When it comes to traveling and the gear that goes with it, oh, boy, do I know what I like. If you’re giving gifts this time of year and you’re wondering what to get the traveler in your life, I have a few suggestions for you.
Merino wool long underwear—You knew I was going to say this, so I’m getting it out of the way first. Laugh all you want, but when you’re freezing on the plane or in some unexpected, supposedly tropical location, you’re going to be glad you packed it. Plus, ladies, you can wear the bottoms as leggings in a pinch. Joneswares, Ibex, and SmartWool  all make excellent choices.
Noise-canceling headphones—For the traveler who’s always jumping a plane. It’s staggering what a difference these things make. I got a test pair from Plane Quiet Platinum —they had a few design flaws, which have supposedly been worked out. If you want to spend more money, you can get them from Bose  or Sony . I have not done a comparison, so I cannot tell you the difference first hand, but I can tell you that they really take the grinding edge off your flight. Throw in extra batteries.
MP3 Player—I won my iPod  in a contest, go figure. I don’t know that I’d ever have paid for one and there are lots of other brands out there, but I do know that I love having my own entertainment, on the plane, in the hotel at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep, and on those grueling bus trips. If you have one with a video display, you can put photos of your home on it, a nice thing to be able to share with your fellow travelers or people you meet on the way. Fun accessory? A headphone splitter  so your traveler can share their tunes.
Pashmina  scarf—Talk about your multipurpose item. You can use it as a blanket, a hat, a scarf, of course, a wrap, a sarong … my pal Sarah bought one for me in Turkey. I have four now, and there is always one in my luggage.
Regulation sized carry on  wheelie bag—You’d be surprised what you can get in these things. Plus, regulations are shrinking, so it’s worth finding out if the one your traveler has is still the right size. Go for sturdy, sturdy, sturdy, and err on the smaller side. Throw in some three ounce bottles  and a box of Ziploc bags—the war on liquids isn’t over yet.
Notebook and Derwent Watercolor Pencils —Moleskine notebooks  are super popular, but hell, get what looks nice to you or suits your traveler’s style. Get a little pencil sharpener and a glue stick, too. We may have all gone digital, but sketches and scraps of memorabilia still make lovely travel souvenirs.
Slipper socks —These things are great on the plane, the train, any place you want to get out of your shoes but maybe socks or bare feet aren’t appropriate. Leather (or faux leather) bottom soles mean that yes, you can walk to the dining car in them and yes, your feet will stay dry in the airplane loo. (Ewww.) Plus, they’re washable.
CF  or SD  cards for the digital camera—Memory is cheap and takes up almost no space, but travelers are always running out of memory and there they are, flipping through their pics at dinner, hitting delete, delete, delete. There’s no need for that nonsense. We keep our giant stack o’ memory chips in a tiny zippered bag in the daypack. And hey, get another camera battery, too. Check with your traveler to find out what they’re shooting with.