The Expensive, But Worth it Travel Gift Guide

Standing before the Personal Oxygen Bar, a $299.95 portable tank that delivers the same kind of oxygen hit you might get at your better spas and resorts, I asked the Hammacher Schlemmer salesperson if she sold a lot of them. Without a trace of sarcasm she replied, “Surprisingly, no.”

I don’t envy salespeople, especially ones forced to deal with me. My agenda was hidden, but harmless: Pretending that money was no object, how many travel products could I evaluate in a day? And, taking the exercise a step further, would I hypothetically buy any of these things if I had the money?

Getting back to the oxygen bar, another salesperson offered to let me take a hit, going so far as to wipe down with an antibacterial wipe the inhaler doohickey that conveniently attaches by tube to a headpiece. After a few minutes of inhaling and listening to the four "ethereal musical patterns"-- though for $300, the device should hold at least 400 songs -- I truthfully admitted that not only was I finding it hard to relax, but that I had no frame of reference for what oxygen-enhanced breathing should feel like.

In the end I wriggled off the hook by telling the salespeople that the tank was too heavy, and at 11 pounds, it is -- even if it wasn’t conceived as a gadget for frequent travelers, it is meant for personal use and does have a recessed handle, which to me implies the promise of portability. My dignity almost intact, I went in search of more of the most expensive travel gifts ever.

Cashmere Travel Blanket, Distinctly Waldorf collection, $575

Nothing quite says Old World wealth like New York City’s iconic Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and beyond the surprisingly ordinary trinkets the hotel stocks in its gift shop the hotelier also has a line of Waldorf-branded products that include a nifty $120 manicure set including stainless steel implements with a lifetime guarantee and a leather case. Reminding myself that I wasn’t looking for modestly-priced gifts, I was immediately drawn to the $575 Amicale Cashmere Travel Throw that will “take the chill from plane or train compartments” or, the Waldorf says with marketing language relevant a century ago, “add snuggle-soft warmth to carriage rides.” I honestly wouldn’t mind whipping out this 56” x 72” blanket on a plane, leaving my seatmates to fight over the thin scraps of fleece that pass for airline-issued blankets today. However, I do have to draw the line at the Cashmere Baby Travel Blanket, which comes in pink or blue. At 25" x 36” it’s about half the grown-up throw’s size, though at $395, certainly not half the cost. The issue at any price is that the potential of a plane, train, or carriage ride to induce vomiting doesn’t make cashmere my first-choice material for a baby blanket.

Ferrari Carry-On Wheelie Bag, $2,178

New York’s Park Avenue Ferrari store is part showroom, part gift shop, and as tempted as I was to sink into the leather upholstery of a car I veered left toward some luggage, a piece of which was surprisingly ordinary looking for its $698 price tag. Despite some leather detailing and helpful metal feet on its bottom, the bag was primarily constructed of quilted vinyl, and if I’m going to pretend to pay big money, I want leather. I had a similar issue with the Coach store’s $648 wheelie bag, which had pretty leather handles and trim but was mostly made of coated canvas. I understand when a luxury brand wants to use more weather-resistant materials like vinyl or canvas in their luggage, but not for inflated prices that would buy me a fine leather bag elsewhere.

Back at Ferrari, their online store improved on the retail location’s baggage selection. For its overall beauty, I would consider buying with someone else’s money the Ferrari Trademark weekend bag, a suede number with robust leather handles that goes for a mere $1,386. But for me the bag that ultimately says in-your-face wealth and durability is the Metal Trademark Trolley. It’s made of calfskin that’s “soft and supple” and has a handsome red lining with zippered compartments. The “trolley” means you get fairly standard wheelie-bag wheels and, of course, there’s a retractable handle. The bag’ weighs about 8 pounds, measures 14” x 20 1/2” x 8” and ought to meet most airlines’ carry-on size guidelines.

Honorable mention:  Weighing in at 23 lbs and $1,300, The Only Self-Propelled Suitcase from Hammacher Schlemmer has motorized wheels designed to engage when you’re struggling, such as when you’re dragging the bag up an incline. The suitcase can also take a licking as it’s made from the same composite material used in car bumpers. The power assist only kicks in when you’ve packed at least 15 lbs of stuff; the bag holds about 70 lbs total. Since its potential maximum weight of 93 pounds and measurements of 32 1/4" H x 19 2/3" W x 13 1/2" D would make it an overweight and oversized checked bag on most airlines, this suitcase is perhaps best saved for car trips.

Vuzix Wrap 920 Video Eyewear, SkyMall, $349.95

If you pass the time on long, boring flights by watching video clips on your tiny iPhone or iPod touch screen, the Vuzix Wrap 920 could be a candidate for your high-priced accessory wish list. Once you slide them on, the “sunglass-style” frames replicate the experience of watching a 62-inch screen from nine feet away. The glasses will work with any device equipped with a composite video out port and will stay powered for six hours via two AA batteries. Adjusting the focus settings will enable you to use the glasses without your prescription eyeglasses, or without your contacts should you wish to remove them.

In keeping with the personal projector theme, the business traveler who has everything might like Brookstone’s $299.99 Pico Pocket Projector, indeed pocket-sized at 2.4” x 0.7” x 4.6" and 5.6 oz, but yielding a 70” diagonal image projection of presentations, videos, and just about any other data you’re harboring on your other gadgets. The projector’s LED’s last for more than 20,000 hours, which would give you just enough time to watch the extended DVD version of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

Elsa Peretti Men’s Razor, Tiffany & Co., $495

If you have travelers in your life too sophisticated to use their index fingers as an assist for sliding on their shoes, Tiffany’s $295 Elsa Peretti Padova shoe horn may be the ticket. However, what gives me pause is that the 7 ¼” horn is copper enrobed in ruthenium, some periodic table element I had never heard of. And if I’m giving someone one of those storied blue boxes with an actual Tiffany gift inside, that gift at the very least better be silver. Yes, ruthenium is technically a precious metal, too. And, silver does tarnish easily, but so what? It’s easy to polish and at least its recipient will know it’s silver. That’s why the sterling silver Elsa Peretti Razor may pack appeal -- assuming the guy you’re buying it for likes to use Gillette Mach 3 or Mach 3 Turbo blades, as according to a Tiffany rep those are the only cartridges compatible with the razor. All that said, do you really want to give a gift that’s best left in the hotel safe rather than beside the sink? Well, who said expensive travel gifts are about the recipient, anyway?