Gift for someone starting a job that involves international travel?
March 9, 2016 10:52 AM   Subscribe

I have a friend and coworker who is quitting to take a job related to international development. I'd like to get her a small gift to celebrate this new stage in her life. The new job involves some international travel - probably one week away out of every 2-3 months. I'm thinking it would be nice to get her something that is supportive of her new job - maybe something that will make the travel nicer. What should I get her? What are small things that improve life for international business travelers?

Possibly relevant: She dresses nicely and is fashionable, likes baking and sewing, is pretty organized and detail-oriented, and is very petite, is up on technology but not all that into gadgets, and appreciates things that look nice or are high-quality. Other than the travel, she'll still be around; she's not moving away. The places she'll be traveling to include Rwanda, Moldova, the Philippines and Romania.

Ideally looking for:
* Something semi-practical but also semi-sentimental/fun. So nothing too utilitarian, but I do want it to be useful.
* Price range of about $20 - $40
* Ideally available in stores rather than only on the internet. I have access to most big stores and there are a fair amount of small specialty shops around here.

posted by aka burlap to Shopping (35 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
An international travel plug adapter is within your price range and definitely hits all the practical notes. It's also something that you always seem to need more than one of--the more, the better--I've discovered.
posted by PearlRose at 11:06 AM on March 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

I was thinking the exact same thing. If your friend is an Apple user, I've found this kit really handy. You just swap out the end parts on all your existing power bricks.
posted by danny the boy at 11:10 AM on March 9, 2016

A small coin purse/wallet for use with the different denominations of money. I'm not familiar with the currencies of those countries, but any country that uses larger-value coins inevitably poses a problem for American travellers who aren't used to carrying around much, if any, change. I have a cheap little Muji purse-let that has compartments for a few different currencies, so I don't have to worry about mixing up my Euros and my pounds. You can probably find something semi-nice in that price range.
posted by praemunire at 11:11 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Also, within your price range, maybe one of these digital world time watches, especially if she likes retro styling:

Note that they have metal bands (that are pretty cheap honestly) but their cases are plastic with metallic paint. But that's going to be common under $40. Those two above have essentially the same internals, and so does this, which is a bit more modern and rubbery:
Casio AE1000

Or something that looks more like an analog watch:
Casio AW80

I don't have personal experience with that last watch though.
posted by danny the boy at 11:20 AM on March 9, 2016

Delta stranded me overnight without my luggage once and gave me a cute little Kiehl's-branded Sorry We Screwed Up kit, with a foldable toothbrush, mini toothpaste and lotions, floss, razor, deodorant, Q-tips, comb, etc. I don't know if you can buy that kind of thing pre-made, but you could get a pencil bag or something and make your own.

An e-ink Kindle is the most invaluable travel accessory I can think of - the cheapest one is $60, which is not too far outside your budget.
posted by theodolite at 11:21 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Excellent ideas so far! I should have added: anything that is aesthetically pleasing, or that's like a little touch of luxury would be good.
posted by aka burlap at 11:22 AM on March 9, 2016

One thing that's really nice is to have duplicates of stuff she already has. It may sound wasteful, but having a toiletry kit or hairdryer that you don't have to unpack everytime you get home, is a huge timesaver if you're packing and repacking all the time.

The other thing I really like to have on trips is a small bag of my favourite teas (caff and non-caff) and/or coffees that I can use in place of the horrible options in the hotel coffeemaker trays. Mine is just a ziploc bag with a samples or teas and so forth, but you could put in hot chocolates, instant hot apple ciders, what ever she likes. Get a small toiletry bag or pouch and it could be a really nice gift.
posted by bonehead at 11:26 AM on March 9, 2016 [9 favorites]

How about a nice passport cover? I have one from Pylones that makes me smile whenever I use it. Bonus: the bright colours means it's real easy to find in my bag.

You could also get her a scarf with a secret pocket - Etsy has a whole bunch if you search for "passport scarf", and several within your price range.

