Travel guides for iPods, a gadget that reads the night sky and announces the constellations, and toiletries in 3-ounce containers are a few of the new gift ideas for travelers this holiday season.
But don’t overlook basic options like books and bags. Here are some gift suggestions for various types of travelers, from teenagers taking their first trip overseas to frequent flyers.
Today’s teenagers aren’t just taking class trips by bus to the state capital. High schools are offering everything from senior trips to the Caribbean to a week in Paris for French class. International programs are also a popular alternative to summer camp.
A duffel bag with wheels is a good luggage option for younger travelers. Beware of cheap models with thin fabric that easily rips away from the zipper if the bag is packed too full or thrown on an airport luggage carousel. Rolling Adventure Duffels from L.L. Bean or 800-221-4221 -- are sturdy and come in a variety of colors and three sizes, $79-$99; they have a shoulder strap, cinch straps and a telescoping retractable handle.
For kids who want to phone home from overseas, an international calling card may be an easier, cheaper alternative than a cell phone. Sprint sells a $10 international card; you can get it at Radio Shack.
Document holders worn around the neck are a safe, efficient way for teenagers -- or any traveler -- to organize passport, tickets and itinerary. They’re often sold in the aisle where you find wallets. The travel supply company Magellan’s or 800-962-4943 - sells a passport/ID holder for about $10.
Both credit cards and cash have drawbacks for kids. It’s hard to budget yourself when using plastic because you don’t know how much you’ve spent. And you can’t use a credit card to buy a soda from a street vendor. But cash can’t be replaced if lost or stolen, and it may be hard for kids on a group itinerary to get to a currency exchange office.
People to People Ambassadors sends 30,000 American students overseas each year and recommends two options. Before the child leaves home, order foreign currency from Wells Fargo; and/or get the child a preloaded VisaBuxx debit card. You can monitor VisaBuxx expenses online while the child is traveling, add more funds electronically and cancel if lost or stolen.
Gearheads and Gadgeteers
It’s not just twentysomethings and geeks who stuff their bags with electronics. “Don’t leave home without it” now applies to digital cameras, laptops, cell phones, and iPods for travelers from nearly every demographic.
An MP3 player or digital camera makes a great gift for any traveler who doesn’t have one. But if the travelers in your life are already outfitted with basic electronics, burnish their gear with some supplies.
A battery recharger and a set of rechargeable batteries make a good gift for traveling photographers. A new line of rechargeable batteries called Hybrio are ready to use right out of the package instead of requiring initial charging; a charger and four AA batteries is $20. Details at http://www.hybriousa.com/.
For overseas travelers, you can purchase adapters and converters so that electronics and appliances can be used around the world. Magellan’s has a guide to what’s needed, and where.
For iPod users, go to the iTunes store and search Audiobooks for the “Travel and Adventure” category. You’ll find everything from Henry David Thoreau and Rick Stevens to Soundwalk tours of New York City and “Tee and Tour” golf tours of Scotland. Click on the title for a full description; an option pops up called “Gift This Audiobook.”
For the person who needs some inspiration, there are three new books from Lonely Planet. “The Perfect Day” ($7.99) is a pocket guide with itineraries for spending a glorious day in 100 cities around the world; “Blue List” ($19.99) is filled with best-of lists and recommendations, from best local bars to most amazing natural phenomena to “tourist traps worth the crowds”; and “A Year of Adventures” suggests a half-dozen things to do for every week of the year, from bobsledding in Lake Placid, N.Y., in January, to running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain, in July.
Travel + Leisure magazine has just come out with a hardcover book called “100 Greatest Trips” ($35) with itineraries around the world, from “Down East Feasts” in Maine to learning to paint in Florence, Italy, to touring South Africa’s wine country. An index offers details on where to stay, eat and shop.
For young armchair travelers, there’s “101 Places You Gotta See Before You’re 12,” by Joanne O’Sullivan (Sterling/Lark Books, $9.95). It lists everything from once-in-a-lifetime destinations to ideas for local forays like visiting a landfill, an artist’s studio, a working farm or an ethnic restaurant. Other categories for consideration include a trip to a fort, a subway, or a cave.
The book also provides specific recommendations, such as places to see wildlife migration, including Nebraska’s Platte River, where sandhill cranes gather in late winter and early spring. The book comes with stickers so kids can rate the ideas as “Top 20,” “Wish List,” “Way strange,” or if they’ve already been there, “Loved it” or “Yawn fest.”
A portable metal grill turns any campfire or bonfire into a stovetop. A model that folds into a silver tube and weighs 20 ounces is $28 from the Travel Smart newsletter, 800-327-3633.
For the traveler who seeks out places that are far from city lights, SkyScout is a pricey but perfect gift. You aim the camcorder-sized gadget at a star, and it tells you what you’re looking at. See the information on a small screen or hear a description through ear phones. You can even enter a search for a star or planet by name, and arrows in the viewfinder will direct you to it. SkyScout weighs a pound, uses global-positioning technology and runs $399.
Help out the frequent flyer in your life with one of these products.
- A semicircular travel pillow that goes around your neck and allows you to nap or relax while sitting upright without getting a sore neck. You can buy these in drug stores for about $10. They’re inflatable and pack flat.
- Luggage locks, made by Travel Sentry, approved by the Transportation Security Administration, about $20 and available where luggage is sold.
- Personal care products in TSA-approved 3-ounce sizes. Put together a collection - toothpaste, shaving cream, deodorant, shampoo - and throw in a box of one-quart zip-top plastic bags so the traveler on your gift list can make it through the carry-on line at the airport. Pick the items up at a drugstore or check out www.minimus.biz/. They offer pre-made kits and care packages along with gift certificates. For the latest in carry-on restrictions, visit www.tsa.gov/.
- A sturdy, padded bag for a laptop, like the $70 Notebook Backpack from Targus. Note that the TSA recently issued an advisory asking air passengers to take their laptops on board rather than checking them, due to the risk of damage.
- A handheld hanging scale so luggage can be weighed in order to comply with airline rules; $9.50 from www.travelsmartnewsletter.com/.