Road Warrior

Happy holidays--here's a dictionary! Gifts for those on the go

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC

Still puzzling over a gift for the road warrior or frequent traveler on your list? How about giving them a first-class plane ticket?

In a nutshell, that's what a recent poll from Switchfly discovered. More than half of those interviewed (65 percent) said they would be delighted to receive an air travel gift for the holiday. Thirty-five percent of respondents said they'd prefer a gift of a first-class upgrade, while 31 percent would rather have a plane ticket to a foreign country.

Nice gift, if you can afford it. But since gifting plane tickets or first-class seats can be complicated—and certainly outside the budget of the average traveler—there are some alternative travel-related items that may go over well with family and friends.

Some gifts help travelers be more efficient on the road. Others may improve the flying experience, help someone out of a jam, or just serve as a pleasant perk on a stressful travel day. However, all of them can be purchased online, and delivered to an email inbox at the very last minute.

Because we know you're a busy traveler too.

Words to travel by

The classic DK Eyewitness Travel Guides were recently revamped, and now have updated itineraries, better content and are easier to use. The books fall within a modest range of $14-$30, but are still a bit heavy for those who need to travel light. For that reason, it's a good thing that most all the guides, along with the DK Top 10, Eyewitness Family Travel and the Eyewitness Back Roads series, are now available as e-books.

Rosetta Stone's courses in 30 languages can also be delivered as e-gifts. They can help travelers with downtime on long plane rides (or on boring conference calls) learn how to order a great meal or close a deal in another country.

Airport security-friendly toiletries

Relying on hotel toiletries can be a hit or miss proposition. This makes many frequent travelers stuff their carry-on bags with tiny tubes and bottles of lotions and potions from brands they love, or an assortment of items snitched from hotel bathrooms along the way.

The gift of replenishing those minis is made easy with an e-gift certificate from, a website that carries more than 2,500 travel and individual-sized items (including food) and a nice variety of gift and personal care travel kits.

Another option is a subscription to Birchbox, which will send your favorite traveler a box filled with five beauty and personal care samples for the next three to 12 months. (Prices start at $30 for women and $60 for men.)

Birchbox chooses the grooming products in the amenity kits offered to travelers flying in JetBlue's Mint premium cabin between New York City and Los Angeles or San Francisco. The package also comes with handy JetBlue discount codes that anyone can use for subscriptions and product discounts.

Just about every airline offers gift cards that can delivered electronically. For those days when flyers find themselves stranded by bad weather, a broken airplane or a missed flight, it may be time for a spa day. The airport day spa XpresSpa, or a day pass, or full year's entry into a club lounge, may be the answer.

"If a friend or family member is a frequent traveler, purchasing a lounge membership online for them could make a lot of sense," said Lounge Buddy co-founder Brent Griffith. "For example, United offers their United Club membership for $500 per year, while Delta offers their Delta Sky Club membership starting at $450."

The Plaza Premium Lounge, an independent all-travelers-welcome lounge with branches in London, Vancouver, Hong Kong and 15 other airports, offers e-certificates for gift cards. Those are good for a package of five to 10 visits that can be used by one person or shared around.

—By Harriet Baskas, special to Baskas is the author of seven books, including "Hidden Treasures: What Museums Can't or Won't Show You," and the Stuck at the Airport blog. Follow her on Twitter at @hbaskas. Follow Road Warrior at @CNBCtravel.