-- Shoppers no longer have to rely on gift cards or cash to please picky loved ones. A number of websites are making it easier to give the gift of travel, just in time for the holidays.
Expedia has launched the Travel Wish List on Facebook, which works like a gift registry, building on the Groupon Getaways for Expedia program started last July. Once you find a Groupon Getaway you like, you can post it on your Facebook Wall, and friends and family can buy it for you.
LivingSocial has begun offering Winter Warm Up deals featuring trips to 10 tropical destinations. For an extra $2.99, LivingSocial will giftwrap the certificate and deliver it to the recipient showing only the value of the trip, not what you paid for it.
On MyTab.co, launched in July, you sign up, pick one or more destinations and notify friends through Facebook or Twitter that they can contribute to your tab via PayPal.
Traditional travel agencies have long allowed people to give the gift of travel for honeymoons. Some websites, such as Traveler's Joy, have in recent years moved that idea online. But now sites are making the exchange much more hassle-free for any trip, for any occasion, at any time.
"We're just really starting to see the type of experimentation that's going to emerge from the integration of deal services and the social component," says Douglas Quinby, senior director of research at market research firm PhoCusWright.
Many other online travel agencies are giving shoppers an incentive to purchase travel gifts. Travelocity, for instance, will send shoppers a $200 travel coupon if they book a hotel or flight-and-hotel vacation package by Dec. 15. "It's like getting a gift for giving a gift," says spokeswoman Meredith McKee.
Peter Cottan, a graduate adviser at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, is hoping to be the recipient of a gift to Cyprus, where his mother lives. He's asked friends and family through MyTab.co to contribute to his plane ticket from London, where he will first visit his father, to Cyprus.
"Being on a tight budget, it's been quite difficult to get back to my family," he says.
Julie McDonald, a San Francisco resident working in architecture, plans to use MyTab.co as a gift-giver. It's useful, since her family is scattered around the country: A brother is in New York, her mother is in Oregon, and her father is in Arizona.
"You can give gifts incrementally and subtly invite people to visit you," she says. "It's not as impersonal as cash."