I also like the idea of getting her a nice notebook and pen she can use as a journal.
posted by Tamanna at 11:30 AM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Etsy has some nice custom luggage tags. You could also search etsy for passport holders. I like the holders that have a pocket for boarding passes too.
posted by areaperson at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2016

I'd caution against getting a passport cover. I have a gorgeous red leather one, but every time I hand it to a Customs or border agent, the first thing they do is rip the passport out of the cover--and they aren't gentle when they do it.

What I would suggest is travel documents holder. Having your bording pass, passport, Customs declaration card, etc. together and in one easy-to-access billfold makes travelling so much easier.
posted by sardonyx at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm getting paranoid enough that I want an RFID-blocking passport sleeve.
posted by achrise at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2016

What I would suggest is travel documents holder. Having your boarding pass, passport, Customs declaration card, etc. together and in one easy-to-access billfold makes traveling so much easier.

Ditto. This is very handy. She will probably acquire multiple travel documents anyway (Global Entry, NEXUS, the new GB one, etc...), and being able to keep those together with an literary, boarding pass is very handy at the airport. RFID blocking may be overkill as well, but the Global Entry cards come with a RIFID sleeve now too, so it doesn't hurt to be a little careful.
posted by bonehead at 11:39 AM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

I travel a bit for work and this neck pillow is the greatest thing.

There are a lot of travel size makeup/hair/skin/whatever sets out there that make good, useful gifts (like this one, or this one).
posted by everybody had matching towels at 12:00 PM on March 9, 2016

Muji sleep mask. Much chic-er than the ones you find in travel stores. I think it's $12. Muji also has some great cosmetic bottles she can decant small amounts of her potions into.
posted by matildaben at 12:08 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

A blanket that squishes down to nothing for her carry on case- flights can be drafty. Some great moisturizer for face/lips for long flights.
posted by Ftsqg at 12:18 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Flight 001 has a lot of nifty gifts that you might be able to source locally.

You could fill a Tom Bihn travel tray with a couple of 6' cables (because hotels don't always put plugs in easily accessible places).

I put my SOI light into my travel tray at night so I can find my glasses/the bathroom/etc. easily in the dark.

It's out of your price range, but if she doesn't already have Global Entry and she's eligible, you should urge her to apply. Time == the best gift of all.
posted by evoque at 12:20 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have plenty of scarves, and I need another like a hole in the head, but I travel for work more than I'd like, and I covet this Lululemon Vinyasa scarf. Any scarf that fastened at the ends like it, if you could find one, would be a treat, especially since you never really know how hot or cold your plane or airport gate is going to be.
posted by alynnk at 12:26 PM on March 9, 2016

Small candles (in tins) travel well and are a great luxury to make a hotel room feel more welcoming. Voluspa is my preferred brand--the fragrances and packaging are relatively sophisticated, without costing an arm and a leg like Diptyque or whatever.
posted by mama casserole at 12:29 PM on March 9, 2016

A travel organizer like this, this, or this to hold cables, power cords, and adapters. The important thing is to be able to see at a glance if you have forgotten to pack something.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:03 PM on March 9, 2016

Little touch of luxury: a fancy facial mist in a pretty bottle (3oz or less) that she can carry onto the plane. I like plain old rosewater, which you can get anywhere, but there are tons of options.

I am a big fan of these self-heating eye masks for the plane.

If you know her really well, a solid perfume is nice to tuck in your bag, since it won't spill.

I also really like having a small wooden spoon in my bag for long trips - you might want to get a yogurt or something to eat in your hotel room. They usually give you a cup, but almost never a spoon. (I like wood since it's lightweight)
posted by chocotaco at 1:09 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

How about just getting her a bunch of cute, colorful zippered pouches in various sizes? I can see these coming in handy in lots of different situations.
posted by delight at 1:11 PM on March 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

An external battery pack for her phone. Lifesavers when you are traveling and using your phone to read, chat, check emails, watch movies. Kmashi makes good ones.
posted by yogalemon at 1:57 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

Small gift or travel size sets of creams, shower gels, and shampoo/conditioner. Look for one that is nicely packaged in a travel pouch. Higher end brands like Aveda, Kiehl's, or L'Occitane come to mind.
posted by exquisite_deluxe at 1:59 PM on March 9, 2016

Passport holders always keep things organized for professionals on the go
posted by ALSC at 2:25 PM on March 9, 2016

Seconding facial mist for dry planes.
posted by slateyness at 2:42 PM on March 9, 2016

If your friend is fashionable, quality-sensitive, organised and detail-oriented, she is going to be super-fussy about all this stuff. There are holy wars about how best to carry documents, tag luggage, pack and organise -- and she will either have, or will quickly develop, opinions about all of it. So I would stay away from that stuff.

