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Can’t-miss holiday gifts for travelers

Shopping for a traveler? Forget the wheeled luggage and inflatable pillow — that’s so cliché. Instead get the traveler in your life something they’ll really appreciate.

Like a tie for dad, a kitchen appliance for mom, or socks for the kids, there’s no shortage of holiday gift clichés for travelers. Wheeled luggage, ticket holders and inflatable pillows come to mind.

Shopping for someone who’s on the go isn’t easy. Travelers — especially frequent travelers — can be particular about their likes and dislikes. They wouldn’t be caught dead with a certain headset, phone, or piece of luggage.

I can’t read your loved one’s mind for you (if I could, do you think I’d be writing travel columns for a living?) but I can give you options the traveler in your life might like.

Full and complete disclosure: I’ve personally tested all of these products. I bought some of them, while others are on loan or product samples. So I’ve kicked the tires on everything in this story. (I’ve included links to all products, but not prices, since they change too quickly.)

Lighten your load
I’ve been playing around with a , which is incredibly easy to use, and thanks to its almost fluorescent green color, impossible to lose. With airlines now incredibly strict on overweight luggage, you need one of these. I also recommend the , a hooded sweatshirt that not only allows you to pack some of your personal belongings into one of its many pockets, but is also designed for your in-flight comfort. It comes with an inflatable neck pillow, a light shield and a custom sound pocket with a cable port. It’s also comfortable to wear. But if you want to cram a whole carry-on bag’s worth of luggage into something wearable, nothing quite matches the line apparel. I can fit almost anything into the travel vest I’ve been testing including, probably a kitchen sink.

Not your dad’s luggage
Did you think I would skip a section on luggage? Sorry, I can’t. The Travelpro will not let me overlook this important category. What do I like about this overnight carry-on bag, other than that you don’t have to remove your laptop at the TSA checkpoint? Everything is in the right place, from the ticket holder to the pocket for my PC.

Image: Briefcase

There are two organizers worth recommending, also. is a neoprene case for your charger, mouse and cables. If you’re looking for something that’s already stocked with accessories, try the Sharper Image’s which contains everything from a mini-light to a USB adapter with four ports. If you’re concerned about security, I recommend one of Kena Kai’s new line of wallets, including its , which uses an exclusive radio-frequency-blocking lining to protect the personal data stored on credit cards, passports and driver's licenses. What’s more, they look classy.

See it now
A must-have accessory for photographers and videographers who are on the road is the highly portable which can support up to 11 pounds worth of camera. I’ve tested other mini-tripods, and this one just does the job without getting in the way of your art. And speaking of art, my friends over at 3M have been letting me review their newest “second generation” ultralight travel projector, which elevates presentations to an art form. I’ve worked with many projectors, and this one is straight out of a science fiction movie. At six ounces, it can project a 4-foot-by-4-foot image at standard definition quality. Given that so few projectors connect with my Mac, I can’t wait to take my on the road with me. Hey 3M, I promise to return the evaluation unit. Eventually.

Ready for your close-up?
No self-respecting traveler leaves home without a video camera. They’re useful in documenting everything from the state of your rental car to filming the next viral video on a plane. I’m partial to my Apple iPhone 3GS, which comes with a standard-definition video camera. The picture quality is decent, the audio is better-than-average, and editing and posting to YouTube is super-easy.

I also adore the , which shoots high-definition video and has more storage capacity than the iPhone. If you want to splurge, add a high-end video editing program. My favorite is Apple’s Final Cut Pro.

Now hear this
For me, the ultimate in-flight accessory is a noise-canceling headset. I’ve tried a lot of them, but the most comfortable one is the which has a long battery life and performs flawlessly in loud environments like the interior of a cabin or a noisy airport terminal. If you prefer an in-ear headphone, try the , which shuts out a lot of the noise but also lets you lean on your seatmate’s shoulder to get a little shut-eye on the plane. I’m just kidding about the leaning. But if the bulkier over-the-ear headphones are a bother, you should give the Klipsch model a try. You hardly feel it in your ear and the sound quality is superb.

Good night
I have two final recommendations for the road. The , is a handy way to wake up and a cinch to set. The bigger version is a real looker, but it also comes as a travel alarm clock, the Mini VC, which weighs almost nothing and slips into a small pocket in my carry-on luggage. If you want to get rid of jet lag without drinking yourself to sleep (and who doesn’t?) try the sleep assistant a small device that projects an oscillating image into your darkened bedroom. I’m not quite sure how it works, only that it seems to do the trick.

Happy holidays, folks.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more travel tips on his blog, or e-mail him at .