Hol­i­day gift ideas for the trav­eler on your list

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - TRAVEL - By Ed Perkins [email protected]

It’s time again to think about hol­i­day gifts for trav­el­ers on your list, so here are my sug­ges­tions, up­dated for 2019. My over­ar­ch­ing guide­line for a great gift is to ar­range some ex­trav­a­gance — petty to ma­jor, de­pend­ing on your bud­get — that you know the trav­eler would en­joy but prob­a­bly hasn’t al­ready ar­ranged and wouldn’t oth­er­wise ar­range.

It’s easy to come up with ideas for a trav­eler who al­ready has a trip planned, with spe­cific dates and places. For a base­ball fan head­ing to Los An­ge­les, for ex­am­ple, get Dodgers tick­ets; for a the­ater buff headed for New York, Lon­don, or Las Ve­gas, get show tick­ets. De­pend­ing on mu­si­cal tastes, check to see what concerts there are in a pri­mary des­ti­na­tion: rock con­cert to jazz to sym­phony to opera, you can prob­a­bly find some­thing that fits. For some­one headed for a re­sort, con­sider a spa treat­ment. If you know the flights, ar­range a VIP “meet and greet” and limo trans­fer at a des­ti­na­tion air­port. If you know a des­ti­na­tion ho­tel is al­ready re­served, or­ga­nize an up­grade to a suite.

If your trav­eler has no im­me­di­ate travel plans, con­sider some­thing that could en­hance the travel ex­pe­ri­ence any­where, any­time. I have two pri­mary choices here, each with a lot of flex­i­bil­ity. My top choice, at least for a trav­eler who al­ready isn’t in a pro­gram, is to ar­range ac­cess to an air­port lounge. Pri­or­ity Pass (pri­or­i­ty­pass.com) pro­vides ac­cess to a wide range of lounges — a mix of air­line and in­de­pen­dent. An­nual mem­ber­ship costs $429, with un­lim­ited no-charge vis­its to more than 1,200 lounges and air­port restau­rants world­wide. If that’s overkill, LoungeBudd­y (loungebudd­y.com) ar­ranges one-time lounge en­try at a world­wide net­work, start­ing at $25 for a visit.

My other pri­mary choice is to give an ac­tual trip. Per­haps the eas­i­est way is to buy a ho­tel or re­sort coupon from Groupon (groupon.com) or Liv­ingSo­cial (liv­ingso­cial.com/ travel), which usu­ally cov­ers a two- or three-day week­end at a leisure-ori­ented ho­tel or re­sort. You can find lots of op­tions start­ing be­low $100 per night for a cou­ple. The big ad­van­tage to these coupons as gifts is that they’re typ­i­cally valid for a pe­riod of sev­eral months, so you don’t have to try to guess your trav­eler’s ex­act sched­ule. You can al­most al­ways find some­thing within easy one-day driving range from about any­where in the U.S., or you can con­cen­trate on one of the pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions such as Las Ve­gas or Or­lando.

I re­main a con­trar­ian about those lists that fo­cus on gad­get “stock­ing stuffer” gifts: lug­gage, clothes, money belts, pass­port and credit-card wal­lets, charg­ers, for­eign plug adapters and sim­i­lar items. My take on those is that most trav­el­ers al­ready have the gad­gets and ac­ces­sories they re­ally want, and most “stock­ing stuffer” travel gifts quickly be­come “drawer stuffers.” I also ex­clude “cash equiv­a­lent” travel gifts — buy­ing some­thing the re­cip­i­ent has al­ready spec­i­fied as want­ing, pay­ing part of an up­com­ing trip, buy­ing a rail­pass, a gift card or oth­er­wise mak­ing what amounts to a di­rect cash con­tri­bu­tion.

I don’t mean to say you should to­tally ig­nore the ter­rific deals avail­able on elec­tron­ics and tech gear dur­ing the hol­i­day shop­ping sea­son. The crit­i­cal el­e­ment in find­ing a great tech gift is know­ing ex­actly what sort of de­vice your trav­eler would re­ally use on a trip that doesn’t du­pli­cate some­thing they al­ready have. Many trav­el­ers these days need no more than their reg­u­lar phone or tablet to keep up with emails, texts, Twit­ter, Face­book and such. But an avid book devo­tee might love a Kin­dle or other e-reader, and some­one who needs to do se­ri­ous word pro­cess­ing and spread­sheet work might love one of the new lap­tops with 14- and 15inch screens that weigh just 2.5 pounds.

As we learned in “The Mu­sic Man,” get­ting the right gift is easy, but “Ya gotta know the ter­ri­tory” of your trav­eler. So get to it.

DREAM­STIME

Tick­ets to a Broad­way show are an ideal gift for a the­ater buff headed to New York City.

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