When I was 5 years old, I sat on Santa’s lap at the mall and told him I wanted a pony for Christmas. I can’t recall his exact response — I think it was closer to “Ha ha ha” than “Ho ho ho” — but, needless to say, I didn’t wake up to find a pony under the tree that Christmas morning. It never stopped me from dreaming.
Fast forward a few decades. This holiday season, I find my imagination running wild yet again — but now it’s turned to thoughts of travel. I’ve scoured the Web for five ultra-lavish gifts that any traveler would love to receive. The prices may be outlandish — try not to think about how many trips you could take for the price of each of these! — but hey, a girl can dream.
Plane Tickets for Globetrotters
What traveler hasn’t dreamed of chucking it all and embarking on an around-the-world trip? Now even Groupon wants you to go. The daily deal site is offering a Jet Set Adventure from Delta Air Lines, Air France, KLM and Alitalia, which includes two around-the-world plane tickets for either $10,000 (economy class) or $20,000 (business class) — plus taxes and fees, of course. Your trip includes anywhere from 3 to 10 stopovers in destinations around the world. The airlines will even throw in a steamer trunk and a couple of safari hats.
The Ultimate Carry-On
Designed by a Dutch businessman who wanted to come up with the world’s best suitcase, the HENK TravelFriend pleases with its high-quality materials, sturdy retractable wheels and “lockers” for small valuables. Unlike most suitcases, it opens on both sides for easier access to your goodies. It’s also fully customizable: would you like your case lined with calfskin, horsehair or carbon fiber? Fortunately, the suitcase is carry-on size; imagine your teeth-gnashing if the airlines lost a bag that costs — wait for it — more than $20,000.
A Trek Through the Harshest Landscape on Earth
Anyone lacking an adventurous spirit (or an extremely high tolerance for cold) need not apply for this amazing polar expedition. The 18-day trip with luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent includes 69 miles of cross-country skiing and trekking across the vast frozen landscape of Antarctica, ending at the geographic South Pole. Sound appealing? You can still book a trip for this January, as long as you’ve got $57,985 lying around.
Spoil Your Favorite Shutterbug
Bad pictures, begone! If you find yourself unsatisfied with the photos taken by your old point-and-shoot, give yourself an upgrade (times a million) by picking up the Hasselblad H4D-60 60-Megapixel Digital SLR Camera. The list of specs on this professional-grade camera is about a mile long, and so is its price tag: $41,995. As of this writing, there’s a single review of the camera on Amazon.com, from a user who sold his condo and his car to pay for the thing. He may be living in a box on the street now, but at least he’s got a great camera.
A Private Villa in Thailand
De-stress after the holidays with a week or two in your very own luxury villa in Thailand. On members-only private sale site Jetsetter.com, you can book a stay at the 7,965-square-foot Villa Yin in Phuket, which offers panoramic views of the Andaman Sea from all four bedrooms and from the private infinity pool. Daily maid service and free Wi-Fi are included in the rates, which start at $4,250 a night in early January — with a minimum 14-night stay. (That adds up to a total of $59,500, in case you don’t have a calculator handy.) The villa sleeps eight.
Can’t afford anything on this wish list? Check out the more reasonably priced options in our 10 Unexpected Holiday Travel Gifts.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
Gift cards are foolproof presents for the travelers who don’t fall into the “gadget,” “book” or “hilarious SkyMall purchase” categories of your holiday gift list. You buy the card. They book the excursion, hotel room or spa day, and send you contented Facebook status updates of thanks when their vacation comes around.
But here’s the best part: You get a little something, too. We’ve unearthed five travel gift card offers that sweeten the deal with discounted prices (hint: the amount on the card isn’t the amount you’ll have to pay), bonus gifts and other goodies.
Free $10 Gift Card with Best Western Travel Card
Receive a free $10 gift card with every $100 Best Western Travel Card you purchase. The $10 bonus card can be cashed in at the establishment of your choice (options include Amazon.com, Best Buy, Darden, Walmart and — naturally — Best Western). The Best Western Travel Cards can be loaded with several currencies (perfect for the continent-hopping jetsetter in your life) and are valid at Best Western hotels around the world.
Free $50 Hertz Voucher with Marriott Gift Card
They get no-cost accommodations. You get some cash knocked off the price of your next rental car. Receive a free $50 voucher to use toward any Hertz rental car with the purchase of a Marriott GiftCard worth $250 or more. Marriott GiftCards can be used for hotel stays, restaurant meals, spa services, golf and more at participating Marriott properties. Plus, if you’re a Marriott Rewards member, you’ll receive 10 rewards points for every card you purchase.
