Ability to compact fairly flat when not in use so it can fit into a carry-on bag, briefcase, or purse.
The Cabeau Evolution Memory Foam Travel Pillow/Neck Pillow
Many years ago, back when inflatable travel neck pillows were popular, I bought one. Unfortunately, it was a nuisance to inflate and deflate on the plane and, more importantly, it wasn't comfortable, because it pushed my neck forward. I only used it a couple of times.
During an airplane flight not long ago, I hadn't slept well and was trying unsuccessfully to take a nap without giving myself a stiff neck. I had rolled up my jacked and propped it under my head, but couldn't get comfortable.
After I finally gave up on my nap, I noticed a passenger sleeping peacefully in a seat across the aisle. Her neck was supported in a neutral position on all sides by a pillow that clearly wasn't the inflatable kind.
After she woke up, I went over and asked her how she liked it. She said she loved it and never traveled without it. She explained that the pillow inside the velour cover was memory foam, so it cradled and conformed to her neck, and that it was adjustable, thanks to a slide-lock toggle.
She kindly let me try it out, and I was amazed at how comfortable and supportive it was. Best of all, it had a flat back, so it didn't push my neck forward! I asked her whether it was cumbersome to travel with such a large memory foam pillow, and she explained that it came with a water-repellent storage bag that compacts the pillow down to 1/4 its size.
It sounded perfect! I asked where she got it, and she said her sister had given it to her as a gift and she didn't know where it had been purchased. I checked the label made a note that the pillow was made by Cabeau.
After I returned home, I looked for it on Amazon and found the Cabeau Memory Foam Neck Pillow and Travel Pillow. I learned a few other things from the description, such as the fact that it has a convenient media pouch to hold a phone or mp3 player and comes with a set of memory foam ear plugs as a bonus. It's now on my birthday wish list.
5. Compact and Soft Travel Blanket and Pillow
Travelers have little control over the ambient temperature in an airplane cabin, train compartment, or bus, so frequent business travelers definitely will appreciate a gift of a nice-sized, soft, hygienic, personal travel blanket and pillow of their own to tuck into one of their carry-on bags.
Airlines used to distribute travel pillows and blankets routinely to the passengers on their planes, but these days getting a blanket from a flight attendant is a hit-or-miss proposition except in the first class cabin or on overnight "red-eye" flights.
Even if a tired or cold passenger is lucky enough to be able to acquire the loan of a blanket or pillow on the plane, it is unlikely to have been washed or otherwise sanitized after it was used by a previous passenger - ugh! And, of course, passengers traveling on buses and trains can forget about such creature comforts except on sleeper cars.
That's why a gift of a lightweight, compact, soft, comfortable and hygienic personal travel blanket and pillow makes such an appreciated gift for both business and leisure travel.
Look for the following features when choosing the best travel blanket:
- High-quality fabric that is soft and comfortable and also durable so it will maintain its good looks and functionality despite frequent use and laundering
- Machine washable and able to be dried in a dryer for easy care, especially during trips
- Lightweight so it's easy to carry around
- Large enough to cover the person from neck to toes
- Folds compactly into its own travel bag so it's easy to tuck into piece of carry-on luggage.
Recommended on Oprah's Gift Finder Guide!
It's soft, cozy, and hygienic. My husband and I gave a Lug Nap Sac Travel Blanket and Pillow Set to my brother-in-law years ago and he loved it. It's made of super soft, high-quality fleece that is machine washable and can be tossed into a dryer, so it can be clean and dry in practically no time. The blanket measures a generous 35" wide x 46" long.
It also comes with an inflatable travel pillow whose zippered fleece pillowcase also doubles as a carrying pouch for the entire set. The blanket also has a convenient pocket for storing eyeglasses, a phone or an mp3 player.
This wonderful, high-quality fleece travel blanket also has been recommended in Oprah Winfrey's exclusive Gift Finder on Oprah.com.
6. Backlit Kindle Paperwhite E-Reader
Ask business travelers (and leisure travelers, too) the one piece of electronics they always carry with them on trips—in addition to their laptop and/or tablet and mobile phone—and they're likely to answer "my Kindle."
