2019 Holiday Gift Guide, A Podcast

 

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It’s that time of year, again. 

So, what gifts does the road warrior need? I have two that have been on my list for 30+ years. The first is the Rolex GMT. It can be the Pepsi (blue and red bezel) or the Batman (blue and black bezel) either one works just plan for a $10,000 hit to your wallet. If you want to plan for the 2020 Holidays you can up your game to the Rolex GMT Root Beer, roughly $35,000 and at least an 18-month waiting list.

The other would be a mid-1990’s Range Rover Defender. Not the current 2020 Defender, which is a joke. The Defender from the ’90s was one tough vehicle, there was no place you couldn’t take it. I passed on the chance to buy one in 1994. It was yellow a soft top, loud and drove like hell, just what a father of two needed. If I recall it was around $31,000, you’d be hard-pressed to find it for less than $60,000 today.

Neither of these gifts will do anything to make my road warrior life any easier, but they’re as cool as it gets.

Time to get serious….

Typically gifts with the word “Travel” in their name are useless, travel pillow, travel wallet, travel scale.

Here are a few ideas that sound great, but they’re not.

Stainless Steel Tumblers – Yeti, Rambler, Rtic or any of those tumblers that keep ice intact for 3 weeks. We’ve all got one, three of them to be exact and while it’s a great gift they’re not great for traveling. Hanging out on the boat or at a neighbor’s cookout is what those behemoth steel tubes are made for.

Blacklight Flashlight – While this sounds as practical as it gets, no one wants to know what germs are lurking in their hotel room. Besides if the place looks that sketchy I’ll check out and find someplace else to stay.

Anything Associated With Washing Clothes In Our Room – We don’t need a clothesline that stretches across the bathtub. Nor do we need a sink stopper soap contraption. Most hotels have a washer and dryer hidden somewhere. 

RFID Blocking Anything – I never understood the hype over this. With the introduction of chipped cards, this is even less of a necessity. Besides if they want your information, they’ll get it.

When choosing gifts consider size and weight. Most of us are good at Luggage-Tetris, which means we know what goes where in our luggage. Give us some odd or over-sized item and it’ll throw us off our game. The same goes for weight. If it’s too heavy we may travel with it once, yes once and then we’ll be donating it to Goodwill.

Most road warriors do a decent job of equipping themselves but check to see if they’re missing any of these.

  • Packing Cubes – This is one of those things that I figured I could live without. Now after a year and a half I don’t know how I survived without them. Feed your OCD-ness for less than $25.00.
  • AUKEY Powerbank – I’ve yet to find a bad Aukey product. There’s nothing worse than having a dead phone, especially when you’re trying to let EVERYONE know your flights delayed. I have gifted these for years, make sure whatever you order is rated 10000mAh or above. $23.00 on Amazon
  • Anker PowerPort Speed 4 Wall Charger with One Quick Charge – If you travel with family, no doubt someone will leave their charging knuckle at home. This 4 port wall charger will instantly make you a hero. $28.00 on Amazon
  • Belkin SurgePlus USB Swivel Surge Protector and Charger – If you haven’t noticed, connectivity is a common theme for the traveler. Between, laptops, smartphones, tablets, wireless headphones, and smartwatches most of us require two or three outlets each time we hit up a hotel room. This simple 7 power strip will make life much easier when your hotel desk only has one outlet and the desk lamp is occupying one of the two spaces. $15.00 on Amazon
  • Anker Powerline II 3-in-1 Cable, Lightning/Type C/Micro USB Cable – Cables are a pain! My running joke is that if I ever fall off a cliff I want some sort of a charging cable with me…. the reason is that it’ll get hung up on something long before I hit the ground. With this, you can reduce 3 cables into one. $20.00

Two other basic necessities are luggage and backpack:

When it comes to gifting luggage or backpacks, I’ve done a complete 180 in the last 12 months.

For 20+ years I was a fan of Samsonite luggage but the last piece I bought made it less than 3 years….. busted zippers and handles where the foam just disintegrated. I recently purchased The Bigger Carry-On from Away, which was a far cry from any other bag that I’ve used. The two biggest changes were the four 360° spinner wheels and the hard polycarbonate shell. Four wheels seemed odd at first, but the bag does roll easier. I had stayed away from hard shell bags for one reason. Years ago I hired a gentleman and on his first day I picked him up at the airport. As he walked towards the car he was rolling a hard shell suitcase, and it was crushed. And not like open the bag and push it back into shape, it was crushed as if the plane had rolled over it. What I like about the Away bag is the way that you can compress clothing to help reduce wrinkles, plus it contains a hidden laundry bag. Save yourself a few dollars and buy it without the ejectable battery. As cool as it sounds no one wants to be tethered to their luggage, and you have to remove it if you ever check your luggage.