Get Deep Discounts with Costco Gift Cards
Costco.com sells legions of discounted gift cards for everything from gym memberships to movie theaters. And travel is no exception. The wholesaler offers cut-rate cards for hotel stays and excursions galore. Some of our favorites include $75 for a $100 BedandBreakfast.com gift card as well as Go Cards for several major U.S. cities. The Go Cards, which start at $59.99, offer free admission to a long list of attractions, as well as discounts at retail stores and restaurants. To get these offers, you have to be a card-carrying Costco member. (Annual memberships start at $55.)
$100 Spa Gift Card for $90
If you have someone on your list who’s traveling in North America soon, this gift will instantly upgrade his or her vacation — while simultaneously saving you money. For a limited time, Spa Week is selling $100 spa gift cards for just $89.99 each. You can purchase the cards in other denominations, too, and the more you spend, the more you save. Get a $50 gift card for $45, a $250 gift card for $225 or a $400 gift card for $360. You get the idea. The cards are valid at more than 4,500 spas in the U.S. and Canada.
10 Unique Holiday Gift Ideas
– written by Caroline Costello
To put it mildly, my packing skills leave something to be desired. According to our Packing Personality Quiz, I’m a “Systematic Suitcase Stuffer.” I pack for a trip by trying to shove most of the things I own into a suitcase. This strategy doesn’t get me too far.
Enter the Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sac. I’ve wanted to try travel compression sacks, also known as Space Bags, for ages. They’re airtight, space-saving bags that compress your items by allowing most of the air inside the bag to be pushed or sucked out. Some bags, like most Space Bags, require a vacuum nozzle for air removal. Other brands, such as the Eagle Creek bags I purchased, don’t need a vacuum; these are more useful for travelers who won’t have access to vacuums in their destinations.
The list price for the Eagle Creek Pack-It Compression Sacs is $20; however, I paid $17.99 for it on Amazon.com. My set came with one small and one medium bag. Here’s the product:
I’m traveling to Europe for 10 days, so I need a lot of clothes. Here’s what my suitcase looked like before I used the compression sack. You’re looking at a bag packed with eight shirts, two jackets, one dress and one raincoat:
I folded everything in a sort-of neat fashion and slid the clothes into the large compression sack. According to the instructions on the package, you have to “roll to expel air and compress.” The bag is designed so that air gets pushed out when the bag is rolled. As I twisted and rolled, I could hear the air shooting out of the far end of the bag. Toward the end of the rolling process, things got a little difficult, and I had to use my knees (and a coworker’s knees) to push out the remaining air.
I’m impressed with the results. My clothes are condensed into a tight bundle, and now I have tons of space left in my suitcase.
There are, however, two things you should keep in mind when using compression bags. First, I get the feeling that my clothes are going to be as wrinkled as raisins by the time I arrive at my hotel. Second, this bundle of clothes is like a brick — it’s very heavy. Watch out for airline weight limits when packing with compression sacks.
Have you packed with a compression sack? Would you try it?
– written by Caroline Costello
We’ve found a carry-on bag that does more than, er, carry. It’s a $66 bag that could pay for itself in just one flight (depending on which airline you choose) — a bag that was designed in direct response to ever-evolving airline fees and bag-size restrictions.
On most airlines, there’s an easy way to avoid baggage fees: restrict yourself to a carry-on bag only. But on ultra-low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines (one of those airlines we love to hate), you’ll have to break out your wallet no matter how efficiently you pack. The airline charges up to $45 each way for checked bags and up to $40 for carry-ons. (Even joining Spirit’s $9 Fare Club will merely reduce the fees, not waive them.) The only thing you can bring for free is a single personal item small enough to fit under the seat in front of you.
Before all you Spirit fliers start trying to jam a week’s worth of clothes into your purse, check out the luggage at CarryOn Free. Smaller than a standard carry-on bag, the CarryOn Free rolling suitcase is specifically designed to meet Spirit’s size restrictions for personal items (16″ x 14″ x 12″). Two zipper pockets help travelers stay organized and make the most of limited packing space.
At $65.99, the bag pays for itself the first time you avoid Spirit’s carry-on fee (up to $80 roundtrip). But even better, you can win one for free. We’re giving away a tan and copper carry-on to one lucky reader who leaves a comment below. Just share your smartest packing tip in the comments by Tuesday, September 27 at 11:59 p.m. ET for a chance to win.
