tampabay.com

Gifts are packed with practicality

Ease frequent fliers' travels with gifts that show style and smarts.

By STEVE HUETTEL, Road Life
Published December 12, 2007


Road warriors haven't had much to ho-ho-ho about in this abysmal year for air travel. Maybe you can help make someone's trips go a little easier in 2008.

Frequent fliers like stuff that gives them an edge or provides some home-style comfort on the road. But where does a gift-giver start? You can find scads of noise-canceling headphones, neck pillows and oversized luggage tags.

I'm a road wienie, bumbling through infrequent trips.

But here are four suggestions from veteran business fliers, travel columnists and the third-generation owner of a Tampa luggage and travel accessories store.

Packing Cubes: Nylon pouches for organizing clothing inside your luggage. Pack socks, underwear, T-shirts or ties together so you don't need to dig through your bag to find what you need. Two-sided cubes let you separate dirty or wet clothes from the clean and dry. Traveling with just a garment bag? Pack cubes in that empty space at the bottom instead of stuffing clothes not on hangers in the outside pockets, advises Bob King, owner of Luggage Service Inc. near downtown Tampa. Made by Eagle Creek and other companies. Price: $8 to $25 each, based on size.

Slingbox: Lets you watch your home TV from anywhere on the road. It connects to your television and home computer, sending a digitalized signal over the Internet that you can pick up in a hotel room or on your cell phone. You can watch local news and sports around the world. Joe Brancatelli, editor of the business travel Web site JoeSentMe.com, will rely on his Slingbox to watch presidential primaries on the U.S. version of CNN next month while he's in Italy. Available through slingmedia.com and various electronics retailers. Price: $180 for the Slingbox Solo.

Scanner Bag: Designed to help you hold on to all that pocket stuff - keys, cell phone, loose change - as you pass through airport security screening. Scanner Bag looks like a wallet and clips on your carry-on or briefcase like a luggage tag. It unfolds into a zippered bag that holds the things you now put in that plastic dish. For someone who's lost numerous pens and left a belt at a Philadelphia International checkpoint, the value is painfully obvious. Available at GadgetDuck.com. Price: $13.45 to $24.85, depending on material.

TAO Digital Photo Keychain: Not strictly for road trips. But travel columnist and consultant Chris McGinnis says his TAO 1.5-inch saves him the discomfort of sitting on long flights with a wallet stuffed with family photos. His model stores up to 31 shots downloaded from a home computer. Available online at sharperimage.com and other Web sites. Price: $49.95.

I've got one caveat: The hassles of clearing security and navigating through congested airports is driving more and more business travelers to carry essentials and nothing more.

A word to the wise: Keep those receipts.

Steve Huettel can be reached at huettel@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3384.