If your favorite traveler's e-book reader doesn't have the new Kindle Paperwhite backlit technology, the Kindle Paperwhite e-reader would make the perfect gift. I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader just before my most recent trip abroad and loved being able to unwind with a wide selection of books that I could carry around in my purse!
I highly recommend that when you order a Kindle Paperwhite E-reader, you avoid the "With Special Offers" versions. Although you can save $15-$20 (depending on the model) by choosing a "With Special Offers" version, paying the small additional cost difference will allow your gift recipients to use their devices without constantly being interrupted by "special offer" advertisements.
It's an extra $15-$20 well spent, and a thoughtful touch if you will be giving a Kindle as a gift.
Kindle Paperwhite with WiFi
A tablet is great for what it's designed to do. What it's NOT great for is reading. A tablet's reflective screen causes glare, and because it isn't backlit the light shines into your eyes. It's fine for reading a few articles, but reading more than a few pages of a book on a tablet causes eye strain, which usually causes headaches.
That's why the Kindle Paperwhite 3G is the perfect companion to a tablet for both leisure and business travel. It's designed and optimized specifically for reading. With its front-lit, non-reflective screen, there's no glare even in bright sunlight and the light shines toward the reading surface instead of in your eyes. The brightness is also adjustable depending on the brightness of your environment.
So you can read comfortably for hours without eyestrain. And as a business traveler myself, I can tell you that after a long day of meetings, there's nothing like relaxing with a good book to clear your head before turning in for the night.
I purchased a Kindle Paperwhite to take with me on an international trip several years ago and it was one of the best travel gifts I ever bought for myself. It's small and lightweight—lighter and more comfortable to hold than a paperback—and you can read one-handed. And a single charge can last up to six weeks, depending on usage (I did a lot of reading and still didn't need to recharge during my 10-day trip).
I love the crisp, easy-to-read fonts and the ability to change the font size with just a tap. A major advantage vs. reading on the Kindle app on a smartphone or tablet is that the screen is non-reflective, so there's no glare when reading outdoors or in bright indoor light. And the Page Flip and bookmark features are really convenient.
There are also significant improvements with each new Kindle generation. The current Kindle Paperwhite E-reader with 6" High-Resolution Display, Built-in Light, Wi-Fi and Free Cellular Connectivity has a 300 ppi resolution with twice as many pixels as the previous-generation model I own.
Even my father-in-law, who loves reading but hates technology, has fallen in love with the Kindle Paperwhite that my mother-in-law gave him last Christmas. And my twenty-something nephew loves his just as much.
Safety and Security
7. RFID-Blocking Passport Case
All newly issued U.S. passports and many credit cards include an RFID chip (Radio Frequency Identification Data) that stores personal data about the owner as a security measure.
Criminals often use RFID readers to steal important personal information from RFID chips embedded in passports and credit cards to access the owner' accounts, so it's essential for travelers — especially business travelers who carry corporate as well as personal credit cards — to protect themselves by carrying their passports and credit cards in wallets and passport cases that block RFID readers effectively.
Anyone who travels out of the country, whether for business or leisure, should be using an effective RFID-blocking passport case for protection.
PacSafe RFID-Blocking Passport Case
PacSafe makes a line of excellent, affordable cases for passports, credit cards, etc. that are effective at blocking RFID readers to keep your gift recipient's personal information secure and protect it against thieves.
The PacSafe RFIDsafe 50 Passport Protector, for example, is a great, inexpensive gift or stocking stuffer for any business or leisure traveler. It is. New and seasoned travelers alike will appreciate its durable, lightweight fabric and generous size, large enough to carry either several passports or a passport, a couple of credit cards and some currency.
8. Cocoon GRID-IT Organizer
How many times have you seen a traveler rummaging around in a carry-on bag, briefcase or handbag looking for his or her cell phone, MP3 player or other small mobile device, camera, cables, earbuds, pen, pencil, lip balm, breath mints, bandages, USB Flash drive, etc.?
Train or airline passengers need to keep their essential carry-on items accessible and well-organized, and Cocoon GRID-IT Organizers are the most versatile and totally customizable system for organizing all the stuff we carry with us that tends to be difficult to keep organized.