Editor’s Note: This giveaway has ended. Check out the winning packing tip — and get an exclusive discount to buy the CarryOn Free rolling suitcase — in Travel Tip of the Week: Why You Should Always Pack a Hat.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
Who doesn’t love a list?
Time magazine has unleashed a doozy. Earlier this week, Time named the top 100 most influential gadgets produced since 1923 (the year the mag began publication), noting that many items “get the nod simply because they were the first of their kind. First may not always be best, but it’s surely a sign of smart innovation.”
I was intrigued, and not only because I’ve always gotten a kick out of the Clapper and the Roomba (no, I don’t own them, and, yes, they’re on the list). What piqued my interest was the fact that so many of Time‘s gadget greats turned out to be invaluable travel aids. For every Taser and Cordless Electric Drill included, there’s an equally useful tool for road warriors.
Here are five of Time‘s picks that travelers can particularly relate to:
I used to think the Sony Walkman (also on the list) was indispensable, then I got my hands — and ears — on the iPod. Now, the moment the flight attendants give me the all clear to use small electronics, I can’t turn that thing on fast enough and start zoning out. Bonus: It’s ridiculously easy to pack.
Bose Noise-Canceling Headphones
Ok, I never sprang for the $350 version, opting instead for (much) cheaper Bose wannabes. Still, credit goes to the company for coming up with the technology, and I’ll take the soft hum of nothingness over the drone of airline engines any day of the week.
Mattel Electronic Football
I’m a bit ashamed that I’m old enough to remember this gem (it came out in 1977). This portable electronic football game kept me occupied for hours in Dad’s station wagon on road trips — until the batteries died, that is, and the back-seat battles with my sibs would begin.
Ah, yes — every traveler’s little helper. Without it, how would we book online, eat in restaurants we can’t afford and make impromptu decisions to buy overpriced knickknacks when we don’t have enough foreign currency on hand?
From my wallet to the pockets in my travel pants to the handle on my duffel bag, it’s literally the one thing that keeps my vacations from going to pieces.
What do you say? What gadgets do you swear by when you’re on a trip?
– written by John Deiner
Step aside, fanny pack. Halloween is still more than a week away, but scads of publications are already coming out with holiday travel gift guides featuring the latest inventions in the travel world (stay tuned for the far superior IndependentTraveler.com holiday gift guide — to be published soon).
I’ve taken a look at what’s on offer this year, and it seems to me that some of these companies may be running out of ideas. While there’s no shortage of novelty among the gadgets and gizmos for sale this season, there are a few things that, quite frankly, I’m going to leave off my Christmas list. Like the infamous fanny pack or sandals with socks, these products get the job done — but only if you’re willing to sacrifice a little dignity.
The Tugo is a cupholder that rests between the handles of your upright rolling luggage. For a mere $9.95 (or $12.95 for the deluxe version), your previously restrained drink-holding hand can swing freely in the breeze, slap the airport security guy high-five and leaf through trashy magazines in the terminal book store.
PlaneSheets are said to “keep germs at bay” while bringing color and style to your drab airplane seat. The sheets come in washable ($24.99 – $29.99) and disposable ($14.99) varieties, with colors like black toile, leopard print, zebra and camouflage. Those of us who traditionally opt not to advertise that we’re obsessive germaphobes can now come out of our closets and show the world that our inflated fears of filthy public spaces can, in fact, be fashionable!
Teragram Solutions, Inc. is bringing burka-inspired sleepwear to a plane near you. The Snazzy Napper is a lightweight sleep blanket with a face-covering eye mask atop its billowing folds. A clever nose hole keeps travelers alive and breathing as they slip into an identity-free dreamland. This product is perfect for fugitive travelers and passengers not interested in friendly chats with seatmates.
I’ll admit it — this looks comfortable. Still, I gather that travelers passed out on the trashcan-shaped SkyRest might garner curious stares from fellow fliers, which may make the experience, well, less comfortable. This thing brings to mind so many questions. If you’re not sitting in a window seat, wouldn’t this pillow block your seatmates’ access to the bathroom? And wouldn’t a large inflatable beach ball work just as well?
