What's the best gift you could give your favorite traveler? Easy. An all-expenses-paid vacation to the location of his or her dreams.
Dream on, right?
Since most of us possess a holiday budget that's more Afton than Swiss Alps, we respectfully suggest a different approach. How about giving something to take on that dream trip, as well as all the great adventures leading up to it? Something that earns its keep, either by making itself infinitely useful or making travels that much more fun.
To that end, we've rounded up a selection of cool travel products in a range of prices, including candy-colored luggage, a messenger bag that charges your iPad, a carry-on that converts into a scooter (really), and a nifty little hard-sided travel wallet. All have one common goal: to prove themselves worthy of a traveler's abbreviated packing list. "Dream trip" is more Santa's dominion, anyway.
MICRO 22-INCH LUGGAGE TRAVEL SCOOTER
The Micro gives new meaning to the term "rolling luggage." It starts out as an unassuming black bag, but raise the handle and fold down the running board and presto! You've got yourself a scooter, complete with heel brake. It's 11 pounds, can accommodate up to a 220-pound adult and fits into most overhead compartments. Consider it further insurance that you will get to the gate on time.
Available online at www.kickboardusa.com, $400
JIMI TRAVEL WALLET
Traveling light can be hard work. The Jimi wallet helps by limiting you to the essentials: ID, a few bills, and a couple of credit cards. The slim, hard-sided, made-in-the-USA carrier snaps open in a flash and attaches to lanyards, carabineers and key clips. It's durable for the adventurer, water- and sand-resistant for the beachgoer, recycled and recyclable for the ecotourist and stylish enough for any design-minded traveler. Plus, the price is right.
Available at stores including Grand Performance in St. Paul, Scheels in St. Cloud, Now Bikes and Fitness in St. Paul and Arden Hills, and online at www.theJimi.com, $15
DASH 20-INCH UPRIGHT WHEELED LUGGAGE
Four-wheeled, hard-sided luggage continues to be all the rage at baggage claim these days. Brookstone's Dash comes in a rainbow of colors, including Lime, Pool Blue and Hot Pink, so it's easier to spot your little trendsetter. It's light, too -- less than 8 pounds -- and expandable, in case you're lugging more on the return trip. It happens.
Available at Twin Cities' Brookstone stores and online at www.Brookstone.com, $100
SCRATCH WORLD MAP
All the countries on this 311/2 -inch by 221/2 -inch laminated wall map are covered in lottery ticket-style gold foil. Use a coin to scratch off the destinations you've visited to reveal color and geographical detail, thus creating a personalized map. The travel version's half its size and flips over to reveal places to map your journey, affix passport photos and record other fun bits of trip info.
Available at Twin Cities Bibelot stores and online at www.bibelotshops.com, $27
REI STRATOCRUISER 22-INCH WHEELED PACK
In the airport, it's your typical wheeled carry-on. On cobblestone streets around the world, unzip a panel revealing the stowed straps that make it a backpack. An internal frame provides stability without adding too much bulk (it weighs in at a slim 8 pounds 15 ounces). The Stratocruiser comes with an attachable daypack that's great as a carry-on or for traveling light at your destination.
Available at Twin Cities' REI stores and online at www.REI.com, $219
EXOFFICIO STORM LOGIC JACKET/TRAVEL PILLOW
There are a lot of reasons this makes a great travel jacket. It's well insulated, lightweight, wind- and water- resistant, and quick drying. It's also outfitted with a bunch of well-placed pockets (aka a "Travel Pocket System"), including an interior security pocket with built-in key clip. The best feature, though? The Storm Logic rolls into its own built-in stuff sack to become a travel pillow. Smart.
Available in both men's and women's versions at local sporting goods stores and online at www.exofficio.com, $150
POWERBAG MESSENGER BAG
This unassuming black messenger bag harbors a lightweight charging system to power your smartphone, MP3 player, e-reader or tablet on the go, so you never run out of juice for your digital entertainment of choice. An external power button also lets you know the state of your reserves. Charge the bag at your destination with an attached AC adapter. The Powerbag comes in backpack, sling, tablet bag and briefcase versions, too.
Available at OfficeMax and Best Buy, and online at www.myPowerbag.com, $140
Berit Thorkelson is a St. Paul-based freelance writer whose work appears in publications including Better Homes & Gardens, Budget Travel and Parents, and at www.loveanddiapers.com.