Bah Humbug Who Wants Those Gifts for Frequent Fliers?


By Robert McGarvey

This is the season when publications spray us with stories that purport to tell their readers what frequent fliers want to smooth their lives on the road.  Word of advice: these stories generally are so very wrong.

In 40+ years of travel, mainly on business, I have consistently aspired towards one end: traveling with less.  Nowadays much less.  

Tell me what bag check is again? It’s been a while since I used it.

So I board with a bag small enough to fit in the overhead bin and that bag is a constant whether I am on the road for a night or a week.  If it’s the latter, you know how stuffed the bag is. I don’t have room for travel gear, no matter how novel.

And I haven’t been able to bring my personal alltime favorite travel gadget on board for years: an old Leatherman tool with all the tools, pliers, a knife, a file, etc.  That was ruled a potential weapon many years ago and these days it sits in a drawer somewhere in my office. Yes, I know some multi tools (including some Leatherman) are TSA approved and now as I am writing this, I really have to buy one.  It will fit fine in my pocket.

What about my briefcase – is there room in it for gadgets? It’s stuffed too, with a laptop, an iPad, a couple phones, miscellaneous chargers, an umbrella, maybe a newspaper or two to read inflight. Forget about jamming in new gizmos.

So I frown when I read that I might want flannel PJs.  I don’t and even if I did, there’s no room.

Then there’s a $65 wireless speaker from Yatra.  Bluetooth powered you can also connect it to your phone to create an instant speakerphone.  7” long, less than a pound.  Eye catching, I’ll admit. But, no, there’s no room in my bag for such a device.

I don’t know  what to say about a suggestion that frequent fliers crave coloring books and no roll pencils, Here’s another vote for coloring books.  Personally I have hundreds of backlogged books – unread – on my Kindle app. Netflix now is permitting downloading of some movies for watching where WiFi is bad or non existent (as on a plane).  There is no lack of entertainment for me inflight.  I haven’t used a coloring book since I was about six and am happy to leave it that way.

I suppose the suggestion of a carryon kayak – $599 – is a bit of a joke (caused me to smile at least) but, listen up, if you are shopping for me, I don’t want the damn thing and can’t think of anybody who would.

More absurd, and less funny, is the tip that long-haul travelers would crave a $450 dash cam – because, really, the first thing I always do when I fly to Bali or Bangkok or Budapest is run to the rental car counter and hop in a car.. No. I don’t. I have never driven in those countries, doubt I ever will.  Travel enough and one thing you learn – ideally as a passenger – is that you don’t want to mess with the motoring gods in distant lands where prevailing rules of the road won’t compute in your jet-lagged noggin.

The list could go on but you get the point: these round-ups are crammed with what we don’t want.

Understand: in years past I have written such articles. Maybe I even wrote articles about gifts for business travelers in particular.  I am not blaming the writers.  It’s really just a system that requires such fluff.

My advice now is ignore such stories – and hope that those who give you gifts also ignore them.  The latter is the stickier bit.

Where I have gotten my best tips about gear to carry has always been other travelers.  Years ago, somebody told me about Leatherman.  Someone else told me he always carries a slim flashlight and I still carry that.

I also bring a sleep mask and earplugs on longhaul flights.  

But I can’t say I have ever craved gear in any of the year-end roundup gift stories. 

Isn’t there anything new and techy that I like? There is but it’s not for sale.  Sign up with Google’s Project Fi and you will get a gift box that contains a solar charger that really is just the thing when you are somewhere on the planet that requires a plug adapter you don’t have.  Put the gizmo in the sun for a few hours and you have the juice to power your phone or tablet.

Google isn’t selling those gizmos but Amazon sells a range of similar models, in the $20 range.  

Buy one especially if you travel overseas.

As for the rest, less is more for anybody who travels more than occasionally.  And that means nix the stuff no matter how cute, no matter how cool it might to have it every so often.  

Less definitely is more on the road.  

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