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dec12homespunweb.jpgBy Alfred Borcover

RISMEDIA, Dec. 12, 2008-(MCT)-The holidays are creeping up on us. Time to think about what to give your favorite traveler. Considering the cost of flying these days, who wouldn’t love a free airline ticket? But let’s get real. The sorry state of the stock market and the economy means I’ve put a $50 cap on each gift. For many, even that might be extravagant.

But fret not. I’ve scoured a few catalogs in search of stuff any traveler would appreciate. A word of candor: I have not tested these products. And gifts might go to wannabe travelers, such as kids whose geography interest you might want to encourage. The main criterion for choosing these gifts: None of these things will be relegated to a drawer and forgotten.

– Charge it: TC2 Mobile Phone/PDA Charger AR108. Provides up to four hours of use for a dead cell phone or personal digital assistant. The lightweight gadget operates on two AA batteries and comes with a built-in flashlight, seven adapters and a travel pouch. From Magellan’s, a travel merchandise supplier, for $28.85.; 800-9624943.

– For the camera buff: Ideal for someone who carries a digital single-lens reflex, a CarrySafe Strap is reinforced with stainless steel wire to prevent cut-and-run theft. It’s padded, adjustable and has a snatch-proof mechanism that allows the camera to be clipped to any permanent fixture. Magellan’s, $19.85.; 800-962-4943.

– Weighing in: For the traveler who overpacks, a Stop and Lock Luggage Scale can help avoid being socked for an overweight bag. The scale can handle up to 75 pounds (50 is the normal airline weight limit) and has a retractable tape measure to make sure the bag isn’t oversized. Remember, airlines already charge for checked bags, so you don’t want to be overweight too. Available for $9.95 from; 800-314-2247.

– Light it up: An Ultracompact Lightweight Swiss Army LED Flashlight can come in handy in the car, your hotel room, wherever. Made of aircraft aluminum beneath a red rubber grip, the flashlight is equipped with a long-lasting ultrabright LED and has a range of 125 feet. It comes with two AAA batteries and weighs a tad over 2 ounces. From National Geographic, $35.; 888-2255647.

– Heat it up: A heating coil, for when you don’t want to hassle with a hotel room coffeemaker. It brings water to a boil in minutes for coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soup. With its dual-voltage feature, you can use it around the world. It comes with an adapter plug for continental Europe. From Magellan’s, $12.85.; 800962-4943.

– Keep it safe: Called the CitySafe 100, the handbag features a slashproof adjustable neck/shoulder strap and a tamperproof front security flap that conceals zippers. The bag has two passport pockets, two ticket/ boarding-pass holders, internal zipper pockets, slots for memory cards and pen holders. From Pacsafe, a maker of anti-theft travel gear, for $49.95. Check for stores.

– On time: Dual Time LCD Travel Alarm Clock. Compact quartz movement clock has easy-set functions for local time, home time and alarm plus back light and snooze-alarm controls. From Kaehler stores or online at; 800-314-2247, for $19.95.

– Armchair trips: “The Best American Travel Writing,” edited by writer, chef, television host Anthony Bourdain, this paperback anthology takes you deep into many regions of the world via pieces by Paul Theroux (Turkmenistan), Calvin Trillin (Singapore) and David Sedaris (flight to Paris).

– For kids: A new Illustrated Map of the World is ideal for the elementary-school-age wannabe traveler. The colorful 50- by 32-inch map is illustrated with animal, landmark and cultural icons unique to each region or country. It comes with a book that explains the icons and provides facts about each location. From Rand McNally for $16.95. A companion Illustrated Map of the U.S. also is available for $16.95.; 800-275-7263.

For a lot of people, commercial gift-giving is being replaced by contributions to charitable organizations.

The Nature Conservancy protects environmentally threatened land around the world (; 800-628-6860); Heifer International fights hunger and poverty (; 800-422-0474); and Seva Foundation contributes to vision, health-care and wellness programs (; 800-223-7382).

Happy holidays.

© 2008, Chicago Tribune.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.