I gave one to a friend who travels frequently for both business and pleasure. She uses it to keep her electronics, cables, small snacks and other items she wants to access easily in-flight neat and organized, and she said it's one of the best gifts she has ever received. I've also seen people use them to organize their makeup!
Cocoon Grid-It! organizers are available in several different shapes and sizes and are incredibly useful for organizing and carrying electronics, cables, pens, pencils, etc., which is why they are so popular among business travelers and anyone else who is constantly on-the-go and wants to keep his or her portable essentials organized. They're available in a choice of four colors - black, gray, red, and blue.
The Cocoon Grid-It! organizer is also the #1 item on Lifehacker's Top 10 Gadgets You Should Have in Your Go Bag, and Oprah Winfrey recommends the Cocoon GRID-IT CPG10 organizer in her Gift Finder on Oprah.com. So you can be sure that the road warriors on your list will love receiving one!
The Cocoon GRID-IT Organizer Is Great For Everyone
The Cocoon GRID-IT Organizer is an infinitely customizable organization system that can be configured to hold whatever items you wish firmly in place and make them easy to find, remove, and replace.
As you can see in the photo, it's a perfect, portable way to keep travel gadgets, small electronics and other essentials organized and easily accessible during a trip. They're also great for organizing laptop bags and travel-size toiletries and cosmetics, among many other things, so consider giving a set of two or three GRID-ITs.
In fact, you may want to pick up one for yourself, too, to keep in your handbag, briefcase or backpack or on your desk.
In addition to the interior grid of woven elastic straps backed with rubber dots to grip whatever you put into it securely, the GRID-IT also has a convenient outer pocket for additional storage. Who wouldn't love one?
9. Portable Luggage Scale
International airline carriers have different luggage size and weight restrictions, and the airlines have started being much more strict about enforcing those limits. Why?
Those very hefty surcharges for overweight baggage—usually $100 or more per bag over the 50-lb. weight limit for U.S. carriers—have become a significant new source of revenue for them! That's why a portable luggage scale makes such a perfect travel gift for frequent fliers.
Business travelers usually are rushing to make sure they don't miss their flights, so when they're already at the airport is not the time for them to discover that one of their bags weighs a pound or two more than the airline carrier's maximum weight limit (50 lbs. in the US). And using a bathroom scale to weigh luggage is cumbersome and unreliable.
And since most travelers end up bringing home a bit more in their luggage than they brought with them originally, it's important for them to be able to weigh their luggage prior to their return trip (for which the baggage weight restrictions may be different than the ones for their outbound flight).
For those reasons, having a portable luggage scale that can be used to weigh one's packed luggage before each flight on the trip can save a LOT of time, aggravation, and especially money!
Look for these features when choosing a portable luggage scale to give as a gift (or to keep for yourself):
- Small and compact
- Can display baggage weight in pounds or kilograms
- Easy to use correctly
- Easy-to-read screen
The EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale
A friend who is a savvy, frequent traveler (the one I gave the Cocoon Grid-IT organizer to) highly recommends the EatSmart Precision Voyager Digital Luggage Scale. It's easy to use, accurate, and can weigh bags as heavy as 110 lb / 50 kg. Some of the things she likes about it:
- The proprietary two-handed SmartGrip design that makes it easier to lift heavy luggage.
- The compact size and lightweight. It's small enough to tuck into a corner of your suitcase, briefcase or carry-on bag and it won't add appreciably to the weight of your luggage.
- The accuracy and ease of use. This portable luggage scale is auto-calibrated, so you just clip the strap to the handle of your suitcase, lift the bag off the floor, wait briefly until you hear the beep, and then view the bag's weight (in increments of 0.1 lbs. or 0.1 kg). Then detach the strap from the bag and press the ON/OFF button to reset the weight to zero, so it's ready to weigh your next bag.
- The large, back-lit LCD digital display that makes the weight easy to read at a glance.
- The long-lasting, inexpensive, easy-to-find CR2032 lithium battery, and the fact that the scale comes with one so it's ready to use right away.
