Buying Christmas gifts for business travelers is a bit tricky as it’s often hard to know what will make their lives easier and what will just be dead weight in their luggage. Have no fear. As a veteran road warrior who has been living out of a suitcase Monday-Friday for most of the last four years, I’m here to help you earn yourself a spot atop the gift-giving podium this holiday season with this list of presents that business travelers are sure to love. You may even find that frequent fliers who are traveling for fun instead of work will adore some of these too.
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Gifts for business travel carry-ons
I’ve spent a lot of time (and Fitbit steps!) hauling my laptop and other assorted stuff through airports around the US, and without my trusty backpack, I’d be a mess. I tried those rolling briefcases, but hated not having my hands free for carrying a drink and texting while walking. Plus, business travelers who don’t check a suitcase won’t want to roll two bags behind them. I tried a nice messenger bag and spent half of my time switching it from side to side because after a couple of minutes, whichever shoulder it was on was sore. Enter the business backpack – one of the best gifts for business travelers in existence. No jetsetter should be without one. You wouldn’t want to show up at a client’s site hauling the backpack you used in high school (actually I would, but I suspect that my bosses wouldn’t approve), but there is a wide array of professional looking backpacks designed for business professionals on the go. Pro tip: get one with a water bottle pocket on the side.
I’m writing this post in the year 2017 in one of the largest airports in the US and there are still somehow only about 7 electrical outlets in the entire place, half of which are so worn out that my two-prong phone charger falls right out. All of those electrical gadgets we like to travel with require a charge, and in many airports, it’s almost impossible to find a spot to plug in. You could hope upon hope that your flight has charging spots at the seats, but even when they do they only work half the time. I’ve sat in some pretty undignified places in a desperate attempt to charge my phone between flights before, but those days are over. This is where the portable power pack comes in. Your favorite (or second or third favorite) business traveler can charge their device of choice on the go without having to throw elbows to get five minutes on the only accessible plug in Terminal 3. They’ll love you for that.
After one too many flights with screaming kids, people playing phone games at full volume, and seat neighbors who never learned the concept of indoor voices, every frequent flier will reach a point where they realize that they desperately need some noise-canceling headphones in their life. Not only do these block out the sound of the humanity they’re packed into a flying metal tube with, it’ll also drown out the engine noise that makes hearing music and dialogue otherwise difficult. I spend anywhere from 3-12 hours on planes in a typical travel week, and as good as my death stare is, that’s way too much time out of my life to spend glaring at the person blasting the Candy Crush background music (Is that still a thing?) hoping they’ll take the hint. Noise-canceling headphones eliminate the problem and give my evil eye a break.
Reusable water bottle
Everyone knows that you can’t bring liquids over 3 oz through airport security (seriously, this has been a thing for years so don’t be that person yelling at the TSA agent because you can’t bring your latte into the secure area), so how is a frequent traveler to stay hydrated? Do what I do and carry a large, skinny empty water bottle (hence the pockets you’ll want to make sure that spiffy backpack you bought them has) and then fill it up at a drinking fountain, or if you’re really lucky, a water bottle refilling station after passing through security. Imagine how much money you’ll be saving them since they won’t need to buy bottled water every single time they fly. You’ll want it to be plastic or metal because it’s only a matter of time before it lands on the pavement somewhere and glass will shatter. Avoid the ones with built in straws because when the air pressure changes on the plane, they turn into fountains when the lid is flipped open – yes, this is speaking from the voice of experience. I like a narrow one with a screw-off top so I can easily refill it and don’t have to worry about leakage or the part my mouth touches hitting the floor.
My tiny umbrella lives in my backpack and I wouldn’t go anywhere without it. There’s nothing worse than getting soaked on your way in to work and showing up wet, miserable, and looking ridiculous. This is especially important for business trips to larger cities where public transportation and walking are more common. There are tons of varieties to choose from, so pick a fun color that’ll brighten up a gross rainy day.
If the business traveler on your shopping list travels overseas for work (lucky soul), having a good international converter handy is key. You can get a location specific option if they only frequent one area, or a set that will cover them anywhere in the world. Depending on where they travel to, they may or may not need a voltage adapter, so look into that as well.
