NEW YORK -- Some people travel with a toothbrush and a credit card.
Others prefer to be prepared - sometimes even pampered. For these travelers, there are holiday gift possibilities galore - from practical items like book lights and electrical adapters, to extravagant presents like trendy bags or a digital camera. And for the traveler whose suitcase is already bursting, go for the gift certificate.
GIFTS FOR A CRUISE: Have fresh flowers or a bottle of champagne sent to someone's room, or buy a gift certificate, in the form of an on-board credit, for use at a spa or shop on the ship. Contact the cruise line by phone or Web site. You should know what company the recipient is sailing with, plus departure place and day. Note that you cannot purchase credit for use at a casino.
GIFTS FOR DISNEY: You can order gift certificates for Disney theme parks and resort hotels. Call (714) 781-4400 for Disneyland in California, or (407) WDISNEY for Disney World in Florida.
GIFTS FOR DOMESTIC TRAVELERS: For travelers headed to Boston, New York, Seattle, Chicago, Hollywood, San Francisco, Philadelphia or Southern California, consider buying a CityPass. Each booklet contains tickets to a half-dozen local attractions. If you live in a CityPass region, buy the booklets for guests who want to sightsee while visiting you over the holidays.
For details, visit http://citypass.net/cgi-bin/citypass/ or call (888) 330-5008. Prices vary, but CityPass provides at least a 50 percent discount over regular admissions. In New York, the $45 CityPass gets you into the Empire State Building, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Intrepid, the Museum of Natural History and the Circle Line cruise around Manhattan. And in Chicago, a $49 CityPass buys admission to the Hancock Observatory, the Art Institute, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, the Adler Planetarium and the Museum of Science and Industry.
GIFTS FOR A ROAD TRIP: To give AAA memberships as a gift, call your local AAA or look for the "gift membership" form at www.aaa.com. Allow 10 days to process paperwork; if the recipient is already a member, AAA will add a year to the membership. The $55 fee provides roadside emergency service, maps and driving directions, and discounts at many theme parks and hotels.
Other gifts for carbound travelers: travel coffee mugs, book light for passengers, road atlas, prepaid cell phone and/or prepaid phone card, backseat blanket, books on tape, individualized bags of toys and snacks for kids, and for snowy weather, a shovel, long-handled brush, and ice-scraper.
GIFTS FOR BOOK-LOVERS: Think books for armchair travelers. Classics include Paul Theroux's "The Great Railway Bazaar," about a train trip around the world, or E.B. White's "Once More to the Lake," about summers in Maine. A current bestseller is Frances Mayes' "Under the Tuscan Sun."
Or consider a personalized book-of-the-month gift from "Aunt Lydia's Book Club," a service offered by Book Passage, an independent bookseller with stores in San Francisco and Corte Madera, Calif. Book Passage will custom-choose a book on travel (or any other subject) and ship it anywhere, gift-wrapped with a card from you, once a month or bimonthly for a year. To arrange, call (800) 999-7909, extension 450, or send an e-mail to classesbookpassage.com.
Just be sure to tell Book Passage what topics the recipient is interested in - whether it's adventure travel, New England, Asia, fishing, or whatever. All selections are returnable; large type and books on tape are often available. Book Passage owner Elaine Petrocelli says recent selections for travel enthusiasts in Aunt Lydia's club include Jan Morris' "The World," about her 50 years of worldwide travel, and Tony Horwitz's "Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before."
Guidebooks also make good gifts. Travel agent Jeanne Fond, who works for Seven Seas Cruises and Tours in Orange County, Calif., recommends the Dorling-Kindersley "DK's Eyewitness Travel Guides," and especially for budget-minded travelers, Fodor's, Frommer's and Rick Steve's guides.
GIFTS FOR TRAVEL ABROAD: An electrical plug-in adapter makes a practical gift for folks who travel overseas with small appliances like electric toothbrushes or hairdryers. Even when these appliances come with a switch for dual current, sometimes the actual plug won't fit without the adapter.
A small flashlight or book light is also useful in other time zones, where travelers may want to read or hunt for some small item in their luggage after the lights are out.
GIFTS FOR TRANSPORTING POSSESSIONS: Duffles, small travel bags with compartments for toiletries, and backpacks - especially those with detachable daypacks inside - all make good, moderately priced gifts. For hikers and sightseers, get a fanny pack with holder for water bottle, glasses or cell phone. Money belts may be useful for those venturing to exotic locales.
L.L. Bean (www.llbean.com or 800-221-4221) offers a "personal organizer," from $19 to $39 depending on size, for transporting soap, shampoo and similar items in a compact, accessible way. The water-resistant nylon bags fold up to the size of a magazine; they can be hung from a hook and zippered open to reveal a built-in mirror and mesh pockets. Personalize the gift with travel-size toothpaste, shampoo, hand cream, lip balm, ear plugs, travel alarm clock, and a blackout blindfold for sleeping. For the exercise-conscious traveler, an elastic stretching exercise band (like the 6-foot-long item offered at www.simplefitnesssolutions.com for $12.95) rolls up small for easy packing.
For gift-givers with bigger budgets, look for Tumi's wheeled duffles and suitcases (www.tumi.com or 800-322-TUMI). Although pricey, in the several hundred-dollar range, they are sturdy, stable and have carrying straps and multiple compartments; some have separate bags for laptops that zip right inside the luggage.
GIFTS FOR OUTDOOR WARRIORS: For skiers, snowboarders and other winter adventurers, think leg warmers, arm warmers, waterproof gloves, and gadgets - like high-tech ski goggles ($95, Wisdom Snow Persimmon Lens) or a three-in-one electronic compass, temperature sensor and stopwatch ($49.95) from Altrec (www.altrec.com or 800-369-3949). For campers, a full-length sleeping pad from Therm-a-Rest ensures a good night's sleep.
For ecotourists and those bound for warm climates and developing countries, create a care package with heavy-duty sunscreen; plastic rain poncho in a small, flat pouch; Permathin mosquito repellent (spray for clothes, cream for skin); small binoculars; flexible, wide-brimmed hat; plastic protective covering for passport; a first-aid kit (Adventure Medical Kits offers a variety, depending on destination and needs); and a pouch to protect film from airport X-rays. A Leatherman all-in-one pocket tool (from $20 to $50) is also a good gift; it's the 21st century-equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.
GIFTS FOR PRESERVING TRIP MEMORIES: Give a scrapbook. Remind the traveler to save ticket stubs, brochures, postcards and photos. Offer to help an older person or child fill the book when the trip is over.
For a high-tech gift, think digital camera. Rick Sammon, author of "Complete Guide to Digital Photography" (W.W. Norton, $45), says that a 3-megapixel digital camera works for most amateur photographers, producing images up to 8-by-10 inches. For point-and-shoot photographers, Sammon suggests picking a camera with different shooting modes - landscapes, portraits, close-ups, etc. - that will automatically set aperture and shutter. Accessories include inkjet printer and storage devices (memory cards, CDs, DVDs) for images.
AP writers Nick Wadhams, Brian Witte and Verena Dobnik contributed to this story.
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