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Security Simplified

Sunday, December 7, 2008

O, joyless.

Yeah, yeah, 'tis the season to be jolly, but it's hard to feel jubilant when the travel industry is behaving more like Scrooge than Santa. In light of accruing vexations, this year we propose giving holiday gifts that return the sparkle and shine to travel. Items that will let your friends and loved ones skate through security in style (no more Adam and Eve footwear), laugh in the face of checked luggage fees (ha, ha, ho) and feel pampered in coach (Princess, your silken pillow awaits). They might even start appreciating that "extra time" the airline so generously granted them at the airport. More important, these presents can help turn a future voyage into true joyage.

-- Andrea Sachs and Christina Talcott

Security Simplified

No more sweeping the airport floor with your naked feet. Dress up heels and toes in n-a-p Travel Slippers ($10; Brookstone, 800-846-3000, http://www.brookstone.com and area stores). The soft, bootie-like footwear has more heart and hug than the airport's disposable models, and they work well for in-flight naps and on hotel carpets.

Bulky toiletry bottles take up premium space in a quart-size, zip-top baggie; so use that coveted real estate wisely with Soft-Touch Dispensers ($1.29 each; the Container Store, 888-266-8246, http://www.containerstore.com). The three-ounce holders are shaped like holiday light bulbs and are more pliable and stackable than hard-plastic holders. Colored caps help deter travelers from shampooing with sunscreen.

Those who bemoan the drugstore's paltry trial-size selection need a gift certificate from Minimus.biz (http://www.minimus.biz), an online company dedicated to all things small and TSA-approved. Products cover all facets of life on the road, from eating (squeezable packets of PB&J, hummus on the go) to toiletries (sunscreen packets or tubes, after-shave lotion) to miscellaneous (shoe polish, bug repellent wipes). Certificates come in increments of $25, and prices start at less than a dime.

Skip the conveyor-belt tray and minimize the trauma to an expensive computer with the Targus Zip-Thru Air Traveler Laptop Case ($79.99; Targus, 714-765-5555, http://www.bestbuy.com and such retailers as Staples). The multi-pocketed carrier opens like a book and has a protected section on one side for a computer, eliminating the need to remove a PC at security. Once through the X-ray machine, simply zip and fly.

Airport Downtime

Keep idle fingers busy and sew up the world one state or country at a time with Oh, the Places You'll Sew ($5; Uncommon Goods, http://www.uncommongoods.com). Take needle and thread to a patterned card of the United States, Europe or the full globe, filling in the places seen or to be seen. Afterward, stick a stamp on the homespun creation and share with pals the good times had in the airport terminal.

Time will fly -- but the game pieces won't -- with the New Wave Chess and Checkers Set ($14.95; Spoon Sisters, http://www.spoonsisters.com), a super-light corrugated cardboard square with plastic figures that fit into slots and move with a push or a pull. If the game is interrupted, the pieces easily fold down, so you can resume later without losing your great strategy.

Plane Comforts

For first-class treatment in coach, the Luxury Lounging and Travel Set ($260; Silk 'N Dreams, 877-770-7455, http://www.silkndreams.com) pampers with a silk and "minky" (faux fur) lounging blanket and pillow, silk eye mask, ergonomic earplugs and coordinated carrying case. Patterns include butterflies, boots, a Pucci-esque design and an animal print that roars. For head-to-shoulders luxe, the On the Go Set ($95) swaps the blanket for a charmeuse neck pillow.

No more groveling for a second bag of pretzels or paying too much for an insubstantial snack box. Pack a feast in the Progressive Collapsible Prep Bowl (not shown, $4.99; the Kitchen Store, 800-458-2616, http://www.thekitchenstore.com) or the Collapsible X Bowl ($14.95; Le Travel Store, 800-713-4260, http://www.letravelstore.com), both of which store flat but rise to the occasion during mealtime. The former includes a top; the latter does not, but its bottom portion can be used as a cutting board in case in-flight prep is required.

Curling up with an unwashed blanket is as appealing as canoodling with a dishrag. Instead, get wrapped in the Comfort Travel Blanket ($20; Eagle Creek, 800-874-1048, http://www.eaglecreek.com), a full-size micro-fleece coverlet that packs compact. The blanket has a zippered pocket for such small bedtime items as earplugs, eye shades or teddy; can fold into a pillow; and comes in such vibrant hues as Tree Frog and Neptune Blue.

Because we are civilized and have opposable thumbs, keep hands clean with the Travel Silverware Set ($6.95; Le Travel Store, 800-713-4260, http://www.letravelstore.com), a stainless-steel cutlery trifecta (including a TSA-allowed round-bladed knife), or the Light My Fire Spork (not shown, $3 each or $9.95 for a set of four; REI, 800-426-4840, http://www.rei.com or area stores), a fork and small serrated knife on one end and a spoon on the other.

Packing Lite

Pop a lightweight space bag such as the Packable Daypack ($25; Eagle Creek, 800-874-1048, http://www.eaglecreek.com, also available through Travelsmith, http://www.ebags.com and at Hudson Trail Outfitters stores) in your suitcase to use while sightseeing, shopping and schlepping home your souvenirs.

The OHSO Marko Travel Toothbrush ($19.95; OHSO, http://https://www.go-ohso.com) is the Reese's peanut butter cup of the toiletry world, combining toothpaste and toothbrush into one design. The product contains a self-dispensing paste that is stored in the handle and has a clear route to the bristle head, which is topped with a watertight cap. When the chamber is empty, fill it with your favorite minty flavor.

Forget wineries' bulky cardboard boxes and take along a few WineSkins ($9.85 for two; WineSkin, 310-219-6021, http://www.ftscontent.com, available through Magellans, http://www.magellans.com), bottle-shaped, double-sealed bubble-wrap bags that will keep the clothes in your checked luggage safe from your wine-tasting treasures.

Leave bulky chargers at home when you pack the Chargepod ($39.95; adapters $9.95 apiece; Callpod, 800-951-2763, http://www.callpod.com), which can charge up to six devices at once with interchangeable adapters for cellphones, iPods, portable video games, PDAs, cameras and anything else that needs juice on the road.

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