Handy Holiday Gifts For the Frequent Flier

By Keith L. Alexander
Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Barbara Stein remembers sitting in an hotel room in Carbondale, Ill., a few years ago, furious about missing a crucial Redskins game because it wasn't being televised where she was staying.

Now, the Arlington football fan doesn't worry about missing local games or her favorite TV shows. She purchased a Slingbox, a high-tech device that connects a home TV to the Internet and allows users to tap into their local programming through a Web-connected computer.

"I can now sit in my hotel room in Seattle and watch a Redskins game in real time, just like I would if I were home," said Stein, a policy analyst with the National Education Association. The $250 Slingbox is available at many electronics retailers or online at http://www.slingbox.com/ .

With crowded flights, long airport security lines and fewer free perks on airlines, one of the best gifts for frequent fliers might be a prescription for Xanax. But some frequent fliers suggest gifts that are more simple, fun or practical.

With airlines cutting meals and replacing them with cold sandwiches, Marilyn Baltz McQuinn, of Ventura County, Calif., says a great gift idea for the frequent fliers in your life is a gift card from a fast-food chain found in major airports, making it easy for them to pick up a quick burger or salad to take on the flight.

Boston frequent flier Jacki Lippman swears by the personal space ionizer that she wears around her neck during flights. The size of a small flip phone, the device retails for $30 to $70 on Web sites such as http://www.sharperimage.com/ or http://www.amazon.com/ . Lippman said that several of her co-workers snickered in disbelief when she purchased the device but that it came in handy during a recent 11-hour flight between Bombay and London. She was in the last row of the plane, near the lavatory, she said, and found that the ionizer "made life much more pleasant" during the long flight.

For the, ahem, larger-sized frequent flier in your life, Jeff De Cagna suggests purchasing a seat-belt extender. For years, the Arlington resident -- who stands at 6-feet-2 and weighs in at 350 pounds -- had to sheepishly ask flight attendants for the airline's extenders, a device that gives a traditional airplane seat belt a little extra length so it fits comfortably around his lap. Two years ago, De Cagna purchased his own from extenders from SuperSize World ( http://www.supersizeworld.com/ ), which sells products designed for large people. The extenders run between $60 and $70.

"To avoid hard feelings, give this one only to someone you really love and who really loves you," said De Cagna, a nonprofit industries consultant.

Inflatable travel pillows and small blankets that can be folded into a carry-on bag are also popular suggestions, especially now that airlines have either stopped providing pillows and blankets or have started charging for them.

For those travelers who have multiple devices that need charging, Jason K. Schechner, an engineer from Severn, Md., recommends a universal power brick by Targus or Kensington. The portable adapters, which are priced at $80 to $150, allow users to simultaneously charge multiple gadgets, such as laptops and cell phones.

Schechner also recommends a laptop case on wheels such as the Kensington Contour rolling case. Priced at $60 to $110, a rolling case allows Schechner to pull his laptop by hand, just like a carry-on bag.

Legal assistant Jennifer Sugiyama of Seattle recently purchased a fleece blanket and pillow from http://www.flight001.com/ . The site sells nearly 100 "kits" aimed at frequent fliers, including an assorted mini-candle aluminum kit for $15 to clear the air in hotel rooms, a $28 flight pack that includes Evian by Brumisateur Mineral Water Spray (to fight skin dehydration), dental floss and towelettes, and a $26 "shame on you kit" that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, phone card, pain reliever and three condoms.

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