I vote Apple travel kit as danny the boy suggested. Adapters are constantly getting left behind in hotels and conference rooms, so even if she already has the kit, she will need a duplicate. And it's beautiful.

Failing that, a neutral blanket/scarf/pashmina thing (ideally a heavy one that doesn't easily wrinkle) is a godsend on the plane. Matching slippers would be a nice touch too.
posted by Susan PG at 2:50 PM on March 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've done my own version of this. YMMV, and it's certainly not $185, but that's Goop for you.
posted by msamye at 4:49 PM on March 9, 2016

I bought a soft, wooly shawl at Wal-Mart for flights. It was $15 and it's fantastic!

A dual voltage nightlight.

I'm not kidding about the night light. I always take one when I travel. Hotel rooms can be dark and if you're tired and disoriented...nightlight. V
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:57 PM on March 9, 2016

I work in international development. One thing about visiting airports in developing countries is that getting your baggage can really slow you down, and a one week trip is usually totally doable with just a carry on. But if you are meeting with high level officials, you need to have the appropriate clothes.

All that to say that I've long wanted something like this. I've made it this far without, so it's not essential, but man it'd be great.

Plug adapter is critical of course, though it will depend on what she's packing whether she will need something with a voltage converter or just a pin adapter.

When you fly business, they often give you a little toiletries kit with stuff specifically suited for flying - eye mask, ear plugs, looser fitting socks (to put over the ones you are wearing so they don't get dirty when you inevitably take your shoes off), comb, travel toothbrush, tiny toothpaste, one or two wet wipes, a couple breath mints, lip balm, maybe a small tube of moisturizer. I find having that all in a small low-profile bag I can keep in the seat pouch in front of me rather than digging through my carry on awfully useful - I also add earbud headphones plus a little converter to the two pin headphone jack some planes use; minor, since on international flights they will hand out headphones anyway, but often the TV system is in service long before they get around to that.
posted by solotoro at 5:33 PM on March 9, 2016 [2 favorites]

I really like these containers.
posted by Shanda at 9:49 PM on March 9, 2016

Is there a specialist stationery shop near you? If so, see if they have the Midori Travelers Notebook (though it looks like Amazon might have the best price for them). It can also function as a travel documents holder if you get pockets, and is a good cross of the practical and the luxurious. If the original Midori is too expensive for you, look up "Fauxdoris", which are a similar setup but could be cheaper.
posted by divabat at 11:53 PM on March 9, 2016

Blankets? Hair dryer? Candles?

Lordy lord, the most important thing in all travels is to travel light!

Most important thing may be an additional alarm clock that is easy to adjust and light enough:

(international travel, jet lag, you might want an additional alarm besides your cell phone and not always fight with the ever changing alarm clock in your hotel room)
posted by yoyo_nyc at 1:07 AM on March 10, 2016

Seconding the external battery pack for the phone. I have this one and it's no frills, super basic, super light and small and it's become my must have for flights.
posted by like_neon at 1:31 AM on March 10, 2016

I travel fairly frequently for business & stay in hotels. Romanian hotels are much more likely to have loud music on the ground floor than western hotels (weddings baptism celebrations etc.) & I find it extremely helpful to travel with a couple of pair of these earplugs wherever I go. They are comfortable, weigh almost nothing & help me to get a good night's sleep in almost any hotel.

They are also helpful for traffic noise or thin walls.
posted by cantthinkofagoodname at 11:20 PM on March 10, 2016

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