Christmas Gadget Gift Giving Guide
The Travel Insider's 2009 Top Ten List
Stuck with what to buy
for the special
people in your life?
You're probably going to surprise and delight them by placing some of these items under the
tree this Christmas. For sure, it will probably be
something they don't already have and which no-one else is
Better still, delight yourself with a personal treat or
Here is a selection of
the best of the items received and/or reviewed during this year. They've
been chosen for their low to moderate cost, their novelty value, and their
Ranging in price from $15 and
up, you're sure to
find something that will be a creative choice, a
useful gift, and something that even 'the person who has it all'
does not yet own and would want.
And if you can't find something
on this list, check out our previous year guides - the products
on them are mostly still available, innovative, and appealing
(links on the left).
I own, use and recommend all
these items myself.
Bluetooth Headset (Cardo S-800) : $15-20
Small and functional, the Cardo S-800 performs as well as headsets
costing more than $100.
Increasingly, states are outlawing
talking on a cell phone while driving, unless you're
using a hands-free device such as a Bluetooth headset.
Even if not yet illegal, it
is sensible to use a headset any time you're using a
phone. It vastly reduces your exposure to
radiation, and makes it safer to talk and drive.
Bluetooth headsets have been
dropping in price and improving in quality, but many
headsets remain overpriced and give poor quality sound.
Fortunately, our favorite headset
is also one of the lowest priced ones.
Bluetooth Headset Holder (Nectar Blueclip holders) : $15-30
Clip this retractable headset holder to your belt, or
shirt pocket, or lapel.
Or wear this holder around your neck.
So maybe the person you're buying
for already has a Bluetooth headset. However,
chances are 99% certain they don't have any way to
carry it, other than shoved in a pocket or stuck in
Here are two different solutions
to this annoying problem. The Nectar Blueclip
Retractable headset holder (top picture) and/or the
Nectar Blueclip Necklace headset holder (below).
These units are sensibly priced,
are available in different styles/colors, and not only
look attractive but work amazingly well.
Click links for reviews of the
Nectar Blueclip Retractable headset holder and
Nectar Blueclip Necklace headset holder.
Available direct from
Nectar's own website.
Apple iPhone or iPod : $149 - $399
The iPhone, or its almost identical cousin, the iPod
Touch, have redefined the concept of a personal digital
assistant, offering enormously more functionality than
just a phone and music player.
The latest range of iPods are better than ever before,
and the new Nano shoots acceptable quality video too.
Buying someone a cell phone is a
difficult sort of gift - who then assumes the obligation
for the two year service contract? But if that is
not an issue, then for sure there's only one choice of
phone to consider for most people - Apple's
If buying a phone is not
practical, you should realize that the iPod Touch is
almost identical to the iPhone (it just lacks the phone,
GPS and camera) and will run nearly all the same
For a different type of product,
don't overlook the new iPod Nano, which combines a
brilliantly simple video recorder with a music/video
player - ideal for creating your own Youtube videos
three examples of Nano videos I filmed myself).
An iPhone 3GS costs $199 or $299
(plus monthly phone service costs).
An iPod Touch costs $199, $299 or
$399. An iPod Nano costs $149 or $179.
iPhone review series starts
iPod review series starts
many different places, none of which discount.
iPhone Accessory - Mophie Juice Pack Air : $80
The Mophie Juice Pack Air wraps around the iPhone,
protecting the phone and adding only slightly to its
size while doubling its battery life.
The iPhone is a wondrous device
for sure. But because it does so many things, its
battery life is regrettably short, and with a battery
that can't be removed/replaced, you need to consider
ways to supplement its short life.
The best solution is the Mophie
Juice Air - this doubles as both a protective carry case for
the iPhone and also as a backup battery, giving you
almost twice the battery life of the phone by itself.
Noise Cancelling Headphones for all budgets : $100 -
The latest Bose Quiet Comfort 15 noise cancelling
headphones are far and away the very best noise
cancelling headphones money can buy.
Ideal for anyone who flies for
more than the shortest of flights, noise cancelling
headphones greatly reduce the physical stress of flight
caused by the subtle din of the background noise on a
Here are the three best choices
for noise cancelling headsets, depending on the price
you wish to pay.
Plane Quiet Platinum - a good entry level performer
at an entry level $100 price.
Audio-Technica ATH-ANC7B - better than the PQP but
twice the price (~$200).
Bose Quiet Comfort 15 - quite simply and by far the
best, but at $300, pricey too.
Portable Electronic Luggage Scale : $20 - $40
The stylish and lightweight Design Go Luggage Scale
means you'll always know the weight of your suitcases.
The lower priced Balanzza scale is a good alternative if
you're seeking to keep the cost of your scale down.
These days, airlines will
gleefully charge you up to $100 and sometimes more if
your checked bag is even a single pound overweight.
And with a standard weight allowance of only 50lbs, you
need all the weight you can get, while not wanting to
risk going over your limit.
Now more than ever a portable
luggage scale is an invaluable traveling tool, allowing
you to pack safely up to the limit and giving you peace
of mind when checking in.
(sometimes sold under different brand names) is an excellent
low priced unit for only $20-25. But our favorite is
the stylish, lightweight, and very functional
Design Go Luggage Scale, costing $40.
Or, if you prefer, there's no
reason not to go low tech and get a simple 'old
fashioned' spring/dial type scale as well.
Click the links to be taken to the
Amazon product pages.
