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Some people are difficult to shop for; you know the type, the proverbial man or woman who already has everything. However, if you are shopping for a traveler the job just got easier. There are many nifty travel gifts and thought-provoking books for travelers, be they the type that likes to board a canoe to journey up the Amazon or just read about it from the comfort of their favorite chair. Here are some items that have come in handy on our year-long around-the-world journey.
Part of the fun of travel is the planning process, deciding where to go in the first place. A detailed map or globe is an essential visual tool for this activity. From Amsterdam to Zurich, Streetwise Maps (under $10) publishes a series of city maps that are practical for travelers. We favor their Worldwise Map that covers the entire globe. Printed on sturdy tri-fold laminated cardstock, they open out to 19.5” by 8.5” but fit easily into a pocket when folded. A good old-fashioned globe (cost varies) is a must for the travel buff. There is nothing quite like spinning a globe to plan the next adventure, or even to just fantasize about faraway lands. In this changing world make sure to get one with current country names and borders. A terrific choice for anyone on a budget is a large fold-out World Map (under $10 or FREE for AAA members). Make it more personal by including stickers in multiple colors for your traveler to mark places they’ve been or want to visit. This is a great gift for kids to give; they can help attach the stickers and learn about geography at the same time.
Once en route, there are plenty of gadgets that can enhance the experience and smooth out bumps in the road. The muffin-sized JBL Portable MP3 Speaker ($39.95) packs a roomful of sound for those times when you’d like to share the music with someone else. The Undercover™ Hidden Pocket ($12.00) is a practical money pouch by Eagle Creek worn inside the trousers. It comes with two tabs, one black and the other brown, that slip unobtrusively over belts while valuables are protected inside. When not being worn around town it’s a handy place to store currency and travel documents. Most luggage looks pretty similar when it’s coming off the baggage carousel. Savvy travelers make theirs stand out for quick identification with colorful luggage tags: our motto is “the funkier the better.” We bought our zebra-striped tags for about $2.95 each.
AAA Membership ($65.50 for Keystone AAA) is not a gadget but it still comes in handy. AAA discounts are available for many hotels, attractions and car rental companies; free items include maps and tour guides. They have reciprocal agreements with many countries overseas so these same benefits are available when traveling internationally. For an active traveler, a membership in AAA more than pays for itself.
When they’re not roving about, travelers love to read about it. 100 Countries 5000 Ideas: Where To Go, When To Go, What To See, What To Do by National Geographic ($26.95), we’ve used this book extensively as a guide for planning our around-the-world trip. Each country is laid out in a few pages with pros and cons of visiting and advice about what to see, along with sidebars highlighting the best time to go. Specific information about health issues, language, currency and contacts is a valuable resource. Loaded with pictures and maps, 100 Countries 5000 Ideas, is the single best guide to suggest destinations for a global journey.
Lonely Planet’s 1000 Ultimate Experiences ($22.99), from touring fairy-tale castles in Europe to finding the best steamed dumplings in Shanghai to the best place to witness a winter solstice this book will trigger many ideas for your next journey. One of Michael’s favorites is the tour of the legendary sewers of Paris. Road Trip USA: Cross Country Adventures on America’s Two-Lane Highways by Jamie Jensen ($29.95), as a fan of road trips we absolutely love this book. It’s perfect for the driver who likes to meander slowly across America while avoiding the monotony of the interstate highways; an adventure where the getting there is more important than the destination. The Moleskine City Guide (about $20) is made by the company whose legendary journals have been used by famous travelers from Hemingway to Chatwin. This new version is now available for over fifty top worldwide cities, including Philadelphia. Each journal includes maps and a street index along with plenty of blank pages to jot down your own personal memories. Moleskine calls it “the first guidebook you write yourself.”
If you’re still flummoxed and insist on buying a gift card, get one at a specialty luggage store; we bought our travel gear at Robinson Luggage in Philadelphia. Avid travelers can lose themselves for hours in a shop like this. They carry well-designed gadgets, wallets, purses and tote bags in addition to suitcases, so any dollar amount will do. For someone with wanderlust, just an excuse to spend time surrounded by the trappings of travel will be a gift in itself.
Or if you’re really desperate you can wait and see what the guy in the red suit brings.