The XShot is a pole that you attach to your camera so that you can snap thousands of pictures of yourself without having to balance your equipment on the cruise ship balcony or rely on the dubious photography skills of buskers. It’s not a terrible idea — this thing is great for the “Look at me!” Facebook generation. Just be careful, as dangling your $300 Canon in the air three feet in front of you screams “Free camera!” to thieves bold enough to snatch and run.
–written by Caroline Costello
Lindsay Carreiro, a globetrotting teacher who blogs about her adventures on Traveling Linds, is our guest blogger today. Below, she shares her top five travel-size products.
When the TSA put into effect that liquid travel items must be no larger than 3.4 ounces, I imagine this caused quite a run on travel-size products. For many years I have tried coming up with new ways to get my travel products through security without inhibiting what I can pack. It can often be frustrating for travelers, especially women travelers who like to bring certain items along on vacation. Buying travel-size items in your local drug store seems fun, and they sure are cute, but really, how many of us are actually using the shampoo and conditioner they are marketing in travel size? After many years of shopping around, I have finally found some of the best products that are travel friendly and do not scrimp on product. These products were used by me and also my boyfriend on a recent trip to Alaska. I would argue that these products would fit perfectly into any vacation you are planning.
1. Alba Botanica Aloe & Green Tea Oil-Free Moisturizer (3-Ounce Bottle)
This moisturizer is hands down the best moisturizer I have ever used. It is light and non-greasy. It doesn’t feel like you are wearing a mask on your face. The aloe is really soothing and came in handy when my boyfriend became slightly sunburned on his face.
2. Clean & Clear Advantage Acne Spot Treatment (.75-Ounce Bottle)
I swear by this stuff whenever I am traveling. This is a perfect travel-size product for those rather annoying pimples that pop up at the worst time. It does exactly what the commercials say it does: reduces pimple size in four hours — very true! While in Alaska this was used several times by me and my boyfriend. The liquid goes on clear so you can treat pimples without anyone noticing.
3. Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder-Gel (1.5-Ounce Bottle)
This chafing relief powder reduces chafing from many areas on your body: inner thighs, bikini area and also your heels of your feet. This is made by Monistat — but don’t let the brand confuse you. Men all over are trying this out because it really does work. I used it a lot when wearing skirts and dresses, and my boyfriend put it on his feet to prevent blisters. Having blisters on a 10-day cruise to Alaska can really spoil the mood.
4. Bausch and Lomb Advanced Eye Relief (1-Ounce Bottle)
Airplane dry eyes: We all get it, and every time it happens we say “should have packed eye drops!” This product not only targets dry eyes, but it also targets redness too. If you are an allergy sufferer like me, then itchy, watery eyes are the worst. I really recommend using this — it works just as well as prescription eye drops.
5. Sunbug Handsfree Sunscreen & Insect Repellent, SPF 30 (2-Ounce Bottle)
If you are like me and bugs such as mosquitoes just seem to be drawn to you, then this stuff will work great. With an SPF 30, it will keep the harmful sun rays away from you, but it also works into the night to create a bug barrier. It has a convenient attachment right to your backpack or purse so you can keep it handy. This sunscreen and insect repellent is hypo-allergenic, oil-free and sweat-proof. It was the perfect combination for a long trip. Plus, it saves suitcase space!
Of course, there are many products out there that work great for traveling, so the choice is ultimately yours. I have found each and every one of these products to work great. It is nice to know that wherever I am traveling, I know at least five products I am definitely taking with me. Trying to pack light is always on everyone’s to-do list, and if you can eliminate taking too many products and just get it down to the necessities you will be better off.
–by Lindsay Carreiro, Editor of Traveling Linds
What are your favorite travel-size products?
Would you travel all the way to China to visit the Beijing Museum of Tap Water, or take a break from touring Egyptian pyramids to catch the highlights of Cairo’s scenic Garbage City neighborhood?
These are just two of the don’t-see sights in the new book 101 Places Not to See Before You Die by Catherine Price. This “anti-bucket” list — a response to the recent bestseller “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” — offers a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the world’s truly unappealing attractions.
While it’s not hard to see why a Latvian prison hotel or Montana’s annual Testicle Festival made it into the book, the list is not without controversy. Price turns up her nose at many popular tourist attractions, including Stonehenge, Mount Rushmore and the Blarney Stone — which is oh-so-hygienically smooched by some 400,000 visitors a year. And there’s bad news for our readers in Nevada: Price has consigned the entire state to her “do not visit” list. (Feel free to defend the many wonders of Nevada in the comments below!)
What places would you recommend that other travelers avoid?