My favorite travel-related acquisition has been my Everki Atlas backpack. First, I’m rough on gear! It’s common for me to pick up backpacks by a single strap, and as you could imagine I’ve suffered more than my fair share of busted buckles. I’m known to overfill backpacks which have led to broken zippers. After 9 months this bag has shown no signs of giving in. Its orange interior makes it easy to locate my stuff. My biggest gripe with laptops is that stuff tends to sink to the bottom which makes it very bulky. The Atlas has multiple pockets, and most of them are located up high, this simple attention to detail keeps everything from settling to the bottom.

With the basics covered it’s time to think outside the preverbal box.

Fire TV Stick 4K – This makes the list every year. Most hotels have better TV’s that what I have in my house. Last weekend our room in the Hilton Disney Spring had a wonderful 65″ LG as I said better than what I have at home. The Firestick will let you take all those monthly Hulu and NetFlix subscriptions with you on the road. Don’t skimp buy the 4k since most hotel TV’s will support it. $50.00.

Glencairn Whiskey Glass – File this under “Take a bit of home with you on the road”. While I’m known as a beer guy I’m also a fan of clear and brown liquor. I’ve talked about Road Drinking in that past, and a Glencairn Whiskey glass is a perfect addition. If you never heard of the Glencairn it was designed for enjoying whiskey. Its tapered mouth allows for ease of drinking, and also captures the aromas. The wide bowl allows for full appreciation of the whiskey’s color. Combine this with a few nip bottles and you have a perfect gift. On the subject of brown liquor. If you have someone that would appreciate it here are three over-the-top gifts would be.

  • Blanton’s Single Barrel – I’ve managed to get two bottles this year. The first one I gave away and the second took nine months to acquire.  Here’s an interesting fact – Beginning in 1999 a collector’s set of eight different stoppers was produced. The set features a horse and jockey in different strides and poses resembling the stages of a horse race, from beginning to end. Each stopper is marked with a single letter that spells Blanton’s when the set has been completed.
  • 1792 Full Proof – Jim Murray’s 2020 World Whiskey Of The Year. Anytime something wins an award that contains the word World it has to be good. I’ve yet to sample this because it’s already disappearing from the shelves. It reminds me of the 1984 Cabbage Patch Doll supply and demand debacle.
  • Buffalo Trace –  This will be a bit easier to find, but you’ll have to search for it. Here’s where frequenting the same liquor store can pay off. I visit the same liquor store most every Saturday, it’s next to the dry cleaners. I call it killing two birds with one stone. They know me and have offered up several hard to find bottles during my weekly visits.

Skylight Frame – Digital picture frames are nothing new, they were the must-give gift about 7 years ago. The issue with them was after the initial upload of pictures it was never updated. If you gave one to a non-techie it required too much tech support. E-mail them new pictures, then explain how to download them, then explain how to copy them to a USB drive then…. you get the picture. Here’s how the Skylight Frame works, plug it in, connect it to your home WiFi then email photos to the frame. Pretty simple and lets those left behind see what you’re doing. $159.00.

Foldable Travel Duffel Bag – This is a stupid yet simple gift. How many times have you needed some sort of bag? This 20-inch bag features a compact folding design and is perfect for collecting shells at the beach or pinecones in the mountains. Stores easily in your backpack and it’s less than $17.00.

Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket – I hate jackets, first they’re bulky and second they’re bulky. Last year I picked up a Nano Puff and I like the fact that it’s thin yet keeps me warm. I can put it in a compression bag and it reduces to nothing. Retail is $200.00, but if you search you can find it much cheaper.

Medicine Bag – This one isn’t exciting till you need it. Getting sick on the road is a giant cup of suck, and a medicine bag can add a bit of comfort. Mine has, Benadryl – Great for skin irritations or making children or grandchildren go to sleep. AirBourne – I’ve fended off more colds with this stuff than I can remember. Zyrtec – for allergies. Zantec – for heartburn. Top it off with some aspirin and bandages. If you want to take a medicine bag to the next level add a sewing kit, some wet wipes and collar stays if they wear dress shirts.

For me, I still enjoy gift cards. Some folks think it’s a half-hearted gift, but some thought they are perfect. I enjoy Amazon and Uber eats gift cards, they’re the perfect gift. For instance, what better way to wind down the long workday then hatchet throwing? Stumpy’s Hatchet House has locations all over, and you can pre-pay a reservation online. If your road warrior is a fancy lad how about a visit to The Art Of Shaving? Shaved and pampered and if you use your Southwest Rapid Reward credit card you get four points for every dollar you spend online.

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