Holiday Gift Guide

Take the Travail out of Travel

December 09, 2007|By Stephen G. Henderson | Stephen G. Henderson,Special to The Sun

Was there really a time when people looked forward to traveling at the holidays? It seems impossible to imagine, but back in Ye Olde Yuletide - if we can believe the lyrics of a certain song, that is - the year's-end trip was a joyful journey "over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go."

Times change. Now it is to Grandmother's house we groan, as we shiver barefoot in long airport security lines, endure mysterious flight delays and sniff our kneecaps at 35,000 feet because the airplane's seats are crammed closer than Santa's reindeer.

Oh, and hold up just a minute. Is that hair gel? Get ready to toss it. What you got yourself there is a 5-ounce tube, not a 3-ouncer. Call it a white-knuckle Christmas, as the usual in-transit aggravations become especially intensified in late December.

But don't get all Scroogey. There are still ways to make traveling more merry and bright. Listed below and inside are 10 common complaints made by frequent fliers, and gifts that offer a solution to each. They range in price and style, from serious to silly. All may help, though, to keep your frayed nerves from getting stowed away and locked in the upright position.

Wait a minute ... do you hear what I hear? Yes. It's the captain's voice, and you're finally first in line for takeoff. So, fasten your seatbelts, and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good flight.

GET TO SLEEP Problem: When traveling overseas, I can never sleep on the plane. Solution: Flight 001 Mini Jet Set is a five-piece collection of sleep aids packed into a compact, zippered case that fits into an airplane seat pocket. It has an inflatable neck pillow and lumbar pillow, reflexology socks, earplugs and eye mask. -- $52 -- flight001.com.

PACK AND ROLL Problem: I'm too impatient to check luggage. Solution: Carry on a 22-inch expandable, rolling suitcase, part of the Tourbach collection from Victorinox. It has room for one suit, a 15-inch laptop, valuables and much more. It's constructed of a new breakthrough fabric called Performax, an armorlike weave that's fluid-resistant. -- $595 -- swissarmy.com

WISH YOU WERE HERE Problem: I want to write my friends, but souvenir postcards are so tacky.

Solution: Dempsey and Carroll note cards hark back to the golden age of travel, with an engraved airplane motif. They are made of heavy, three-ply paper stock, with rounded corners and beveled edges. A boxed set includes 10 cards and envelopes. -- $45 -- dempseyandcarroll.com

ALTERNATE GAME PLAN Problem: I have already seen the movies they show onboard. Solution: The Jack Spade Travel Scrabble set features a close-and-go board, snap-in letter tiles, four letter trays and a durable, zippered case made of paraffin-soaked cotton. -- $95 -- flight001.com

CHANGE ON THE MONEY Problem: How many pesos, euros or rubles is it to a dollar? Solution: A credit-card-sized calculator is the thinnest calculator available, designed to slip into a wallet. Whip out Canon's FlashCard and figure exchange rates when shopping abroad. Solar-cell powered. -- $7.79 -- business-supply.com

A MEDICAL ASSIST Problem: If I get sick overseas, I don't want to be treated in some strange hospital. Solution: If you are a member of MedjetAssist and you ever need medical care more than 150 miles from home, this aviation company will provide comprehensive medical transportation to the hospital of your choice. -- $225 for a one-year, individual membership; $350 for a one-year, family membership -- medjet.com

TALK IN A FLASH Problem: I'm off to Paris, and I don't speak French. Solution: Lingolook Flash Cards are innovative foreign-language guides - available for French, Japanese and Chinese - that are designed to help English-speaking travelers relate abroad in a flash. Each version has 450 translations on 75 printed cards, or in iPhone and Blackberry formats. -- $11.95 -- lingolook.net LET THERE BE NO LIGHT Problem: Hotel-room curtains never shut tight and the light makes it hard to sleep. Solution: Toss a couple of Hunt Boston Bulldog Clips in your suitcase. These nickel-plated clamps will keep out the morning sun, and also are handy for keeping track of receipts and travel documents. -- $8.95 (for a box of 12) -- Available at Office Depot, Staples and art-supply stores

PICTURE THIS Problem: I hate my digital camera; it's too complicated. Solution: The Canon Power Shot SD750 7.1 megapixel digital camera is versatile and lightweight, has a memory chip that is easy to replace, and is a snap when it comes to downloading pictures. Image-stabilizer technology minimizes shake-and-vibration distortion, and the camera boasts an excellent zoom lens. -- $250-$299.99 -- Available at Best Buy and Circuit City

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