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Best Travel Gifts 2009

Vancouver watch for the 2010 Winter Olympics

Davies + Starr

Quick: what’s the next best thing to giving someone a plane ticket this holiday season? It’s buying a travel-related gift—something that either inspires travel or provides a practical benefit while on the road.

“Travel gifts should make the travel experience easier or more comfortable, or be inspired by a specific destination or trip,” says Mimi Lombardo, fashion director at Travel + Leisure. And this year, she says, the trend is toward value and authenticity. “People are really looking for either a gift with a humanitarian element or something that will be truly useful.”

With the economy still struggling, these trends are no surprise. Nor is the fact that 89 percent of consumers are planning to spend the same amount or less this holiday season than they did in 2008, according to the marketing research company NPD. Fortunately, valuing authenticity and pragmatism (over, say, brand name) is also wallet-friendly—an important consideration, since the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) anticipates that retailers will not be slashing prices as they did last year.

In keeping with these trends, we found gifts to inspire travel as well as essential products to bring on your 2010 globe-trotting. For the spiritual traveler on your list, there’s a baggie of Intentional Chocolate candies, dark chocolate infused with positive energy and handmade by Tibetan monks ($15). (Add in an invitation to a yoga retreat for a creative “feel-good” combination gift.) If you’re looking for inspiration to return to Paris next year, order up the 1932 vintage cookbook I Know How to Cook ($45). Recently translated into English, its more than 1,400 recipes make up the bible of French cooking. And while walking along the Seine, you can look fashionable with a brightly colored water-resistant watch from Nixon ($55).

To find travel-gift inspiration outside of our gift guide, check out Hammacher Schlemmer, where the travel section includes everything from electronic translators to shirt-pocket-size HD camcorders. And of course there’s everyone’s favorite seat-back catalogue, SkyMall, where you can buy such essential items as Aquabell Sets—plastic dumbbells you pack in your suitcase, then fill with water to work out.

If you’re looking for a deal, try the website www.Black-Friday.com, which offers sneak peaks at the markdowns of retailers like Old Navy and Macy’s. We found the colorful, compact iLuv portable stereo speakers—great for taking music on the road—for under $25 (suggested retail: $35).

Happy shopping. —Catesby Holmes

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