What makes a good holiday gift for a traveler?
If you have big bucks, splurge on an e-reader or a netbook.
But if you're on a budget, go for clever stocking stuffers, like a laminated cardboard wine wheel to help wine-challenged foodies instantly determine good pairings, $8.85 from Magellan's, or a funky $17 passport wallet from Flight 001. One of the passport holders, designed by the Anne Taintor vintage humor company, bears the words "I love not camping" along with a picture of a 1940s-style blonde with bright red lipstick, in front of a skyscraper and a palm tree.
Priscilla O'Reilly, a spokeswoman for the Overseas Adventure Travel tour company, says a Kindle ($260) or other electronic reader is great for travelers who love to read on the road but who don't want to lug books around.
Netbooks, which are small and less powerful than regular laptops, are another splurge gift, lightweight to carry and easy to use in cramped spaces like tray tables.
"With the proliferation of onboard Wi-Fi, I've thought about a tablet PC or a netbook," said Brett Snyder, who spends a lot of time on airplanes and writes a blog at http://CrankyFlier.com. "The seat pitch is so awful on some of these airlines that a full laptop is hard to use."
Netbooks make good gifts for ocean voyagers too. "What avid cruiser doesn't want to keep a blog of his or her trips or just have a place to store photos and short videos?" said Doug Stallings, cruise editor for Fodor's Travel, who recommends the HP Mini 311 Netbook, a little over 3 pounds and about $400.
For those lugging regular-sized laptops around, a laptop case approved by the Transportation Security Administration can help speed the way through security checkpoints, Snyder said.
Stallings also recommends the Flip Video Mino HD for travelers who like to make videos of their trips, and the iPod Nano, which plays not just music but also movies, a great diversion for the interminable waiting that's part of going anywhere.
Wendy Perrin, consumer news editor at Conde Nast Traveler magazine, who blogs at www.perrinpost.truth.travel, recommends the Powermat, $100, a new gadget that charges many small electronic devices, such as MP3 players, PDAs, cell phones and handheld game players, without all the cords and chargers.
For families on the go, Perrin recommends the Sit'n'Stroll combination stroller-car seat, about $250. "When our kids were little, we could not have traveled nearly as much as we did without it," she said.
One small but "super-useful" item for traveling families is the Snack-Trap, $5, which keeps Cheerios, raisins and other bite-size goodies "inside the cup so they don't spill all over the airplane seat, the car floor, etc.," Perrin said. "I don't see how a traveling family can live without it."
For travelers concerned about fitness, a heart monitor and an iPod are the perfect combination, said Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer guidebooks - www.frommers.com/pauline.
"With those two pieces of equipment, I know I can wrestle a good workout out of whatever equipment might be in the hotel's gym, or have an effective jogging session, which I hate, but will resort to," she said. "The music keeps me going, and the monitor shows me if I'm actually getting done what I need to get done."
She said the heart monitor, with a watch and a strap that goes around the chest, "has totally transformed" her workouts by helping her achieve target heart rates. Heart monitor watch/strap sets can be had for as little as $50.
From the travel supplier Magellan's - www.magellans.com - perennial best-sellers include the Taxi Wallet, a $49 thin leather wallet with separate currency pockets for U.S. and foreign money, plus a built-in snap pouch for change; PacSafe backpacks, starting at $100, with lockable zippers and wire-reinforced slash-proof straps and compartments; and a bottle pocket, $16.85, a padded carrier to keep wine from breaking or spilling.
Other classics on Magellan's list include a talking alarm clock, $29.85, and a voice-activated clock, $32.85.
Stallings, the Fodor's cruise editor, says travel clocks are great gifts for cruise passengers, because "one of the mysteries of life is why cruise ship cabins do not have clocks."
New items this year at Magellan's include Moleskine City Notebooks, $18.85, for many major cities around the world, with maps and essential destination information added to the inviting blank pages of the classic journals; and pocket-sized fold-out language cards called 30 Words (they actually include 700 words), with pronunciation and color-coded categories, $12.85.
The travel product company Flight 001 - www.flight001.com - known for its fun and stylish offerings, has brightly striped neck pillows, $20; a hanging toiletry bag, $28, designed by Hadaki, geometric print on black with four zippered pouches; and an in-flight comfort kit, with an inflatable neck pillow, earplugs, eye mask and wet wipes, $22.
TravelSmart newsletter's holiday catalog - click "Travel Merchandise" at www.travelsmartnewsletter.com/ - also has many inexpensive gift items, like a $25 umbrella that folds up to just eight inches, and a handheld digital scale, $24, good for weighing anything from bass on a fishing trip to luggage for a plane trip.
TravelSmart editor Nancy Dunnan says the newsletter's best-selling items include the tiny Adventurer's 7-In-1 Tool, $20, with an LED flashlight, compass, digital thermometer, magnifying glass, safety mirror, whistle and dry storage compartment for matches and medicine; a portable jewelry case, $21, that keeps necklaces tangle-free and earrings, pins and watches safe; and an electronic dictionary-clock-converter-calculator, $65, that among other things converts temperature and measurements, tracks time and date, and is thin and small enough to be used as a bookmark.