- The Washington Times - Friday, December 10, 2004

So you haven’t finished — or perhaps even started — your holiday gift shopping. You’re scratching your head over what to get for your boss, who goes to a different Caribbean island each February, or Aunt Millie, who is planning a trip to Europe in spring.

For folks who travel, the choice of gifts can be easy — but also challenging. The selection can be relatively simple because so many products are available, but because there are so many choices, it may be difficult to make the right decision.

A checklist of suggestions may help you narrow the selection. It might even give you an idea or two for something you’d like to receive, so you can drop a not-too-subtle hint to someone who may be pondering what to get for you.

For anyone planning a trip, a preparation kit can be helpful. It can include one or two guidebooks, maps and an audio or video cassette about the destination.

People who like to read are likely to enjoy several paperback books of the type they prefer. As they finish each volume, they can give it to someone they have met along the way.

Another welcome treat is a grab bag of favorite snacks. They’ll be appreciated on long car, train or plane trips, or as hunger-quenchers after arrival at a destination.

For a traveler who lives near you and doesn’t have anyone at home to take care of household chores, a “gift certificate” for personal services can be a welcome treat. You might offer to water plants, care for a pet and take in the mail.

Also, a mind-boggling array of merchandise for travelers is available at stores and on the Internet. Here’s an introduction to several items that may be perfect for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list.

• Magellan’s has been meeting travelers’ needs for 15 years and continues to come up with nifty ideas. The Transportation Security Administration’s rule that luggage must be available for inspection has been eased to allow locks that may be opened with a special tool, then reclosed. Magellan’s is among the companies that sell both keyed padlocks ($6.85 for two) and combination locks ($19.85 a pair). In case an airport security guard cuts a lock by mistake, Magellan’s will replace it free.

The Walking Bag is a carry-on-size rolling suitcase that may be leaned on or even sat on. Though lightweight, this rolling tote, priced at $145, can support up to 300 pounds. For more information, call 800/962-4943 or visit www.magellans.com.

• L.L. Bean isn’t just for rugged outdoor types. The popular Maine outlet’s Traveler catalog includes teardrop-shaped, shoulder-carried Healthy Back Bags ($59 to $179) that distribute weight evenly so a load feels lighter. Multiple interior pockets and a built-in key ring are among features that increase convenience.

The well-named Itty Bitty Book Light ($39.50) allows you to read in the dark without disturbing your neighbor, who will thank you in the morning. It folds to palm size and weighs just 7 ounces. Call 800/221-4221 or visit www.llbean.com.

• Brookstone lives up to its reputation as a place for new and trendy but functional merchandise. Its Microbeam Travel Alarm Clock ($35) displays the time, day, date and temperature. Pick it up, and two powerful little lights turn on, so it becomes a mini flashlight.

For that person on your list who prefers quiet, the Travel Smart Sound Shield ($200) consists of high-quality headphones with a “noise cancellation” feature designed to block out the din in a plane, train or other environment. It comes with a handy carrying case. Call 866/576-7337 or visit www.brookstone.com.

• The Sharper Image offers a similar variety of the latest electronic and other aids for travelers. What person planning a trip overseas wouldn’t like to have a tiny device that actually speaks 200,000 words and 23,000 useful phrases in 10 languages, including Spanish, French and German? The Lingo 10-Language Talking Translator ($199.95) is about the size of a deck of cards and weighs just 5.5 ounces.

Less costly ($39.95) but no less useful is the New York Times Travel Master. Small enough to hold in your hand, it’s an electronic guide to 101 destinations. Information about hotels, restaurants, shopping and attractions was compiled by the well-known Fodor’s Travel Guides. Call 800-/344-4444 or visit www.sharperimage.com.

• Hammacher Schlemmer boasts that it has been selling “the unexpected since 1848.” The only nonprescription motion-sickness device to receive Food and Drug Administration clearance fits that description. The lightweight implement ($99.95) is worn on the wrist like a watch and has five relief-level settings.

For applying makeup, shaving or other chores in dimly lit hotel rooms, a hands-free lighted magnifying mirror comes in handy. The compact mirror ($79.95) provides 10x magnification, has an adjustable raise-lower arm and folds flat for packing in a suitcase. Call 800/321-1484 or visit www.hammacher.com.

• People who trap a Map Mouse from TravelSmith get instant, accurate readings of distances between points on maps. The handy little device ends guessing how far you have to go to your destination. The gadget ($20) also includes a compass, calculator, flashlight and other extras.

Worries about flu season have spurred a run on the Ultra-Mini Personal Air Purifier, which weighs just 11/2 ounces and hangs on a strap around the neck. It’s designed to destroy pollutants, allergens and viruses and infuse the wearer’s breathing space with clean, fresh air. The purifier is said to do its job using “revolutionary plasma technology,” whatever that is.

An inviting free service available from TravelSmith is a collection of packing lists for men and women based on the type of trip (for example: cruises, walking tours and safaris) and destinations (the tropics, Northern Europe). Not surprisingly, each list is keyed to specific recommended clothing and accessories, but there’s no obligation to buy. Call 800/950-1600 or visit www.travelsmith.com.

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