Travel is fun once you reach your destination, but being away from home, getting through airport security and enduring long trips can be stressful.
No wonder, then, when you ask, "What's a good gift for travelers?" the answer is often related to comfort and convenience. Here are some ideas for holiday gifts that make travel more pleasant.
For music lovers
How about upgrading earbuds to a set of headphones? Bose noise-canceling Quiet Comfort headphones, at a pricey $300, have been a top pick among travelers for years, but Consumer Reports also gives high ratings to many models under $100, including headphones from Able Planet, JVC and Audio- Technica.
Is there a neck-pillow junkie in your life? You know who they are: They keep neck pillows stashed in bags and glove compartments in all sizes, colors and styles. Consider an addition to the collection in the form of a neck pillow with built-in speakers. Travel agent Mic Anderson bought one for about $25 for her 14-year-old daughter, Sarah, from a kiosk at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, and it was a hit. "It plugs into your MP3 player or iPod," said Sarah. "I use it on car trips and plane rides, and I also use it in my room a lot."
The speakers are inside the U-shaped pillow so they sit beneath your chin on either side. Sarah says you can hear the music without disturbing the person sitting next to you, which her mom confirms.
For the organized traveler
Carol Gundrum asked some of her fellow travel agents for gift ideas, and packing cubes was one of the top suggestions. Typically made from lightweight fabrics with zippers, packing cubes come in various sizes designed to fit inside luggage. Fans say they help compress clothing so you can fit more in, but just as important, they make it easy to organize belongings.
Cubes can also be filled with non-wearables like electronics, books and papers or beauty products. If checked luggage exceeds weight restrictions, a cube can be removed some come with small hooks or handles and carried.
Packing cubes are available from various retailers; one popular brand is from www.eBags.com.
In various colors, with mesh windows for breathability and visibility, they range from under $20 for a set of three in small and slim sizes to under $30 for a large set of three.
Gift ideas abound on the www.3floz.com website, which sells health, beauty and grooming products in sizes approved for carry-on air travel.
Click on "products" to see the company's list of best-sellers, like the Air Repair skin care kit, which includes cleansers and moisturizers, $39; garment care items like the Laundress Crease Release spray, $8; toothpastes and fold-up toothbrush in the Go Smile kit, $12, and a Malin+Goetz bag of six products including shampoo, conditioner and body wash, $30.
Nifty travel products from Flight 001, which has brick-and-mortar stores as well as a website, include lightweight yet sturdy containers for liquids that can be collapsed, rolled up and tucked in your bag when not in use, then filled as needed.
Flight 001's Bubi bottle, $30, 22 ounces and in four colors, can be used for hot or cold beverages, and it's safe for dishwashers, microwaves and freezers. It's perfect for travelers who like a refillable water bottle that won't take up a lot of room when empty.
Give feet a chance
Show a little love for the lower leg: For air travelers, socks with treads, soft washable slippers or compression socks (which need not be surgical strength take a look at athletic brands like Saucony's AMP PRO2 socks, $38 online) can make flights more bearable.
Gadgets, gadgets, gadgets
There's no end to gadgets that travelers love, from iPods, iPads and Kindles to chargers that can power electronics on the go, including battery-powered and solar-powered chargers that work even when you have no access to an electric outlet.
In online reviews, some consumers have lauded iGo Everywhere chargers as a one-stop-shopping device for powering all kinds of electronics on a trip, though you need to swap out tips to connect different gadgets. The iGo charger can be plugged into a wall or car.
Spa visit at airport
Finally, here's a way to help travelers de-stress while en route: a gift card for XpresSpa, which offers manicures, pedicures, haircuts, facials, shaves, massages and other services at 46 airport spas. Pricing varies by location but in most places $25 covers a manicure and $50 a massage. Gift cards can be purchased online at www.XpresSpa.com.