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Perfect gifts for globe-trotters

There’s something odd about buying gifts for travelers. Whatever you get them, you obviously hope it will come in handy on their next adventure. If you think about it, you’re basically saying, “Here, I got this for you. Now go away.”
iPod Nano
Looking for the perfect gift for the traveler on your list? Accessories for iPods are always a good option.Paul Sakuma / AP file

There’s something odd about buying gifts for travelers. Whatever you get them, you obviously hope it will come in handy on their next adventure. If you think about it, you’re basically saying, “Here, I got this for you. Now go away.”

Fortunately, the travelers on your list are probably eager to do just that, and you can help them with gifts that fit the way they travel. Close to home or across the ocean? Tied to tradition or wedded to technology? Whatever their style — and mode of travel — here are some gifts that can help them enjoy the trip.

Road trippers
Music on the go never goes out of style, but car stereo systems do. If your favorite wheel jockey drives a car with a cassette player, they can enjoy their iPod library with The Travel Kit from . Available for less than $30, this book-sized case includes a charger, cassette adapter, and several retractable cables.

No cassette deck? The MP3 Travel Accessory Kit ($20) from lets them tune in via the enclosed FM transmitter while keeping all cords and accessories in one convenient place. If you really want to impress them, though, the Drive + Play unit from ($150 and up) comes with a mountable display screen and separate hand controller so they can change playlists without taking their eyes off the road.

Smooth cruisers
The only thing darker than a villain’s heart is an inside cabin on a cruise ship. With the lights off and door closed, there’s no telling whether you’re sleeping through breakfast, bingo, or a whole day in port. The Maverick tube alarm clock/flashlight ($25 through solves the problem with a back-lit digital clock display, easy-to-set alarm, and twist-to-use LED flashlight — all in a sleek unit about the size of a hot dog.

A bit bigger, but equally handy, the three-pound ESTREAM travel steamer from means you can get clothes wrinkle-free without joining the crowd in the onboard laundry room. With a 600-watt heating element, it uses straight tap water, provides 15 minutes of steam, and is available in 120- and 230-volt versions ($69) or with a 120-230 voltage converter ($88).

Frequent flyers
Chances are, the frequent flyers on your list already know about TSA’s 3-1-1 rule regarding liquids and gels in carry-on luggage. But are they aware that they can get everything from soy sauce to sunscreen in similar-sized containers? The folks at stock hundreds of travel-size items in dozens of categories. Type the word “ZIPLOCK” in the special instructions section of your order and they’ll even pack it all in a security-ready, one-quart bag.

As airplanes get more crowded, so, too, does the market for noise-canceling headphones, those handy units that generate sound waves to cancel outside noise. The newest offering from , the Quiet Comfort 3, offers the company’s proprietary technology, but in a smaller, flat-folding unit, although the price tag ($349) is still plenty big. For those on a tighter budget, the Plane Quiet NC7 headphones (various online retailers) will also screen out jet noise and seatmate chatter for around $80.

“Don’t drink the water.” It’s probably the most frequently repeated recommendation for overseas travelers. Instead of giving advice, though, give the adventure traveler on your list the gift of purified water. The Exstream XR Purifier Bottle ($50) from features a built-in, EPA-registered unit that removes all organisms, including viruses. The 34-ounce bottle (28-ounce capacity with cartridge) can be refilled more than 100 times before the cartridge needs to be replaced.

Know someone who travels regularly to Europe or Asia? The Pacifica Talk 10 talking translator from ($180) translates thousands of words and phrases among any of seven European and three Asian languages, yet will still fit in a shirt or pants pocket. Type in a word or phrase on the QWERTY keypad and it will provide a phonetic translation on the LCD screen and a spoken translation via speaker.

Stocking stuffers
Sometimes, you just need something small, cute, or inexpensive for a coworker or casual acquaintance. Maybe some TSA-recognized locks so screeners can open luggage without having to cut or destroy anything. Or a pocket-sized iPod or cell phone charger that gives hours of listening or talk time from one or two AA batteries. And if you know where they’re going and how they plan to get there, foreign currency or an airline (or cruise line) gift card can help them on their way.

Finally, if all else fails, go for the novelty gift. Years ago, a friend gave me a neon-green baggage tag that reads, “Got luggage? Go find it, this is mine.” It may have been cheap, but it makes me smile every time my bag comes down the baggage belt.