The Savvy Traveler gift guide
How about a former automotive company jet? I would love to fly in style like the heads of the American Big 3 automakers, but I would be happy if I could just turn in Mileage Plus or AAdvantage frequent flyer miles for a family vacation to Hawaii at some time other than February 29, 2012.
Stuff I Recommend
I love my Jansport Cargo Hold 22" roller bag. The big wheels make navigating the airline hub concourses a breeze. I have a couple of carabiners clipped on to hold my computer bag and I can get in a cardio workout from concourse A to F in record time. I've taken this bag on a couple of short international trips plus countless domestic trips in the last 2 years. Only drawback is the big wheels sometimes are difficult to get in the overhead on those dinky Regional Jets.
My Motorola Q9h is company-issue, but it makes a great baseband modem when tethered to my laptop. True story–I sat in O'Hare during a layover and did a voice call, connected to the company VPN over the modem *and* ran NetMeeting. The call didn't drop and the NetMeeting was amazingly responsive. I don't bother looking for hotspots in cities with 3G coverage, I just make sure I always pack my USB tether cable.
I wish I could say that I love my iGo power adapter set, but the truth is, I don't. I love the idea of only taking one power supply on a trip, one that works in the air, in the car and in the hotel. The iGo idea is great, but the execution is flawed–it's heavy, it's expensive, the tips are hard to purchase when you need them (i.e. on the road), and it's unwieldy. But, it's better on an international flight than the Targus empower inverter, which sounds like the 3rd engine on a 777.
The Bose QuietComfort headphones really are *that* good. I've tried some of the other models from Sony, Koss, and Panasonic, but the Bose do a better job of isolating the noise. The drawback is that you must have them turned on to do anything, even if you are just listening to music, but 1 AAA alkaline battery runs them for a long time. The Bose models sit very comfortable on my head, but others may have different results. They cost $300 for a set, but they pay for themselves the first time you have a chatty 5 year old sitting behind you on a 10 hour flight from Sao Paulo to Chicago. Trust me.
I make my living with computers and I have for more than 20 years. But, when I sit down with a customer or someone who isn't technical, I go low-tech. I have a wide variety of notepads, notebooks, portfolios, etc., but the Moleskine notebooks are a notch above. They lie flat for note-taking, which allows me to write into the margins comfortably. Plus, putting a nice pen to a solid notebook gives us technology folks a satisfying link to our analog past.
I've been traveling with a handheld GPS since 2001. My favorite for years was the Garmin eTrex Vista Cx. With maps of the US and Europe, I could always find my way around. My maps of the US are 6 years old and my European maps are 5 years old. That's long enough to get you in trouble. So, I've relegated the eTrex to hiking and geocaching and now I carry the Garmin Nuvi 370, which I got for a great price on Amazon.com. For $230, the Nuvi 370 has North American and European maps. It also takes a micro SD card for expansion maps and plays MP3s. I didn't think the MP3 feature was that interesting until the first time I got in the plain vanilla Avis rental and realized there was no place to plug in my iPod.
I love my Ex Officio underwear. I know, I know, TMI. But truly, this stuff is great. I took a 17 day trip to Europe in 2006 and I packed 2 pair of underwear. Don't act all squeamish–when you travel 50,000 miles a year, you learn a few tricks and washing your underwear in the sink is high on the list. Plus, it's comfy.
I'm taking the same approach for t-shirts as I do with underwear, only I'm very happy with the Columbia Titanium shirts. I've bought some moisture wicking t-shirts from Russell Athletic and they hold up alright, but the cut isn't good for wearing as an undershirt.
I'm absolutely in love with a pair of casual chinos that I got at Eddie Bauer last year. They are made of linen and boy are they comfy. Then, in the way that corporations inevitably do with good products, they canceled them. I managed to find 2 pairs on the clearance rack this fall, so I will have to ration them. If you wonder why I'm so ecstatic about a pair of pants, you probably haven't had to sit in an economy class seat from Paris to Chicago. They wouldn't do for a funeral, but you could go from the plane to a casual business meeting and not feel bad about your appearance.
Stuff I want
I love to travel and when I can swing it, I take an extra day or weekend on my own to visit a place. I normally take a DSLR with me, but there are a lot of times that it just isn't convenient to pack a big camera. Or safe. I had read a lot of great reviews on the Canon G9 and it looks like the G10 is a worthy replacement. The G10 delivers near-SLR quality of shots with a lot of SLR-like features, including a hot-shoe for flash operation. The street price is getting down to around $425, so I will probably pick one of these up if Santa doesn't leave one for me.
I like my Wenger "Swiss Army" backpack for lugging my laptop, cables, camera, GPS, reading material, etc., but it's getting where my back doesn't enjoy supporting 25 pounds of equipment for extended operations. I've had the Wenger for 2 full years of daily use and it has stood the test of time. The zippers all still work flawlessly and there are few scratches or scrapes on it. I'm looking at the Wenger Patriot rolling case for my 2009 travels.
I'm torn on a laptop for travel. I do a lot of photography work on the side and I would love one of those 17" laptops with the WXGA+ LED screens. But, I just can't imagine hauling that thing on the road, much less getting our IT group to bless it and give me access to corporate infrastructure. By the same token, the Dell Inspiron Mini 9 is all I truly need when I'm on the road. Except when I need to write code or run Photoshop from my hotel room. I'll probably just keep using this POS from the company and hating it every time it takes 8 minutes to boot from all the corporate bloatware….
I have more bags and packs than I could stand. I think I have a problem with hording. A friend sent me a link to the Zuca Sport Pro bag a while back and it looks interesting. I don't think I will plop $285 down on it just yet, but I'm going to keep my eye on them for a while.
The things on this list are just things. They don't really make a trip worth taking, but they can make life a little easier on the road. I would rather have a quiet, comfortable, stress-free trip without all these gizmos, but then that would also require me to find honest work out there, and who wants that during these crazy times?
Besides, I'm trying to figure out how I can get my boss to let me expense a massage.
May the holidays bring you peace and comfort, however you choose to celebrate.