Fill their suitcase
For someone who lives out of their suitcase for a living, having a good one is crucial. If you have a larger budget, quality luggage is one of the best Christmas gifts for business travelers on your list. Hardside spinner luggage is the way to go. These bags with four rotating wheels are way more maneuverable and easy to manage, and you don’t have to worry about your stuff being crushed or the bag sliced open in transit. You can go cheap or super expensive, but I tend to favor something in the mid-range price-wise. One key thing to look for is pockets or pouches on the center divider. My current suitcase doesn’t have any and I miss that extra bit of organization like crazy. Pick a fun, bright color that stands out, but aim for something darker or midtone because anything light or pastel will be filthy after one trip in the baggage hold (trust me and my sky blue suitcase on this one). I also prefer luggage with textured surfaces because the smooth, shiny ones will show every scratch and scuff, which it will accumulate rapidly. If the set pictured below is too pricey for your budget, check out this comparable option – this was my first business luggage set and it still has my favorite interior out of the three I’ve used.
Reusable travel bottles
I’m inclined to just use the free shampoo and conditioner in hotel rooms, but if your business traveler has particular hair or skin products that they like to use, they’ll love a set of travel bottles like this. These are also under the 3 oz limit that is allowed through TSA checkpoints, so they can be used in carry-on bags as well. Bonus: they’re different colors so even people like me who are completely hopeless without their glasses can differentiate between the shampoo and conditioner in the shower.
Jetsetting exposes you to a lot of germs, and I like to keep up on my vitamin C when I’m on the road. A divided pill case is great for keeping vitamins and medications handy without having to haul around all of the individual bottles. You can help the business traveler on your Christmas list stay healthy with a case like this.
I’ve had to get creative to eat leftovers in my hotel rooms from time to time. Pro tip – plastic drink cups can be torn up to make handy food shovels. Don’t ask me how I know that. However, if you’d like to prevent your favorite business traveler from having to go to these kind of creative lengths, a set of camp silverware is a fantastic present. I picked mine up in Paris, and now it lives in my suitcase. I like this style because the two pieces can be separated. A lot of sets available have the knife, fork, and spoon connected so that they can only be used one at a time, but this lets you have a somewhat more normal eating experience.
More and more hotels are adding easily accessible electrical outlets, but there are still plenty of rooms out there that don’t have a good place to plug in your phone. It’s pretty annoying to have to dig behind the mattress or unplug the nightstand lamp just to charge your phone or laptop. A splitter like this would be a handy gadget to make those business trips easier for electronics-reliant travelers.
Clothes get dirty; it’s a fact of life. Get your jetsetter a gift that appeals to their wanderlust and practical need to keep their dirty clothes separate from their clean ones.
Shoes can get gross. A couple of shoe bags in your luggage can help keep all of the dirt, bathroom whatevers, and other assorted things they pick up while you’re walking around from getting on your clothes and the rest of the stuff in your suitcase.
For ladies who travel with a hair straightener or a curling iron, a heat resistant case will allow them to pack up quickly in the morning without having to wait until it cools down in the morning. Standing around waiting for my straighener to get to a point where it won’t melt my clothes is the absolute last thing this non-morning person blogger wants to do when I’m trying to check out of a hotel. A padded one like this will also protect it from the wear and tear of getting tossed around in luggage, and I love that it has a pocket to tuck the cord in as well. I’ve been traveling with one for three years now and it’s never let me down.
The disposable paper cups they have at hotel breakfasts are ok, but they’re usually pretty small (I need more caffeine than that). Somewhere along the way I realized that I was filling up landfills around the country with my daily tea so I threw my favorite mug in my suitcase and haven’t looked back since. I love it because it keeps my morning tea hot for hours, doesn’t burn my fingers through the side, and gets used over and over again. This is one of those Christmas gifts for business travelers that just keeps on giving and giving.
