Travel gadgets: Keep comfy, organized, connected
Today's travelers want to be comfortable, organized and connected. With those themes in mind, here are some gift ideas, starting with suggestions from three folks who travel for a living.
GoPro and a power strip
Brian Stacey, director of new-product development for Tauck, the cruise and tour company, says his must-haves include Creative Labs noise-canceling headphones for air travel ($60), and a GoPro camera, which he describes as “the hottest thing out there” (newest model, HERO3+ Black Edition, $400). The tiny digital camera can go underwater or “attach to pretty much anything — your helmet, arm, leg, canoe” — and take video and photos while you're moving.
He also loves the Orvis businessman's backpack ($150 to $200). Among the things he stashes in it are a bottle protector from TravelSmith ($24) to bring home wine or olive oil without worrying about spills and a Belkin power strip ($20). With a power strip, he can charge five gadgets with one hotel-room outlet. If he's traveling internationally, he needs only one adapter.
Polaroid and lavendar
Harriet Lewis, vice chairwoman of the tour company Overseas Adventure Travel, recommends the new digital Polaroid camera ($178). She can take photos of people she meets and print copies on the spot, which is a nice way to engage with locals who don't have easy access to printed images. The 21st-century Polaroid also prints multiple copies, offers a choice of borders, previews photos before printing and saves images to upload.
Lewis' personal comfort items make great stocking stuffers: scented herbal wipes (Herban Essentials, $16), pocket hand-warmers for cold places ($2) and lavender oil ($10 in health-food stores). She sprinkles lavender on bed sheets and in her bath and rubs it on her temples and wrists. (Some travelers sprinkle it on luggage and clothing, as it's said to repel bed bugs.)
All about the bag
Edward Piegza vowed never to check bags again after an airline lost his family's luggage on a trip to London. Piegza, founder of the small-group luxury tour company Classic Journeys, now uses a carry-on zippered Victorinox bag ($235), which won't tear when stuffed. For kids and teens, he recommends a High Sierra wheeled backpack with detachable daypack (AT7 model, $176). His sons have used their High Sierra bags for more than 10 years in two dozen countries.
Piegza also recommends Nike Free running shoes — lightweight, comfy and quick-drying ($100); fun, customizable luggage tags from Zazzle.com ($10); and a Gorillapod stand ($20 to $30) that secures iPhones to anything “from a tree branch in a Costa Rican jungle to a cliffside terrace in Amalfi.” Combined with a timer app, “you can take some great selfies in spectacular settings.”
Finally, for the ladies, Piegza suggests a pashmina wrap. His wife treasures hers because it's soft, light and easily accessorizes various outfits. It also folds up small but is big enough to serve as a blanket.
Cellphone, iPod, tablet, Kindle, camera — many travelers carry them all, plus chargers and cables. GreatUsefulStuff.com sells Kangaroom storage bags to protect and organize gadgets. A two-sided cord pouch ($25) has 10 see-through compartments with slots you can label and removable dividers so compartments can be enlarged. The compact personal media pouch ($13) has six small pockets and can fit a Kindle or iPad Mini too.
Kohl's carries toiletry kits for young travelers with Batman and Superman logos, and for men, a Dockers brand ($40). ToiletTree has a classy black-leather kit ($20), while Flight 001 offers colorful Avery cosmetic bags with Eiffel Tower and white cross-on-red logos ($35).
For charging gadgets overseas, Flight 001 sells a compact adapter with four color-coded plugs, good for 150 countries ($25), along with a dual-wattage converter ($30) to use North American appliances overseas.
To keep cellphones working on the go, give the gift of backup power, like Anker's Astro Slim2 external battery ($33). Charge the battery beforehand, and when the phone dies, plug it into the battery. For sunny climes, consider a solar-powered charger. Popular brands include Anker, Solio and Goal Zero, but do your research. Consumer reviews suggest some don't work as well as advertised.
Gifts for bikers — whether long-distance or day-trippers — include DeFeet Blaze wool socks ($12 to $15); a handlebar bag like the waterproof Topeak DryBag with map cover ($75); a multitool for repairs and adjustments, like Pedro's ICM ($34.50); and a phone case that can be mounted on handlebars, like the Topeak RideCase ($50).
For fun, comfort and convenience
For the traveler who wants to fill a home away from home with music, consider a small, portable speaker. The NudeAudio Move M, about the size of a fat wallet, has an eight-hour battery, is Bluetooth-enabled and has rich sound that rivals much bigger, pricier models ($70).
Travelers who want to show off where they've been might like Flight 001's Scratch-Off Map ($20). A layer of gold film rubs off to reveal countries visited in blue; available in December as a scratch-off 3-D globe puzzle ($32).
For kids, here's a freebie: Travelzoo's “Map the World,” a new iPad app with nine puzzles that teach geography.
Women can shrug off rainy days while traveling light with the hooded Rainrap ($60). Water beads off the silky fabric; it weighs under 9 ounces, drapes like a cape and is reversible; it's available in eight two-color combinations.
You can't wear flip-flops in snow, but Pakems are the next best thing: lightweight, comfy, rubber-soled, water-resistant shoes that slip on after ski boots or ice skates come off. They come in five colors, high and low tops, and are foldable with a strapped carry bag ($60 to $70).
Finally, even folks who can't get away can enjoy a local adventure or dinner cruise. Cloud9Living.com makes it easy to give everything from zip-lining to walking tours in destinations nationwide.
Beth J. Harpaz is a staff writer for the Associated Press.