As a world traveler, you've probably progressed a bit from laying lumpy sweaters under the tree or gifting generic ties on snowy Hanukkah evenings. Perhaps you've brought your loved ones hand-painted nesting dolls from Russia, or presented them with intricate wooden carvings from Moroccan bazaars. But while it's a well-known fact that travelers give great gifts, what does one give a traveler at the holidays?
If you've got a traveler or two on your shopping list, don't worry; we've done the pondering for you! Cancel your trip to the mall — you don't have to search through boring racks of discount luggage to find the perfect present for your fellow globe-trotters. Check out our great holiday gift ideas, sorted by price.
Globetrotting gourmands have been spotting the ubiquitous maroon Zagat sign in the windows of their favorite eateries for years. These popular ratings, which combine the feedback of hundreds (if not thousands) of reviews to give honest opinions on everything from restaurant ambience to quality of food, give travelers a great way to get to know a place before they spend their money there. And now, Zagat is applying its command of critiques to hotels, resorts, spas, nightlife, and even music and movies! Sneak a peek at your fellow traveler's yearly planner and order a hotel or restaurant Zagat guide for his or her upcoming trip. Price: Guides start at $4.95 each.
Space BagEveryone has their own tried and true packing method. Whether your loved one is a roller, folder or notorious overpacker, Space Bags will help eliminate pre-travel packing headaches. The bags reduce the air between clothes and trim down the volume of sweaters, coats, jeans and other soft objects by 75 percent. Attach a special hose to the space bag, vacuum out the air, and your clothes are tightly compressed and ready to go. These handy bags also protect their contents from water, mildew and insects, making them useful for storage long after vacations have ended. Price: $19.95.
Travel ScrabbleLong flights, endless waits at the airport and interminable (and bumpy) bus rides all call for a diverting game of Travel Scrabble. This portable game from Hasbro comes in handy on more enjoyable occasions too — like lazy days on the beach or nights by the fire in a ski cabin. Travel Scrabble packs neatly in its convenient zippered carrying case. And its letter pieces snap right into the board, so your recipients won't have to deal with alphabet squares flying into their faces if their plane hits turbulence (turn the board upside down and the letters stay put). Price: $14.99.
Personal UV Germ Finder with Flashlight
For the friend who never leaves home without a bottle of hand sanitizer, this clever UV Germ Finder from TravelSmith will put fears of filthy hotel rooms to rest. The device's long-wave UV light detects even tiny traces of bacteria and viruses, allowing its user to "see" germs. No longer will your recipient have to gamble with bedspreads, pillows and couches that may or may not harbor icky bacteria. Just turn off the lights, point the Germ Finder and then avoid all objects with soiled spots and stains. Price: $49.75.
Scarf Wrap SetBringing gifts through the airport security line is a breeze with Magellan's clever scarf wrap set. Tie these festive scarves around your presents — no cutting or taping necessary — and you can easily unwrap your gifts at the airport if necessary. The soft scarves hold up well in your suitcase (while gifts wrapped in paper tend to tear on bumpy plane rides). Plus, the scarves are good for the environment, as they reduce paper waste. Price: $35.
Rick Steves' EuropeThis DVD set from Amazon.com includes 11 DVD's containing all 70 episodes of Rick Steves' popular television show, "Rick Steves' Europe," from 2000 to 2007. The show is filmed on location at historic and gorgeous European destinations, including Italy, Ireland, Scandinavia, Turkey and Egypt. Rick Steves' informative tours and scenic footage allow busy travelers to see the world from the comfort of their couches. Give this DVD set to the world traveler in your life and he or she will undoubtedly enjoy trekking across Europe with Rick and finding inspiration for future journeys. Price: $89.99.
Magellan's Gift Certificate
Can't decide what to get that special traveler who seems to have everything? Let him or her choose with a gift certificate from Magellan's, one of our favorite travel supply Web sites. Magellan's offers hundreds of options, from wrinkle-free clothes to language translators and luggage. Put a gift certificate in your loved one's stocking and he's sure to find something useful for his next trip! Price: $100. (Other denominations are also available.)
Discovery ExperiencesIf you can't afford to buy a trip for your favorite traveler, Discovery Experiences are the next best thing. Choose from an ample variety of excursions across the country, like sailing lessons off the cost of Long Island ($275), scuba diving with sharks at the Camden Aquarium ($225) or an eagle observation cruise for two in Connecticut ($95). Discovery Experiences will e-mail or mail the Experience certificate to your recipient, or you can print it out for an instant gift. After receiving his or her Experience certificate, your lucky loved one selects the date and location of the excursion. We especially like the circle gift packages, which allow the recipient to choose from a selection of excursions and tours in his or her area. Price: $75 and up.
Track Your Travels Lighted World MapLet your loved ones display their travel history with this elegant framed world map. The map comes with 60 colorful pegs and is lit from behind by two 32-watt bulbs; the pegs light up as your recipient places them into each destination! Travelers can highlight where they've been or where they hope to visit. This 33" x 21" map from Hammacher Schlemmer is perfect for globetrotters of all ages. After all, what traveler doesn't love a good map? Price: $249.95.
THE ULTIMATE GIFT
The Gift of Travel
What's every traveler's dream gift? A trip, of course! Check out Independent Traveler's Bargain Box and select the perfect journey for your recipient. How about a Chicago shopping package at the Marriott from $239 per night, or a four-night Yellowstone wildlife-watching package from $579 per person? Our bargains pages offer a variety of vacation packages with flexible dates and itineraries — you're sure to find a gift that works for you and your recipient. Because you can't put a vacation in a box, we recommend giving a colorfully wrapped guidebook, or slipping a photograph of the trip location in a holiday card (message: "Here's something to look forward to — happy holidays!"
If you're buying for a picky traveler and are reluctant to choose his or her destination, many airlines and hotels offer flexible gift cards. Hotels.com, Southwest Airlines and BedandBreakfast.com are a few examples of Web sites that offer gift cards for flights or places to stay around the world. These gift cards give recipients more freedom to customize their vacations, but they'll still be thanking you when they're building sandcastles in Tahiti or carving the snow on the slopes in Aspen.