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Holiday gift ideas for travelers

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010; 1:17 PM

Despite the now all-too-familiar gripes, we still think traveling is fun. There's immeasurable joy in dreaming up new trips, remembering old ones and, yes, experiencing the excitement and adrenaline rush of being in transit. Add a little more delight this season to the life of the jet-setter on your list with a few of our gift ideas. If that person happens to be you, well, it'll be our little secret.

- Becky Krystal, Andrea Sachs, Nancy Trejos

Like the rest of us, celebrity designer Tory Burch didn't like taking off her shoes at airport security. Her shoes are her trademark, after all. So she tweeted an idea: Why not design a travel sock ($48; www.toryburch.com)? Her followers tweeted their support, and here's the result: one-size-fits-all wool socks in orange and navy with a no-slip-grip feature on the bottom. Trying out a pair on a flight to Florida, we found them comfy and appreciated the extra layer of protection against the grimy airport floor. The footwear comes in a cute pouch, with Burch's insignia, that you can clip to your carry-on.

If you're a traveler in perpetual motion, you can put paperweights from Alexandria-based Glass Atlas ($39.99; www.glassatlas.com) to good use holding down all the stuff you need for future trips. Colorful satellite imagery of your favorite spot on the globe is covered by a magnifying crystal dome that can be custom-engraved for an additional $10. Choose from more than three dozen locations that most travelers dream about visiting, such as the Grand Canyon, New Zealand and Block Island, R.I. (For the homebody, the Washington paperweight might be just the thing.) Each paperweight comes in a wooden box crafted from log cabin construction scraps and includes a card with information about the region depicted and the satellite that captured the image.

Your kids, if not your sanity, will thank you for Sportcraft's Anywhere Table Tennis ($24.99; www.sportcraft.com). The little ones will be able to burn off their car-trip restlessness with this portable set of the game room favorite. An expandable net attaches to flat surfaces up to 75 inches wide; the set also includes two paddles, three balls and a mesh bag for storing it all. An office test in our conference room confirmed our high expectations for this fun idea. How your hotel neighbors will feel about the commotion, we can't guarantee.

Grace a lucky host's coffee table with one or several stunning books from 2010. "Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips" ($40; shop.nationalgeographic.com) is the fourth book in National Geographic's "Lifetime" series. Eight themed chapters (mountains, seashore, village byways, etc.) suggest trips ranging from a half-hour on the road in Arizona's Red Rock Country to 10 weeks in Africa.

The pictures speak for themselves in "Galen Rowell's Sierra Nevada" ($29.95; www.sierraclub.org/store). Culled from nearly 40 years of the late adventure photographer's work, the collection focuses on the mountains he said were his "favorite place on Earth." That passion comes through in every image, the vivid colors of which practically glow against the pages' admirably restrained white borders.

"The Most Beautiful Villages and Towns of the Pacific Northwest" ($40; www.thamesandhudsonusa.com) makes a pretty bold promise in its title, but this pleasant volume of photos and destination profiles might make a believer of any reader. Main streets evocative of the Old West, wild turkeys in Washington state and vineyards to the horizon's edge: The charms of this part of the continent are convincingly brought to life.

For the gift recipient whose love of travel accompanies a love of food, look to "For the Love of Italy: Rural Pleasures and Hotel Estates" ($60; www.randomhouse.com). The book visits nearly two dozen agri-tourism sites where the edible mixes with the picturesque. Design aficionados will appreciate that the interiors are treated with the same reverence as the country's photogenic landscapes.

When your head is ready to hit the hay, let the Complete Support Pillow ($34.99; completesupportpillow.com) - not a stranger's shoulder - catch it. The velour-covered, horseshoe-shaped travel accessory personalizes sleepy time with a memory foam interior that coddles like a protective mother. Two tiers of cushion provide extra support, so your head won't feel as though it has dropped off a small cliff. An adjustable tie around the neck prevents the pillow from shifting about. For the complete dreamscape, tuck your music player into the side pocket and crank up the seaside sounds, or pop in the earplugs (also made of memory foam) for a complete noise outage. When it's time to wake up, cram the pillow into its small bag and tuck it in for the day.

The Airbak Air Tech backpack ($79.99, www.store.airbak.com) can help alleviate the pain of the habitual over-packer. An adjustable air pocket protects both gadgets and backs. Cushioning throughout, including on the straps, is another nice feature, and pockets both inside and out make for easy organization. For the sportier set, the bag should make an ideal carry-on.

We can't hear you . . . crying baby, snoring seatmate, inflight movie guffawer and other ear-irritating travelers. When you strap on a pair of AblePlanet's Extreme noise canceling headphones ($149; www.ableplanet.com), the din of travel drops several decibels to a comforting hush. Turn on the whoosh of white noise or plug in to your own aural world, with the Linx Audio technology creating a private surround-sound experience. The cushiony headgear folds into a compact ball and comes in such bold colors as hot pink and fire red, proving the adage that it's better to be seen than heard.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company


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