Clothing business travelers will love
Wrinkle free dress clothes
I haven’t bought anything that wrinkles in four years. When I’m shopping, the first thing I do is grab a handful of a prospective shirt or pair of pants and see if I think it’s likely to wrinkle. If it is, I move on. Business trips generally require at least business casual clothes, and I spend far too much time living out of my suitcase to have to iron things every day. A wrinkle free existence is one of the best gifts you can buy a business traveler. Shirts like this are what I live in on the road, and dress pants with a little stretch are usually much more forgiving (and comfy). Van Heusen doesn’t really sell their women’s clothes online (It’s 2017 guys, get with the program), but they have a killer line of women’s dress pants that feel more like pajamas that I’ve pretty much lived in for the last three years. (I may have bought them in every color and then come back for more when I needed a smaller size.)
Packable down jacket
My packable down jacket has been the single handiest thing I’ve ever bought for traveling. It’s super light and does a really good job of keeping me warm. Mine came with a stuff sack, so when I get to the airport I simply take my coat off, shove it in the bag, and clip it to my backpack with a carabiner. I don’t have to worry about carrying a coat around and trying not to lose it somewhere while I’m making connections. Even better: the full stuff sack turns into a pretty good pillow for those early morning flights. This is the kind of Christmas gift for business travelers that could last them for years.
Comfortable slip on or zipper shoes
If your business traveler has TSA Precheck, they don’t have to worry about taking their shoes off to get through security, but for everyone else having shoes that slip on and off easily is a huge time saver. I hate having to sit down and fumble with laces after getting through, so easy on, easy off is the name of the game. I wear flats during the summer and ankle boots during the winter, always without a heel. The link pictured below is my current pair of flats, and it’s managed to last through two whole summers of daily wear (actually quite a feat). On a morning when I have a connection through a large airport, I can easily walk over a mile before I even get to my rental car, so having comfortable shoes is key. Something with a little padding in the sole will make those annoying gate changes a little less aggravating.
I’m rather undignified, and I hate flying in my work clothes. The first thing I do when I leave a customer on a Friday is to change into sweats. I like the kind that sort of look like they might be actual pants as opposed to the baggy, pilled ones that I wear around the house. Pants like these will allow your business traveler to fly in style (or lounge around their hotel room) while still being as comfortable as possible.
This is my go-to for traveling (even in summer as I’m almost always chilly on planes. I love the zip-up for traveling because it’s easier to take off when crammed into my window seat than a pullover and results in a lot fewer stray elbows to my poor seat neighbor. As a bonus, I use it to block out the light on red eye flights instead of the eye shades that I really don’t like. You just pop it on backwards and pull the hood up over your face (leave room to breathe, obviously) and you’re ready to get some actual sleep.
Non-tangible gifts for business travelers
Ok, this isn’t exactly a traditional gift, but it’s one of the best presents for business travelers out there. You can’t actually buy this as a gift card or anything, and the recipient will have to do the legwork to fill out the background forms and go in for an interview, but paying for TSA Pre-check will make their lives incredibly easier. Printing out a certificate and putting it in an envelope with a check would be a cute way to present this gift. You can find out more about the Pre-check process here.
I’ve been writing mostly about air travel, but there are plenty of business travelers who drive long distances rather than or in addition to flying. Those long, solo car journeys, usually through some of the most boring terrain imaginable, are a good way to go crazy. Trust me, I’ve had entire conversations with myself on a 7-hour drive before. Listening to audio books helps to ease that boredom while helping me plow through my lengthy reading list that I’ll never have time to get to. It’s also a great way to learn another language – I picked up conversational German driving around the Midwest for work thanks to recorded language courses. Whatever they decide to listen to to occupy their mind as the miles pass by will be most appreciated. Check out the Audible gift plans here.
There’s nothing worse than ending up in a boring town and flipping through the cable channels only to discover that there is nothing on but a [insert sport] game you don’t care about, political pundits bickering on one of the news stations, and a true crime show marathon that is sure to have you checking your hotel room’s air vents for serial killers before long. A Netflix subscription will make this a problem of the past and allow your business traveler to binge watch their current obsession without interruption.
So there you have it. Plenty of ideas for Christmas gifts for business travelers. For all of you travel pros out there, are there any important gifts on your holiday wish list that I missed? Let me know in the comments (I may just find that I want one myself).
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