Give the gift of travel with these not-so-obvious ideas

Need a gift for a frequent traveler? Here are some great (and not too obvious) ideas they're sure to love. A few I’ve even mentioned in the past, so they've continued to stand the test of time!

It's worth mentioning that I don’t endorse specific products or brands, but I do have my favorites at different price points:

Under $150

Plane tickets: Yes, you can get round-trip airfare for less than $150; sometimes a lot less. Here are a few examples for flights in January and early February; I picked this time period because it’s the cheapest time of the year to fly to many destinations. Most of these flights are non-stop, which we love, but most are also weekday flights, which we aren’t crazy about, but look at those prices. All of these fares were found last using FareCompare's deal-finding tool — the internet offers other, simlar airfare comparison tools too — but be warned: Prices can and do change with little notice.

  • Boston to Las Vegas, $143
  • Charlotte to Orlando, $83
  • Dallas to Denver, $74
  • Indianapolis to Ft. Myers, $76
  • San Diego to Albuquerque, $97

How to buy: Don’t give a gift card for a particular airline (unless the recipient’s airport only has a single carrier). No airline always has the best fare, so you must compare prices on an airfare comparison search site; it’s the only way of being sure of getting the best deal. Instead, fill out a card telling your loved one what you intend to buy, then make your purchase in their presence so you don’t make any errors. In fact, these fares are so cheap, might as well buy another ticket for yourself, too — it’ll double the fun.

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Under $100

PreCheck: Still only $85 for a five-year membership, which is dirt cheap. Just imagine going to the airport and heading to your own designated fast-lane at security and keeping your shoes and jacket on, while your shampoos and lotions stay in the carry-on and your laptop remains in its case. I don’t know about you, but I really dislike walking through security checkpoints without shoes on.

Your loved one will remember you every time their feet refrain from getting super gross.

Your loved one will remember you every time their feet refrain from getting super gross. (iStock)

How to buy: Go to TSA.gov/precheck; that’ll tell you everything you need to know. The recipient will have to visit one of the agency’s many offices for a brief in-person interview (which takes about five minutes) so again, this gift can’t be a surprise. But add a note to a card explaining how great this is, and include cash or a check for $85. If you don’t have PreCheck yet, the two of you could do this at the same time.

Under $50

Baggage: You can spend hundreds of dollars on a bag, or just a few bucks. It all depends on personal taste and budget. Many younger travelers are happy to have any sort of inexpensive duffle or backpack as long as it’s sturdy, and cheap bags can be sturdy: A friend of mine swears by a $27 carry-on she got from Ross; she’s been shoving it into overhead bins around the world for five years now and says it’s none the worse for wear.

How to buy: Get a bag at a store you know your recipient likes, maybe a place with lots of different styles so they can return it if your choice isn’t exactly what they want. Or just give a gift card or money, both of which are always in style.

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Under $25

Little comforts: Neck pillows; eye-catching luggage tags; thermos-type mugs to keep coffee warm; gift cards for online books or movies or TV; or compression socks, which many folks love (I’ve seen them for under $25 on Amazon).

I also love giving out a little travel diary and pen. You should get one yourself, too. As digital as our world has become, there’s nothing quite like having a quiet drink at the end of the day while writing a few lines in a notebook about the wonderful things you saw and heard that day. And you’ll love re-reading these musings in the years to come, too.