Subject: gifts for travellers
Hi Ziners:

Here are some ideas from our trips this year.

This year we tried those high absorbent synthetic fiber towels. We bought six of the very large ones (light blue) for our barge group and had them monogrammed to avoid confusion. They were terrific. Dried us and themselves quickly. One was lost; we are going to get a replacement as a stocking gift.

Despite heavy cynicism from my fellow voyagers, I bought those plastic vacuum roll-up bags advertised in the informercials. Do they work? Yes, if you are headed for a climate which requires fluffy warmth retaining items. Not really for summer clothing. I think Don and Linda once recommended large ZipLoc or similar plastic bags. I agree. I use the latter for running gear once or twice used. Get Coolmax stuff including socks if you like that sort of exercise, but it packs wonderfully in the plastic bags. One note of caution, some of those plastic storage bags breathe. So, if you are using them to isolate offending items you have to find ones that don't breathe. I don't know which brands breathe and which don't as of yet.

A Leatherman or similar tool is a great gift. I have several, but my favorite in addition to the usual screwdrivers, knife and pliers, has a corkscrew, cocktail fork and pate spreader. On one trip I used it to facilitate the emergency repair of an errant radiator and shortly thereafter helped a waitress who was having difficulty opening a bottle of wine for a demanding German tour group in Spain. I have yet to disassemble a Range Rover in Tibet with it, but I am tempted.

Plastic cable or wire ties. Next to the Leatherman type tool, cable ties are invaluable. They lock luggage. They repair everything. They can fix an errant zipper pull. They can tie you to a statue for a protest meeting. :-) We always have them lurking in our luggage.

If you use reading glasses, then go to the discount warehouses and buy them in quantity. In Europe they seem to be very expensive. From $1 to $2 in the U.S., they can run $20 or more in Europe.

Refrigerator magnets. On the recommendation of a fellow who extensively travels southern France, we brought a plethora of refrigerator magnets for tips. Wow. I was impressed. They seemed to be a big hit and far less offensive than cash tips (which you should avoid in any case).

If I remember anything else, I will pass it along. Tom