This seems to be a popular type of post around this time of year. Some people find gift guides annoying, but when they're well curated, they're pretty helpful.
So with the gadget-loving traveler in mind, here goes...
For those who like consuming media in their hotel rooms, the Google Chromecast is an interesting new idea. It plugs directly into a TV's HDMI port (hopefully your hotel room has a TV with one) and can stream media from your Chrome web browser or through its native apps like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Pandora, and more.
I have one at home and love it!
Noise Cancelling Headphones
Now these are offered in different form factors - the classic over the ear and the new ear bud style. Joann has the over the ear Bose® QuietComfort® 15 and they work really well, much better than the cheaper set I bought to see if there really is a Bose difference (there is).
I have my eye on the Bose QuietComfort 20i because I like ear buds better. Everyone I know who has them says they are amazing!
If you're looking for a more budget-minded set of noise cancelling headphones, look into the Sony MDR-NC7. I currently have a pair and while not even close to the quality of the Bose, they do a good job of canceling out airplane engine drone at almost 20% of the cost.
Travelon Bag Bungee
This is definitely a cheap & handy item. The Travelon Bag Bungee lets you securely strap your small bag/purse/backpack to the top of your roller carry-on for easier strolling through the airport. Both Joann and I have one and it sure beats lugging a back over your shoulder along with having a rollaboard in tow.
External Battery Packs
Nowadays, I am rarely without an external battery pack for my phone or tablet. I prefer the Anker Astro Slim3 6000mAh since it has a built-in micro USB for my Androids and has plenty of juice. For newer iPhone owners, the Photive Ultra Capacity 3000mAH is a well reviewed battery that boasts a built-in lightning cable. It's nice to know that you'll never be without a cable if you bring either of these battery chargers.
Phone speakers suck. The X-Mini II portable capsule speaker is cheap and LOUD! I received it for Christmas last year and was pleasantly surprised. It's not fancy bluetooth; it simply plugs into your device's headphone jack. It has a USB-rechargeable battery, too. I've even used it with our Chromebook and it performs well for watching movies.
Speaking of Chromebooks, I love mine. I bought the Samsung Chromebook (Wi-Fi, 11.6-Inch) used for under $180 from Amazon Warehouse. Even at $229, it's a nice device providing you know what you want from it. On trips, I use it to do the standard stuff - read/write emails, write blog posts with photos, and watch movies. Battery life is great and the instant-on of Chrome OS is very nice. It's no Macbook Air, but it's also not $1000.
Travel Surge Protector
After going through a few power strips, I find the Belkin SurgePlus to be the handiest. The swivel plug is key for fitting in tight spaces and it also sports 2 USB ports, great for a multi-device traveler/family. It has 2.1A total so it will charge your larger devices like iPads.
This is something that is only for international travel. It's almost always cheaper to buy a local SIM card than to set up a global plan with your US provider. We use the Unlocked Huawei E585 3G MiFi device because we have so many devices that it's just easier to have a central device to connect to. It takes a bit to initially set up (changing APNs and such), but there are great tutorials on the web and after you set it up once, you're a pro.
Inflatable Seat Cushion
This is nice for those longgg mileage runs or mistake fares in coach. Since it's inflatable, the Thermarest Lite Seat packs easily and doesn't take up much room. I love it for any flight over 6 hours.
The Grid-It Organizer is something I like to keep in my personal item to keep little things like cords, cables, ear plugs, spare memory cards, and other small miscellaneous objects in order. You can also get by with a rubber band or some twist-ties.
This is handy for any water activities. The FRIEQ® Universal Waterproof Case is universal to gadgets that are iPhone-sized and also certified waterproof up to 100 feet. The last time we used ours was when we did a hike in the rain forest of Puerto Rico. It was perfect - one for Joann's iPhone and one for our point & shoot camera. It worked great at all times, even while rappelling down a 90 foot waterfall!
This last item may seem weird for a travel item, but I'm one that's rarely ever without a flashlight. We used ours last in Panama when walking back to the hotel after dinner and drinks. There weren't many streetlights and with a light this bright, it does help feeling a bit safer. Now, you can accomplish the same with a simple flashlight app on your phone, but I think everyone should have a solid flashlight in case of emergency.
My favorite brand is Fenix because it can run on regular AA batteries (many run on expensive CR123A type) and aren't too pricey. I have the Fenix LD20; they have an updated model, the LD22, which is just as great.
For something a little more compact, check out the Fenix E05. It's only 6.5" long and uses a single AA battery.
If you're looking for a gift for any type of traveler, I hope this very personal list helps you out. Most of these items are things that I use often and when I find a good product, I won't be shy about sharing it with friends, family, and readers.
Happy holidays and happy gift hunting!