Since the format didn't include links to the products that I recommended, though, I decided that some follow-up information was in order. Here's the inside scoop on what I recommended and why.
- External Power for Laptop Computers. Long flights drain laptop batteries. You can get more life out of your portable computer by turning down the brightness of the screen, but isn't it hard enough to see the screen on a plane? A better solution is an NCharge VNC-130 external battery pack by Valence. Sleek and very thin, the NCharge is fairly heavy (because it is a battery) but provides up to 8 hours of AC-equivalent power. Specifying your laptop model ensures you'll get the right power connector. ($300; order direct from Valence.)
- Privacy Filter for Laptop Screens. Maybe you're in First Class, or maybe you have a middle seat in Coach. Either way, do you really want the person next to you to see what's on your laptop screen? The privacy filter by 3M has you (and your laptop) covered! Choose the right size for your laptop, install it in seconds, and anyone looking at your laptop from more than 15 degrees off-center will see nothing but a black screen--but you'll barely notice the difference looking at it head-on. ($50; widely available.)
- Ultraviolet Water Purifier. If you've traveled outside of the developed world, you're well aware of the need to treat local water with skepticism. Buying bottled water, though, can be both expensive and frustrating--and if you pick up a local brand, you may well be paying a premium for the same water you'd find in the tap anyway. Instead, bring along a SteriPEN Adventurer UV water purifier by Hydro-Photon.
Designed with backpackers in mind, the SteriPEN is a lightweight device about the size of a sheathed knife that comes with a belt pouch. Turn it on, dip it into clear water, and swirl gently. It turns itself off when its cycle finishes, and you can drink the water knowing that it's damaged or destroyed "in excess of 99.9999% of bacteria, 99.99% of viruses and 99.9% protozoa." I brought one with me to Mexico and drank purified tap water the entire time that was there with no ill effects. ($130; available from REI and other vendors.)
- Ultra-Thin Travel Shaver. Gentlemen who are otherwise clean-shaven will immediately appreciate the annoyance of getting of a flight looking overgrown and haggard. Turbulence makes bladed razors a bad choice for places, though, and most electric razors are bulky. The ES518N by Panasonic is not well named and offers just one blade but stands out with good reason: it's about the size of a credit card and only half an inch thick, and while it won't replace your favorite bathroom razor at home, you can't beat the convenience while you're traveling. ($60; available at Brookstone and online.)
Hope these ideas make it easier for you to shop for the frequent travelers in your life.