- The manufacturer's 100% satisfaction guarantee.
A Must-Have for International Travel
10. International Voltage Converter/Travel Plug Adapter Combo
International travel requires a voltage converter/transformer and a power adapter to ensure that any electronics or appliances will have the correct type of plug and current/voltage for the power sockets in the country or countries to be visited.
There are many different types of sockets (and plugs to fit them) and also many different voltage and frequency differences between countries and regions.
Someone who does a lot of international business travel will need either
- a) the correct plug adapter for the destination country plus a voltage converter or transformer, or
- b) a combination international all-in-one voltage converter and travel plug adapter that can work with an input voltage range suitable for the regions to which they travel frequently.
BESTEK International 220V to 110V Voltage Converter
I've spent considerable time researching international power converters, and the the compact BESTEK voltage converter/travel plug adapter combo with four USB ports has been recommended in several different review articles on multiples sites, including Nerdy Tech's roundup of The Best International Travel Voltage Converters 2017-2018.
It can convert any country's 100V-240V input current down to 100V-120V output current that works with U.S. 110-volt appliances. It also comes with three international plug adapters that work with power outlets in more than 150 countries!
It supports most cell phones, tablets and laptops (although It is not compatible with certain types of high-powered appliances such as hairdryers, irons, curling irons and electric coffee makers).
Safety features include intelligent over-current, high-temperature, short-circuit and surge protection, as well as the isolation of the 4 USB charging ports from the AC outlets. For grab-and-go convenience, everything comes in a neat, compact pouch that keeps the converter, detachable power cable and plug adapters together.
© 2012 Margaret Schindel
Will You Be Buying Any Business Travel Gifts? Did You Find Some Helpful Ideas Here?
David Paul Wagner from Sydney, Australia on May 25, 2015:
Thanks for this great list, Margaret! A number of your suggestions, such as the rollaboard carry-on bag and the memory foam travel pillow, are suitable not only for business travelers but also for more elderly passengers (like me!) whose bodies need every help they can get to survive the stresses and strains of long-distance travel.
Giovanna from UK on December 03, 2014:
Great for any kind of traveler really. Some good ideas. i ticked a Kindle because flights can be tedious -however memory foam pillows are great too and any thing that reduces background noises is a must. Fabulous hub. I have shared it to all!
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on February 16, 2014:
Lots of great gift ideas here!
Dawn Romine from Nebraska on December 16, 2013:
Great ideas for travelers and road warriors.
Takkhis on December 07, 2013:
You have thought of everything! I guess you have left nothing, great lens :)
Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on November 11, 2013:
This page is packed with wonderful information for the avid traveler, thank you
Kathryn Grace from San Francisco on November 09, 2013:
I may, and I'm liking those travel cubes a lot. Thank you for all the suggestions, and congratulations on your Purple Star.
SavioC on October 03, 2013:
These are some well thought of ideas. I am quite keen on the packing cubes and universal adapter. Thanks for this.
Rick King from Charleston, SC on September 22, 2013:
Good ideas. I would find that the noise cancelling headphones would be the best of the list for me.
Susanna Duffy from Melbourne Australia on June 19, 2013:
I want most of these for myself! Especially the noise-cancelling headphones
MikeRobbers LM on December 14, 2012:
the Well-Designed Carry-On Bags look fantastic ! I'm a traveler and I would love one of these
Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on December 13, 2012:
Awesome selection of gifts for travelers. Love the detailed reviews!
Stephanie Tietjen from Albuquerque, New Mexico on November 30, 2012:
Congrats on a fantastic selection of travel gifts. I love the grid- it for myself, but every selection is great.
JLally on November 12, 2012:
So many guides focus on what they think are the best solutions. I like the format you used of suggesting things to look for much better. I can merge your ideas and my recipients quircks and find the best product to give them.
sibiana on October 31, 2012:
I travel a lot, mainly long haul, so I appreciate your tips. Great gift ideas. Well documented lens, nicely done
Valerie Proctor Davis from Birmingham, Alabama on October 23, 2012:
I just love dandy little gadgets! And I was glad to learn what a "packing cube" is - I was picturing a plastic milk crate...