Today's travelers want to be comfortable, organized and connected. With that in mind, here are some gift ideas, starting with suggestions from three folks who travel for a living.
(Prices were found online mid-November, but will vary by purchase date, retailer and model.)
GoPro and power strip
Brian Stacey, director of new product development for Tauck, the cruise and tour company, says his must-haves include Creative Labs noise-cancelling 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-$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 only needs one adapter.
Polaroid and lavender
Harriet Lewis, vice chair 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). She sprinkles lavender on bed sheets and in her bath, and rubs it on her temples and wrists.
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-$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."
Cellphone, iPod, tablet, Kindle, camera — many travelers carry them all, plus chargers and cables. GreatUsefulStuff.com sells Kangaroomstorage 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).
Gifts for bikers — whether long-distance or day-trippers — include DeFeet Blaze wool socks ($12-$15); a handlebar bag such as the waterproof Topeak DryBag with map cover ($75); a multitool for repairs and adjustments, say Pedro's ICM ($34.50); and a phone case that can be mounted on handlebars, such as the Topeak RideCase ($50).
For fun, comfort
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.
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 ($60-$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.