Great gifts for the traveller on your list

Is there a traveller on your gift list — perhaps someone who’s on the road all the time or a yearly vacationer? We’ve got some great ideas to make their travels — and your shopping — a little easier.

Compass: Whether camping or exploring a new city is on the itinerary, a classic compass is a must-have accessory. However, finding a good quality one can be tricky. Lee Valley’s Engineer’s Compass ($9.95) has a built-in sighting wire and magnifying lens — no batteries or software updates required.

Scales: It’s not just airlines — trains have become fussier about luggage restrictions too, and fees for oversized and overweight luggage have risen in the past year. It’s no surprise that travel experts recommend getting a set of luggage scales so you can measure your bags at home. Sets start at as little as $10-$15, and they can save you from those $40-$150 fees.

Doorstop: It may seem like an odd item for a gift list — unless you know that doorstops are a recommended security measure for travellers. Some wedges slip and slide, but Lee Valley’s Veritas® Traveller’s Doorstop ($24.50) has an anti-slip screw that lets you adjust the doorstop to suit any door — plus it won’t slide on the carpet or concrete floors.

Tote bag: Take a step up from the usual tote bag with features that are more practical for travellers. For instance, Patagonia’s Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Bag ($79.00) has plenty of room for everything — including internal pockets for valuables and side mesh pockets for water bottles. The zipper top secures your belongings and wide shoulder straps convert the bag into a back pack when you need your hands free. When not in use, the light weight bag folds up into its own pocket for easy packing.

Quick Pod: Recently featured on the Dragon’s Den, this extendable, hand-held tripod works with your camera or smart phone to easily take self portraits or snap photos above the crowd or hard to see places. (It’s easy to store in your bag too.) There are a variety of Quick Pod models available ranging from $25 to $70, including accessory kits.

Locks: Theft from baggage continues to be a problem around the world, so locks are still a recommended protection. If number combination locks aren’t ideal, try the WordLock® ($15.50 USD) — it uses letters instead of numbers to make the combination, and it’s TSA approved. Colourful luggage straps and ties are also some security measures worth investigating.

Foot protection: Walking barefoot at the pool or shower could lead to infection or injury, but flip-flops can be uncomfortable and bulky to pack. To protect your feet, try Ultra Soles ($12.50 USD). They’re flatter, lighter and take up less space than flip-flops. Their mesh front, non-slip soles and elastic back-strap also provide better coverage and stability. (Plus they’re an ideal size for Christmas stockings)

Toiletry packs: Hate the waste of travelling with small-sized toiletries? Until they change the rules governing liquid and gels, you can opt for reusable containers as a greener option. For example,try a set like Pack-It Custom Travel Bottle Set ($18.00 USD) which offer right-sized bottles and cream containers that work within carry-on policies. (You can find similar products at your local drug store too.)

For creams, shampoo and sunscreen, try GoToobs with their wide mouths for easy filling and labels to keep everything organized.

Anything in a sheet: You can get rid of those bottles and bars altogether by buying pouches of water-soluble sheets. Believe it or not, you can get body wash, shampoo, laundry soap, hand soap and shaving soap products now. They’re lighter weight and won’t violate any liquid limitations. (People who have sensitivities or allergies may want to try out these products at home before taking them on the road.)

Reusable dishes: We’re all trying to make travel a little greener and this year there’s a wide variety of products on the market to replace disposable dishes. With worries about bisphenol-A (BPA), companies like Nalgene have replaced their products with BPA-free versions, and stainless steel bottles like Klean Kanteens continue to fly off the shelves. There’s also a variety of collapsible cups, bowls and plates on the market for campers and backpackers.

Hands-free devices for cell phones: Using a cell phone while driving is already illegal in many countries around the world, and similar bans are spreading throughout Canada. Don’t take chances — there are many options on the market to choose from.

International SIM cards: Using your cell phone while travelling internationally can lead to expensive bills — but did you know that swapping out the SIM card in your phone can lead to big savings? The way it works is that these cards let you tap into an international network by dialling a special access code. There are a variety of companies on the market like OneSimCard that offer packages or pre-paid options.

Universal multi-chargers: Today’s travellers may have a variety of electronic devices in tow like cell phones, PDAs, portable game systems, cameras and music players. Universal chargers allow you to charge them all at the same time with one power cord. For instance, Callpod’s Chargepod lets you charge up to six devices at once (and you get to choose which adaptors to include). Prices on these devices range between $40 and $80.

Travel-sized surge protectors. At home, we plug our electronics into surge protectors to save them from harm and open up extra outlets — now you can do the same on the road. Products like the FlipIt! Portable Power Strip offers the protection and extra outlets but still fit neatly into your bag. Share a public power outlet with other travellers or charge your devices through the USB ports. Expect to pay about $20 for this handy device.

Books: A travel guide, inspirational novel or travel trivia book may be just the thing to start the planning (or daydreaming for the armchair traveller). When in doubt, online stores like Chapters and Amazon are safe bets for gift cards. Give some inspiration with gifts like Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Sights and Frommer’s 500 Places for Food and Wine Lovers. (For more ideas, see 8 travel books for a great escape and Beautiful books for armchair travellers.)

For something a little closer to home, try the Book of Everything series. Written by local experts, these guides contain interesting facts and must-see sites for various cities and provinces across Canada. (Hint: they also make great gifts for the locals!)

E-readers: Why carry a single book when you can pack a library in the same amount of space? Unlike computer screens or tablets, the technology produces a soft, easy to read display much like a printed page — plus you can change the font and download books on the go. Increased competition in the market has driven down prices and upped the perks for these popular devices — some models are now priced as low as $70. You can even find mini sizes and back-lit screens too.

Mini flashlights: Don’t leave home without one, say some security experts. A flashlight can help you get out of your accommodations safely in an emergency, and can be used to blind an intruder if needed. (Of course, it’s handy to find your way around too.) Look for LED versions that have lots of staying power, and hand cranks so you won’t need to worry about batteries.

Music players: Who doesn’t love music on the road? But listening to tunes isn’t the only thing you can do with a portable player: there are free walking tours, podcasts, language lessons and travel apps too. This year’s players are smaller in size, larger in memory and lower in cost — plus many have extra features like video, radio and voice recording. Between $150 and $250 will buy some video action and other features like FM radio, while higher end models include touch screens, cameras and downloadable apps.

Transportation gift cards or certificates: Why not offer the gift of travel itself? While a $50 gift card won’t make much of a dent in the cost of airfare (though WestJet and Air Canada do sell them), that money will go a long way on the bus or train. Try VIA Rail and Greyhound — especially if you’ve got a student on your list.

Accessories. Shopping for someone who has it all? Another option is to look for accessories for the products the traveller already owns. For example, you can buy insulated sleeves for water bottles, and an extra memory card for the digital camera is always welcome. Do a little research online and check out what people say in the product reviews. When in doubt, look for a shop that specializes in travel accessories, and talk to a sales person who has the expertise and training to help you pick out the perfect present.

Note: prices and links are current as of November 2012, but may be subject to change.

Photo © bora ucak

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