Scangauge Vehicle Engine Monitor - $160
Choose any four from a broad range of engine information
options to display on this panel.
Here's a great gadget for the car
lover in your life. The Scangauge is easily
installed and provides a fascinating range of useful and
helpful extra information about a car's operation.
It can also give useful
diagnostics if you get a 'Check Engine' light, and you
can use the information it displays to
help you adjust your driving style to get maximum fuel
Logitech Squeezebox : $200 and up
Easy to understand controls make it simple to harness
the flexibility and huge range of music available to you
from the internet on a Logitech Squeezebox player.
Internet radio services are
revolutionizing what and how we listen to music, giving
us incredibly customized music programmed designed
uniquely for our own preferences.
Combine this with access to all
the music you have on your home computers, and the
ability to network and control it all,
anywhere/everywhere in your house, and you've understand
the essence of the Logitech Squeezebox family of digital
music playing products.
Ideal for anyone and everyone who
enjoys listening to music (and don't we all?).
Logitech review series starts
TravelRest Headrest : $27
The TravelRest headset is innovative and successful way
of making it easier to sleep in a coach class seat.
One area of 'negative progress'
when traveling is the ever-diminishing comfort of flying
in coach class.
The clever TravelRest won't give
you more room, but it will help you to sleep on your
next flight. A definite improvement on the old
fashioned neck collar type devices.
Other Thoughts and ideas
Here are some further thoughts
about other possible gift ideas :
Blu-ray Disc Player
You can now find Blu-ray
disc players for about $150 at major retailers such as Costco
and Wal-mart and
Blu-ray players will not only give you the ability to play the
wonderful new high quality Blu-ray discs, but will also
'up-convert' existing DVDs and make them appear better, too.
With the cost of the players
now down to affordable levels, and with both a massively
increasing range of movies and more sensible prices for the
discs too (hint - buy movies during one of the almost continual
discount/sales at Amazon or elsewhere - you can now sometimes
get Blu-ray movies for as little as $10 each) it becomes time to
consider upgrading your movie watching to Blu-ray.
You really can see the
difference in picture quality with a Blu-ray disc compared to a
DVD, but you'll need a HD television/monitor for this - ideally
one rated at 1080P. On the other hand, with many of us
having upgraded our televisions for the new digital signals, the
chances are we already have a monitor that can handle the
improved definition of Blu-ray.
E-book readers are one of
the hot new items this year. Amazon has released several
new versions of their
Kindle, and have dropped the price
repeatedly down to its current $259. Barnes & Noble have
brought out a competing Nook player at the same price, and Sony
continues to slog on with its product range too. New
products from new manufacturers are expected to be released
regularly over the months that follow.
If you want to get a
dedicated eBook reader, we feel that the Kindle remains the best
unit out there for two reasons - the broadest range of titles
available, and also because Amazon tends to sell its eBooks at
lower prices than Barnes & Noble or Sony. The B&N Nook
might be a more appealing reader, but both units use the
identical screen, and so the lower cost of the books from Amazon
is the most important factor to consider.
But - maybe your best eBook
reader is neither the Nook nor the Kindle. Please consider getting an iPhone or iPod Touch instead and adding the free
reader software for both Kindle and Nook titles to that unit. If you do that, you
don't need to buy either (or both) a Kindle or Nook at all, and the reading experience,
even on the much smaller screen, is perfectly good.
The downward trend in GPS
pricing has continued unabated in 2009, while hardware features
have continued to improve. Nowadays, you can realistically
expect to find a good GPS unit with a 4.3" sized screen for
under $200, and maybe you'll find a unit around that price that
also offers extra features such as free traffic data for life.
But are free-standing GPS
units soon to be obsoleted? I've two excellent GPS
programs running on my iPhone that give me all the same
functionality that I could have in a stand-alone unit - why buy
another piece of equipment when you can use an existing item for
A GPS program to run on your
phone, with the same mapping and routing and turn-by-turn voice
directions as provided by a dedicated unit, will cost about $100. Probably it remains
slightly preferable to get a dedicated unit, but this is likely
to change as phones become more versatile.
We continue to consider
Garmin units the very best available, primarily because of their
user-friendly interface, and nowadays there's no longer much of
a price premium to buy a high quality Garmin as opposed to a
generic brand with much less user-friendly features.
Amazon currently offers over
100 different Garmin products, many at less than $200.
Last we looked, the best value was probably a factory
refurbished Nuvi 255W, otherwise for a more fully featured unit
with traffic data too, consider the Nuvi 780 with MSN Direct
service or the Nuvi 265WT. All three units are under $200.
With airline weight limits
going down and down, and with extra bag charges going up and up,
these days the sensible packing strategy is to get one big light
bag that is strong enough to survive airline handling.
If your strategy is to get
the lightest suitcase possible, we'd recommend the Heys range of
On the other hand, if you
don't mind a slightly heavier bag, and want to get one made of
the finest construction and with a literal no-exceptions
lifetime warranty, your clear choice remains Briggs & Riley.
The best place to buy either
Heys or Briggs & Riley suitcases is probably through
Heys products are sometimes discounted, Briggs & Riley almost
Still More Ideas....
If the ten ideas above
don't help, perhaps visit our
2007 Christmas Gift
2005 Christmas Gift
Giving Guide, our
2004 Christmas Gadget Gift Giving Guide or our
2003 Christmas Gadget Gift
- maybe one of these items will be just what you are looking
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6 Nov 2009, last update
20 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.