Holiday Gifts for Travel Lovers

Yep, the season is upon us!

— -- Yep, the season is upon us, but if the thought of shopping fills you with dread, grab a cup of coffee, open up the laptop and buy some unforgettable memories.

Your nearest and dearest will love you for the gift of airfare (and more) but you don’t have to spend unforgettable amounts of cash.

1. Gifts of Airfare

Let's tackle airfare first; the key here is how well you know your recipient.

+ How flexible is the recipient?
+ Does the trip have to be to a specific destination?
+ Would they like you along as a traveling companion?

Once you answer these questions, you can proceed to the next steps.

For specific destinations: Set airfare alerts for specific destinations (and you can set as many as you like); when a great price pops up, grab it. My site has these alerts but so do many others.

For two or more traveling together here are a couple of different approaches

1. Find the flight you want and book for two (or however many), but book the tickets one at a time because of an airline reservation system quirk that requires all tickets booked on the same reservation be the same price. In other words, if there's one last "cheapest ticket" but you're booking for two, you won't get that lone best-priced ticket.

2. Other Gifts

There's a whole wide world of travel gifts out there from designer luggage to comfy neck pillows but here are some that caught my attention (though I do not and never have endorsed any products).

National Geographic: This organization has a fascinating array of maps for cities around the world, as well as hiking trails across the U.S. (hey, sometimes phones die). They also sell such useful items as binoculars (regular and night vision) and travel vests that are good-looking and loaded with pockets.

SkyMall: Sadly, the zany catalog is rarely found in airplane seatback pockets anymore but it survives online with such must-haves as luggage for everyone (including Rex, who can purchase his own Dog's Overnight Travel Bag personalized with his name). There are also products that leave me scratching my head, like the Radiation Blocking Baby Blanket ($89) and the 3-foot-by-2-foot bright orange flag with the world "HELP" on it ($15.49). Sadly, there are no reviews for either product.

3. How to Pay

For airfare deals, you may be able to use some or all of your miles. Many airlines also allow you to gift miles, which could let you off the hook entirely when it comes to planning the trip. Or you could always write a note telling the recipient you're giving them a trip, and asking them to tell you what it costs so you can write a check.

Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.