Don’t have the budget for a $450 carry-on bag this holiday season? That’s OK; with the right stocking stuffer, you can give the gift of travel without breaking the bank. At $30 or less, the following are so affordable, you may even want to pick one up for yourself:
Tis the season to be, not just jolly, but germ-free, which can be a tough task when airports are packed, people are sick and planes don’t always get the cleaning they need. Toss a TSA-compliant PocketBac Hand Sanitizing Bundle ($4) in your favorite traveler’s stocking and when it’s time to sanitize, they can choose from four holiday-inspired scents, including Pear Tree, Peppermint Stick and Christmas Candy.
Security with style
A luggage lock only needs to do one thing well — keep your valuables safe — but that doesn’t mean it can’t do so with style. For sports fans, the new Olympic Collection from Safe Skies includes locks in the shape of basketballs, soccer balls and other sports paraphernalia ($9–$21). Like the company’s original products, each one features a patented design that lets TSA open them, conduct inspections and relock them instead of cutting them off.
The proliferation of touch screen devices has had one unintended consequence: millions of screens that end up smudged, smeared and, ewww, even sneezed on. If that sounds familiar, Toddy Cloths from Toddy Gear can help. Available in a wide variety of colors and patterns, these 5” x 7” cloths combine a plush microfiber side for cleaning, a silk microfiber side for buffing and an antimicrobial coating to keep mold, mildew and bacteria at bay. Prices start at $10 for one, $20 for three.
Tag and bag
If you’ve ever experienced that sinking feeling of leaving a phone, jewelry or other small item back at security, you’ll appreciate the clever thinking behind Quick Pass Luggage Tags ($14.50) from Magellan’s. Resembling a typical, if slightly bulky, tag when closed, the 3” x 4.5” unit opens up to reveal a zippered pocket large enough to hold a cell phone, watch, keys and whatever else might set off those pesky screening machines.
Airplane geek, that is. If there’s an aviation buff on your list, consider a plane-spotting T-shirt ($15-$18) from NYCAviation.com. Among the options: the basic-but-to-the-point “Plane Geek,” the “Ride a Widebody,” which features an image of a Boeing 777 and the phrase “Ride a widebody without being teased,” and the “Package Unattended,” which displays an official-looking sign saying, “Security Notice: Do not leave this package unattended” complete with downward-pointing arrow.
Kid-proof your phone
Part stuffed animal, part protective case, the Woogie 2 ($20) is the clever answer to the potentially costly question more and more parents are hearing these days: “Mom (or Dad), can I play with your iPhone?” Once you slide your iPhone or iPod touch into the protective, but touch-friendly, pocket, your little ones can play games, watch videos and otherwise entertain themselves while you relax, free from the fear that your pricey device will end up in pieces on the floor.
New from Lonely Planet, the “Not for Parents” series of guidebooks ($15) is designed to introduce young travelers to the great cities of the world through the odd and offbeat stories that make them unique. The first four books in the series cover New York (think alligators in the sewers), London, Paris and Rome and are clearly not your grandfather’s guidebooks. For those who want to range farther afield, “Not for Parents: The Travel Book” ($20) takes a similarly kid-friendly approach to the rest of the planet.
Don’t let winter’s chill take its toll on your morning coffee or tea. The 20-oz. West Loop Stainless Steel Travel Mug ($25) from Contigo is double-walled and vacuum-insulated to keep beverages hot for six hours (or cold for 20). Patented technology and push-button operation — push to sip, release to close — eliminates leaks, spills and the likelihood that you’ll take your eyes off the road.
Squeeze in a workout
No gym? No problem. In-room workouts are a breeze with the FitKit Travel pack ($30), which fits a jump rope, exercise band, pedometer with safety alarm and other exercise gear into a one-pound, nine-inch case that’ll fit in a purse or carry-on bag. The price includes access to the company’s online library, which provides workout schedules, cardio and stretching advice and tips on nutrition, fitness and workout safety.
Getaway gift card
What do you get the traveler who already has all the travel gear he or she needs? If they’re on myTab.co, you can gift them cash that they can use to fund their adventures. Launched in May, the site lets users post their travel plans to Facebook and Twitter, invite others to contribute to the cause and redeem the results for travel they can book on the site (via Expedia). Rest assured, it’s one “gift card” that won’t end up in a drawer somewhere.
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Rob Lovitt is a longtime travel writer who still believes the journey is as important as the destination. Follow him at Twitter.