Globes, gadgets and gear for travelers

Sunday, November 28, 2004

NEW YORK -- Buying gifts for people who love to travel has never been simpler, thanks to the ease of Internet shopping, a burgeoning selection of specialty items and publications, and gift certificates that allow recipients to book an inn or spa when and where it's convenient for them. Here are some gift ideas to inspire you, from stocking stuffers to luxurious dreams come true.

GIFT CERTIFICATES: Rather than guessing someone else's schedule and preferences, give a gift certificate for a getaway. Gift certificates from www.BnBfinder.com are good at hundreds of bed-and-breakfasts across the country, like La Belle Époque, a Victorian gem in Napa, Calif. Gift cards from www.historichotels.org are good at 50 U.S. hotels registered with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, including The Plaza, playground for naughty Eloise of literary fame. The exclusive Relais & Chateaux association of 450 fine hotels and restaurants worldwide also offers gift certificates at www.relaischateaux.com or (877) 334-6464.

Gift certificates from www.spafinder.com are good at numerous spas, but make sure to click on "About certificates" under "Gift certificates" for pricing advice. A facial or massage at a day spa can run $50 to $150; allocate $1,000 to $1,500 if you want to give a weekend stay at a destination spa. Gift certificates from www.spa-quest.com are good at 140 participating spas.

If the person you're buying for likes spontaneous trips, Site59 and Travelocity both offer gift certificates for last-minute deals.

ROAD TRIPS: "Live Your Road Trip Dream: Travel For a Year For the Cost of Staying Home" (RLI Press, $17.95, www.roadtripdream.com), is a practical and inspirational gift for RV owners, new retirees, or anyone who's ever dreamed of a cross-country expedition. Gift suggestions for road-trippers from Carol White, who wrote the book with her husband Phil, include: AAA membership; gift cards to Starbucks and other chains; or a gift membership to KOA or Good Sam campgrounds. A roll of stamps and labeled postcards make it easy for the traveler to stay in touch. Or buy the traveler a year of access, for $59, to www.MyTripJournal.com, which provides readymade personalized Web pages for posting vacation photos and notes.

For $50, you can buy a pass that grants admission to all national parks for a year (buy.nationalparks.org/default.asp or 888-GO-PARKS). Combine it with a guidebook to the national park system and you might inspire a road trip from Acadia, up in Maine, to Yosemite, out in California.

GLOBES, MAPS AND GUIDEBOOKS: If you know someone who is fascinated by maps or globes, consider a gift from Murray Hudson's Antiquarian Books & Maps in Halls, Tenn., or California Map & Travel in Santa Monica, Calif.

Hudson's vast inventory is perfect for collectors, armchair travelers and history buffs. Items include Civil War battle plans, maps of colonial Canada and centuries-old depictions of the world, including an 18th century map that shows California as an island. Prices range from under $100 to thousands of dollars, depending on the age, condition and rarity of the item (www.murrayhudson.com or 800-748-9946).

For those with contemporary tastes, California Map & Travel (www.mapper.com or 310-396-6277) claims to carry "every travel guidebook known to humankind," along with equipment and accessories for 21st century explorers who prefer Global Positioning Systems over atlases. The store also stocks every local topographical map produced by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A Christmas ornament modeled on an 18th century globe is $14.85 from Magellan's (www.magellans.com, 800-962-4943), a travel supplier whose catalogue is filled with many other nifty travel gift ideas, from a waterproof "Splash Caddy" ($7.85) so you can take your valuables with you when scuba diving, to travel-size board games with magnetic pieces.

GADGETS AND GEAR: A small headlamp can help a camper cook after dark, read in a tent or change a tire at night. Petzl's Tikka headlamp is $28.95, available at Karst Sports (www.karstsports.com, 800-734-2851) and other retailers.

Down booties from Mountain Hardwear, about $60 (available at Eastern Mountain Sports, www.ems.com or 888-463-6367, and other retailers), are warm, light and allow feet that have been stuck in hard, heavy boots to relax, even in subzero weather. They have a water-resistant shell, and although they are not waterproof, they're perfect for padding around a nippy campsite or making a run to the car from the ski lodge.

A five-piece fly rod can be packed in a suitcase or frame pack, or even rolled into a sleeping bag. Cabelas (www. cabelas.com or 800-237-4444) sells "Stowaway 5-Piece Fly Rod Kits" in different sizes for around $70.

Trekking poles are increasingly popular among hikers as a way to reduce stress on knees going downhill and to help with balance when crossing streams and other uneven terrain. On paved streets and roads, rubber-tipped trekking poles provide upper-body exercise for fitness walkers. One model, Mountaineer Trekking Poles from EMS, is $80.

Digital cameras are a great gift for anyone who hasn't yet made the transition from old-fashioned film. Two- to three-megapixel cameras are fine for most nonprofessionals. Consumer Reports' December issue recommends FujiFilm FinePix A330 and the Canon PowerShot A60, under $140, among others.

An eight-day pill organizer can help a traveling loved one keep track of medicine and vitamins; it's $10, plus shipping and handling, from www.TravelSmartNewsletter.com or (800) 327-3633.

LUGGAGE: Who wouldn't want a brand new bag? Think collapsible nylon duffels for kids, teens, weekend getaways and car trips. Macy's, www.smartbargains.com and other retailers sell a variety of bags under $25 that are flat and weightless when folded up but 2 feet long when stuffed.

For dragging gear around airports, trains and hotels, a wheeled bag might be better. Travel guru Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com, 425-771-8303) offers a $119 wheeled bag with a hard shell and a soft lid, so it's sturdy but lets you jam in extra stuff. An extra-long handle makes for smooth wheeling. Packing cubes are good stocking stuffers -- they weigh next to nothing but make it easy to organize socks and other small items without unpacking everything.

MAGAZINE SUBSCRIPTIONS: There are magazines for travelers of every stripe, from outdoor adventurers to the RV crowd -- Conde Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Travel + Leisure Family, Town & Country Travel, Outside, TravelGirl, National Geographic Adventure, Trailer Life and MotorHome, to name just a few.

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