• Northwest sells WorldPerks miles, gift certificates for air travel, and gift cards for NWA World Vacations at nwa.com. (Although Northwest is merging with Delta, that process is expected to take up to two years so for those who live near Northwest hubs, it can still make sense to purchase NWA gift certificates.)
• Southwest offers the southwestgiftcard, which allows users to monitor remaining funds on the card online; more information at southwest.com.
• US Airways promises volume discounts and free shipping for corporate orders on its airline gift card, which can be purchased at some Walgreen's stores as well as online at usairways.com.
Hotels and vacation packages
Many hotel chains offer gift certificates, though not all properties participate in such programs so you need to inquire in advance. If you're staying overseas, generally the current exchange rate will be used to calculate credit.
Among the major brands offering some sort of gift card are Marriott, which customizes certain cards for dining, spa, golf, or wedding themes at gifts.marriott.com; Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which offers gifts all the way up to $100,000 at fourseasons.com; and Hyatt, which allows recipients to use gift cards at restaurants or lounges even if they are not hotel guests; details at certificates.hyatt.com.
BedandBreakfast.com offers Getaway Gift Cards from $25 to $1,000 that are redeemable at nearly 4,000 B&Bs in the U.S. and Canada and carry no blackout or expiration dates. The site recommends purchasing two weeks prior to Christmas to ensure on-time delivery. They can be bought at a variety of stores nationwide or directly at bedandbreakfast.com.
If you'd like to provide more variety, Travelocity Hotel Gift Cards are redeemable at more than 55,000 properties and they're available in denominations of $25, $50, $100, or $500. Particularly convenient is that for a $4.50 fee, you can complete the whole process online, from choosing the design (though be warned: most feature that little gnome guy) to printing out a greeting card that is ready to be mailed. Details at leisure.travelocity.com.
In addition to hotel certificates, Travelocity also offers gift certificates exclusively for its Last Minute Packages products that can be forward immediately via e-mail. Be sure the recipient will use the whole amount, however, since any refunded "change" is provided as a new certificate that expires within one year. Find out more at lastminute.travelocity.com.
Then there's SpaFinder, which offers gift certificates in $25 increments up to $1,000, with a pricing guide that helps you determine average costs for a range of treatments. They can be redeemed at more than 5,000 spas worldwide for a variety of services. Further information is available at spafinder.com.
When it comes to the cruise sector, gift certificates and cards serve two key purposes: You can buy someone the cruise vacation itself, or offer them the gift of onboard credits to be used for spa treatments or at bars, restaurants or shops. Many travel agencies package cruise gifts as well.