Holiday Central

Travel-friendly gifts for the frequent flier on your holiday list

Harriet Baskas, Special to CNBC
Passengers arrive and depart from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport.
Getty Images

Now that Thanksgiving is in the rear-view mirror, it's time for consumers to get serious about their Christmas shopping.

Whether the gift is for a friend, family member, co-worker or boss, something travel-related is usually a safe bet. The holiday travel season is in full swing, and people are either unpacking from their last adventure or starting to plot their next excursion. Recently, CNBC surveyed a clutch of gift sets that would be ideal for the frequent fliers on holiday gift lists.

Travel-sized coloring books and no-roll pencils

Travel-sized coloring books and no-roll pencils
ternational Arrivals

Coloring books for adults are trendy right now, being touted for stress reduction and meditative attributes. There's also the simple way they allow even artistically challenged people to feel creative.

Themed coloring books for grown-ups run the gamut from cats and dogs to the Broadway hit "Hamilton," as well as "Dr. Who" and "Star Wars." However, the 24-page "Urban Cities Color-in' Book" ($4.95) from International Arrivals is filled with cityscapes of houses, highways, boats and bridges, and is conveniently travel-sized at 8.5 x 6 inches. It can be paired with a box of 36 no-roll, triangle-shaped colored pencils ($11.20).

Potions and lotions


It can be a challenge to stay healthy, hydrated and stocked with basic personal care products on the road, so gifts of high-quality travel-sized lotions, potions and products may come in handy. stocks an In-Flight Kit ($19.28) with 10 different items, including an inflatable lumbar pillow and antibacterial hand and face wipes. Meanwhile, Trilipiderm's On-the-Go Bundle ($32.99) is filled with TSA-compliant sizes of skin-care products.

Books that inspire and explain

Christine Negroni’s “The Crash Detectives — Investigating the World’s Most Mysterious Air Disasters”

Sales of books (remember those?) have become a victim of the digital age, but every now and then people appreciate the nostalgia of a good hardcover or paperback. DK's "Great City Maps" (hardback: $30) is an illustrated guide to the world's most celebrated historical city maps, while the publisher's "Where to Go When" (paperback; $20) offers month-by-month inspiration for future adventures.

For those fascinated by aviation disasters — and still puzzled by the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 — Christine Negroni's "The Crash Detectives - Investigating the World's Most Mysterious Air Disasters" (Penguin; $17) is a must.

Travel-worthy clothing

Mer Sea & Co. Travel Wrap
Mer Sea & Co. Travel Wrap

Bag-check fees and airlines that charge for overhead bin space have created a market for compact clothing. Scottevest, ExOfficio and several other companies offer multipocket vests, coats, shirts, pants and other travel-friendly apparel for men and women.

For women who'd rather be cozy and stylish while traveling, Mer Sea & Co. Travel Wraps ($68-$100) are lightweight, washable and versatile: And when stored in their matching bag, they double as travel pillows.

Food and office supplies from foreign lands

Provisions gift box

Outdoor gear company Patagonia recently launched a food division called Patagonia Provisions with environmentally responsible products that support food producers.

Multiple gift boxes are available, including a vegetarian sampler ($50) filled with soups, breakfast grain pouches and fruit bars. Separately, the Whole Shebang "Extra Dry" Gift Box ($149) comes stocked with packets of wild sockeye and pink salmon, organic soups, breakfast grains, buffalo jerky, fruit bars and other items.

Another option is a travel gift box subscription for either three months, six months or a year. Try the World ($39 and up) delivers a curated selection of gourmet foods and a culture guide from a different country each month; while Rad and Hungry sends out cool, quirky and vintage office supplies sourced from around the world.

Carry-on kayak

Swing inflatable kayak

Many travelers take skis, golf clubs, fishing rods and other outdoor sporting gear with them on vacation — but pay hefty extra fees to check those items and hope they don't get lost or stolen.

Yet checking a boat is another story, and now kayakers have a carry-on option: inflatables. Innova's Swing ($599) inflates in about five minutes, weighs under 25 pounds and packs into a suitcase-sized 27 x 15 x 9-inch roll that will also fit under the Christmas tree.

— Harriet 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.