It's time to think Christmas once again. Small and inexpensive travel items make great stocking stuffers. After browsing through several stores we came up with the following suggestions.
Laundr' Pac with a stretch clothes line, travel suds and spot remover pad, $7; Shoe Gloss shoe shine pads, $5.50; Panic Pac includes moist towlettes, alcohol swab, travel suds, shoe polish, needle and thread, safety pins, plastic bandages, seltzer, spot remover, $2.50; traveling toothbrush, $2.25; Sani Seat, sanitized paper toilet seat covers, $2.50.Among the best-sellers at Shapiro stores, according to Alex Shapiro, are currency converters - hand-size calculators that translate prices into U.S. dollars ($15); travel alarms, from $13.50 up; adapter and converter kits ($24.95).
An inflatable pillow makes airplane, train or car travel more comfortable. "We sell a lot of those," says Shapiro. They are $5.
Novel items include the Calling Card, a calculator look-alike into which you can program addresses and phone numbers ($19.95). Count A Step II is a pedometer that also functions as a clock and calculator ($19.95).
Whistler Interstate Travelmate is a computerized directory of highway services and the most exotic item we found at Shapiro. Key your destination into this hand-held computer and Travelmate will tell you the names of hotels, gas stations and other services as well as give you directions ($99.95).
If money is no object try the Talking Translator, which for $249.95 will spout out phrases in Spanish, French, Italian or German.
Handy items in ZCMI's luggage department include the Package Tote - two nylon straps and a metal handle you can attach to a box for easy carrying ($8.95). A necessity for travelers who shop on the road.
Trav-A-Belt is a luggage strap, which my suitcase wouldn't be without ($4.50).
A tote bag that doubles as a shopping bag and carry-on luggage is also indispensable. I would suggest one that zips. The nylon Samsonite tote bag we looked at appears to be sturdy and water resistant. It should be. It sells for $65.
You can't go wrong with books, especially guide books, directories or maps.
At Sam Weller's downtown I found Woodall's Campground Directory ($8.95). People who travel in RVs shouldn't be without it. The Michelin green guides are accurate and straight-to-the-point. The guide to Mexico is one of the company's latest releases.
The Mobil and Rand McNally road atlases are virtually tied for first place ($7.95). A road map of Western Europe sells for $9.50. Specialized books include "Mountain Bike Adventures in the Four Corners Region" by Michael McCoy, $12.95; Insight Guide's "Ireland," $19.95; "The Golf Resort Guide," $14.95.
If you want something bigger than a stocking stuffer, try luggage. Prices start at about $60 and go up . . . up, up.
Frequent travelers stick with practical luggage. My traveling companion is a large, hard-sided Samsonite suitcase with wheels. I secure it with a luggage strap to ensure that it doesn't come open, leaving a trail of dirty clothes on the carousel.
Floral fabric luggage is pretty to look at but not necessarily practical. High-priced leather luggage is pretty to look at and practical. Its main drawback is that it is likely to be stolen. Airport thieves know a good thing when they see it.
I don't recommend soft-sided luggage, either. If it isn't packed to the gills it could be crushed by heavy luggage that's placed on top of it in the baggage compartment.