Holiday gifts for travelers, from bags to gadgets

By Beth J. Harpaz

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

This product image courtesy of Solio shows the Solio Bolt charger. According to Solio's website, a pencil can be used to create a sun dial effect. The charger has an on-board battery and rotating solar panels. It can juice up from the sun, a USB port or the wall to power your phone, MP3 player, e-reader, GPS or camera.

Solio, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Many travelers have a favorite item or gadget they can't leave home without — the equivalent of a teddy bear for grown-ups. Maybe it's the GPS, or the inflatable neck pillow, or the Kindle, or the wheeled bag. At holiday time, as we struggle to come up with the perfect present for everyone on our list, it's worth considering which of our treasured travel bring-alongs might make a good gift for someone else.

Here are some favorites from folks who spend a lot of time away from home, as well as a look at a few new and interesting items from retailers that just might become tomorrow's must-haves.

Caroline Costello of IndependentTraveler.com recommends the Sittin' Bag, which she describes as "a wonderful gift for an older traveler or someone with an injury or disability." It's a carry-on-size rolling suitcase with a fold-out seat attached to the side. Costello says it "provides a convenient place to rest in long airport security lines or busy train stations," available at http://www.magellans.com/ for $155.

"I love my XShot, an extender rod to take self-photos/video, which I do often on my portable video camera," says Robert Reid, U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. "Everytime I use it, I get comments. 'Hey what is THAT?' So it's an ice-breaker too." XShot — http://xshot.com/, $30 — is a telescopic rod that attaches to digital cameras or handheld video cameras, allowing the shooter to be in the frame without stretching an arm out or asking a stranger to take the picture.

Pauline Frommer, travel guidebook writer and founding editor of Frommers.com, says one of the "best travel gifts" she ever got was a Tumi plug adaptor that came from fellow travel writer and editor Adrien Glover. "It comes in a little black case and it has prongs that can be pushed in and out, so it works everywhere!" she said. "Really great when you're traveling to two parts of the world in one trip, as I did recently. I used one setting for Ireland and another one for Poland." The electric adaptor is $50 from http://www.tumi.com and offers four different plug configurations in one unit, good for 150 countries for powering devices like MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones.

Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, who spends about as much time on ships and planes as she does at home, is an unabashed fan of J. Peterman's Counterfeit Mailbag — http://www.jpeterman.com/Counterfeit-Mailbag, $349, leather. "There's plenty of room for my laptop, iPad and other assorted key items" and it can "easily fit everything I need for a long-haul flight," she said in an email from her latest destination, New Zealand.

George Hobica of AirfareWatchdog.com identifies the popular Bose Quiet Comfort Noise-Cancelling headphones, $300, http://www.bose.com, as "the only gadget I can't live without ... drowns out screaming babies and screaming cell phone users."

Bags and gadgets are also among the items retailers are recommending this season. The "Pan Am" TV show has gotten a mixed reception, but whether or not you like the show, it's hard not to love the retro style of a blue and white Pan Am airline bag, $74, from http://www.wayfair.com.

Wayfair.com also sells Smart Tubes, $19 for a set of two two-ounce containers in pretty pastel colors. They're the perfect solution for travelers who want to decant a small amount of a favorite liquid or gel product for hair or skin from a large bottle at home into a small portable container that meets Transportation Security Administration regulations for air travel. The light bulb-shaped containers are extremely well-designed, with a tight closing cap that prevents spills and offers a wide mouth for filling up as well as a small squeeze hole for dispensing.

Practical and stylish, Safe Skies Locks is selling TSA-approved luggage locks that turn any generic black bag on a luggage carousel into an instantly recognizable fashion statement. The locks come in a variety of patterns and colors, including zebra stripes, leopard spots, and colorful floral prints, $13-$15, http://www.safeskieslocks.com/store/.

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