Now more than ever, public media is essential. Donate Now.

Written by: Byron Edgington
Date: December 1, 2016

gift wrapped present

With the holidays coming up, here are a few tips for gifts and stocking stuffers for travelers. My wife and I have relocated to the mountains of Western Panama. From this friendly, inexpensive place we’ve began to see the world.  As we go, we’re highlighting the travel necessities and taking note of the ameneties.  Here are a few items from out list that might brighten the holiday for  a traveler you know.

Coloring Books: Not just for kids anymore

Travel lends itself to a lot of downtime, in airports and terminals, seated on planes, trains and automobiles, so how to keep our brains occupied? Coloring books come to mind. Adult coloring books have emerged as a very popular gift for their intricate patterns, sophisticated colors and themes and the opportunity to craft highly-individualized pieces. Plus, coloring, shading and crafting have a calming affect when the flight’s delayed, or we’re stuck in a holding pattern.

Carry on only is the way to go

Frequent travelers know the value of using only carryons. What we look for is simplicity, wheels, stackability for navigating airport crowds, lots of compartments. The lighter the better. Distinctive colors help, since carryons can still end up as checked bags. They should come with standard TSA locks and handles on both side and upper sections.


High quality, durable, compact yet usable travelogues are always a hit. There are richly crafted books dedicated only to travel, or you might acquire a combination diary & notebook for the same purpose. We all like taking notes on things we see, restaurant experiences, need-to-remember items, dates, expenses, names and numbers. Find a travelogue with a solid writing instrument attached, and with enough pages for several entries.

Where’s Fido?

For travelers with pets, especially dogs, give them a device to keep in touch with Barkley while they’re in Biarritz. Electronic devices that allow us to see, speak and stay in touch with pets while we’re away are available in all price ranges. Sharing our travel experience with pets can ease the anxiety on both sides. There is Facetime and Skype, of course, but they require another person on the home end, unless Bowser has been trained to use the iPad.

Mini-Bag/Man Purse

Airlines allow one carryon and one ‘personal item’ aboard the plane, so a good mini-bag or man purse is always very useful. Find one with a durable strap, wide opening for ease of inspection, small enough to fit under an airline seat and with an exterior compartment for a passport, ID cards, boarding passes, smart phone, any other small items needed quickly and often. A side note: this small bag should be big enough to contain everything needed for a day or so if other luggage is lost. Carryons may end up as checked bags, especially on smaller aircraft with no overhead storage bins. The personal bag could save the day if it contains toiletries, medicine, credit cards, identification and cash that might otherwise be inside the carry on.


Here are a few small items that would be dandy stocking-stuffers, or additional gifts to install inside the new carryon luggage. A couple of sleep masks, or a combination wool cap/sleep mask with the added advantage of keeping one’s head warm in the chilly airplane.  A new set of earbuds, especially if they’re compatible with aircraft plug-in or USB ports. A durable, foldable world map to go with the travelogue. A portable battery charger for smart phones, iPods and other electronics. A carry-on, portable cocktail kit. Travel candles and personal toiletry items like soaps, shampoos and body oils that may be preferred over hotel fare.

Old standbys

Of course there are always the old gift standbys, books of any kind, crossword/anagram/Sudoku collections, hand-held electronic game platforms or a new iPod stuffed with appropriate songs. A guidebook oriented around a friend’s pending journey could be helpful, and a list of must-see/must-do places and things would come in handy if it’s someplace you’ve traveled yourself.

One of the most thoughtful items for any traveler might be a hidden note or letter in another item telling someone traveling how much their friendship means to you. That’s a gift that keeps on giving. Happy holidays, and have a great trip.