Stocking stuffer suggestions for the travel lover on your list

Even if you’re not Santa Claus, who has to consider who’s naughty or nice, you may be thinking of another list. Maybe you’re a travel aficionado; you already have a list of your own — a wish list — with visions of new destinations dancing in your head. Or perhaps you have a shopping list and you’re looking for a few hints for that travel lover in the family. Here’s a list of some suggested gift items for those stockings hung by the chimney with care:

Comfortable shoes

Although this stocking stuffer might not fit into most regular-sized Christmas stockings, this gift would show that you really care — at least about their feet. And for the time being, TSA still requires shoes be removed at airport security check-in sites. I recommend some comfortable slip-ons with ample foot support — for running from gate to gate. You don’t have to shell out the big bucks. For about $10, Avon.com sells soft indoor-outdoor unisex slippers that would be ideal. They actually don’t even look like slippers, with tread on the bottoms. Yet they are comfy, with memory foam inner soles. They also are wonderful for running around the hotel mezzanine at your next convention.

Traveler’s Survival Kit

You could get creative and devise a traveler’s survival kit of your own. Simply find a cosmetic or shaving kit bag and add some handy things necessities such as mini-luggage scale, luggage tags, hand sanitizer, three-ounce plastic containers for flights. Other items I would suggest are these handy foods and beverages for a long road trip or airline flight: tea bag, instant coffee, hot cocoa mix, lemonade, powder vitamins, noodle soup. These can be easily and conveniently mixed with either hot or cold water. Visit minimus.biz or your local Target or Walmart store for an extensive selection of travel-sized toiletries.

Leatherman

For that hiker, biker, backpacker, camper, outdoors-lover on your list, a Leatherman knife tool makes the perfect gift. There are many varieties and models to fit just about any holiday budget. Remember to add it in the packed luggage for your flight!

Fruit

Fruit is the perennial favorite to fill up those oversized stockings which by now are hanging on the mantel. (Doesn’t it seem like Christmas stockings are get bigger and bigger? Do people actually think Santa is going to take time to stuff gifts all the way down into the toes of holiday hosiery?) Assorted types of fruit fit perfectly into the stocking toe. For road trips and domestic flights, apples and Mandarin oranges work very well, because they don’t have the mess! Also, those little Cuties Clementines are in season!

Binoculars

Everyone who travels should have a pair of binoculars – either in their checked bags or carry-on. You never know where you’ll be when you need binoculars. They’re not just for bird-watching. You may be at a conference in Cleveland and want to get a better view of the Great Lakes Science Center or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame from your room atop the Marriott.

Packable Dinnerware

We love these colorful dishes and plates from Fozzils.com. We found ours at our local REI store. They are completely flat for packing for use as dishes and cutting surfaces, but the corners snap together and convert into bowls for cereal or even soups, since they are heat resistant to 110 degrees. These are lightweight and since they’re flat, they will fit almost everywhere. They’d make welcomed gifts by pet-owning travelers too!

Extra long cables and charger cords

Finally here’s something almost every traveler would appreciate: And it’s a must for the iPhone owner in the family who’s always on the go. This xlSync Extra Long Sync Cable is a practical stocking stuffer. Extending 6.5 feet long, it charges at the same rate as the original equipment one from Apple, and works with all iPhone, iPad, iPod models except the iPod Shuffle — from cablejive.com. For a longer cord extension to get around the tables at the airport coffee shop, consider the 10-foot cable from Khomo, available from Amazon.

Do our readers have any other gift ideas for travelers? We always love to hear about new travel gadgets!

Star Trek Convention may be the ultimate getaway

For the ultimate vacation, spend a few days at a Las Vegas Star Trek Convention. I’m completely serious: if the purpose of the ultimate vacation is to temporarily rid one’s mind of all everyday stress then a Las Vegas Star Trek Convention could be the ultimate vacation.

Ipanema Tower at Rio Las Vegas, view from our suite.

Recently I returned from four days at Rio Las Vegas, and for those four days, not once did I mull through the stress of world economic woes, nasty party politics, unemployment or family health problems. For four days, I was a “Trekkie” – albeit an imposter – more like a “wannabe;” I was a convention “newbie” in a Starfleet uniform.

Convention attendees pose for photos

So here I was in the Rio Las Vegas and I wasn’t here to see magicians Penn & Teller or the Chippendale dancers. I was here in “Sin City,” the “Entertainment Capital of the World,” but I wasn’t here betting at game tables, or even shopping at designer boutiques — not even wandering around with a half-yard of some flavored vodka-infused slushie drink.

Rather, I was entertained by everything Star Trek. I was overwhelmed by the intricate costumes and make-up of the attendees, many even acting their parts from five different television series and 11 movies. I was attending panel discussions, with examinations of such various topics as “Which Star Trek Captain was Best” or “The Geek Girls of Star Trek.”

Fans in costume take on their Star Trek character’s role

My eyes were opened wide on this trip. My son had made several trips to Las Vegas, with friends to the convention and I never realized what kept him wanting to return each year. Now I know. The energy here is both electric and magnetic. There are star sightings everywhere and of course, I’m not referring to those massive balls of plasma in space. Dozens of celebrities casually interact with convention-goers. Many pose for photos with the fans; other sign autographs. But it’s more. It’s the camaraderie, the friendships, that seem to transcend time, and well, space.

Team members from TrekRadio.net and TrekMovie.com

The Rio Las Vegas is an excellent property for this convention and accommodates the attendees very well with ample room for the large sessions, smaller venues for the panel discussions and many meeting rooms for the photo ops and autographs. Lots of eateries meet the needs of all types of wallet sizes and a variety of menus meet the desires for different cuisines. The casino even featured some Star Trek-themed slot machines.

One highlight for me was the merchant’s room – a large exhibition hall that holds all the memorabilia vendors displaying a wide selection of posters, stickers, shirts, hats, jewelry, you name it! Dealers sell everything from those furry little Tribbles to ocean cruises with Star Trek celebrities. I was fortunate to hear three Star Trek Captains speak at one presentation as William Shatner, Sir Patrick Stewart and Kate Mulgrew took the stage in the main ballroom. But perhaps the part that I’ll never forget was watching Leonard Nimoy bid farewell to his fans, indicating this year would be his final set of Star Trek appearances.

The Tribbles booth in the merchant room is an especially popular stop for the younger fans

After the presentations, panels and appearances during the day, the nights come alive with parties throughout the Rio. Some require VIP tickets, or cover charges; but others have minimal fees or no charge. The party we attended at Rio’s McFadden’s Irish Pub boasted a drink menu that would have made Deep Space Nine bartender Quark proud. Servers rotated around the pub with Warp Core Breach drinks – an explosive concoction of various liquors and fruit punch; and James Tea Kirks – a kind of Long Island iced tea with Blue Curacao. One party featured Star Trek trivia for those with excellent memories – these were very entertaining to watch even if the answers were far beyond the reach of convention newbies like me.

Friends Kayla and Susan enjoy their “James Tea Kirks” at McFadden’s Pub

In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re unable to memorize lines from The Original Series (TOS), The Next Generation (TNG), Deep Space Nine (DS9) or other television series. It makes no difference if you can’t distinguish the costumes, culture and language of a Klingon from a Romulan or a Cardassian. (No, not Kardashian!) What is important is the entertainment value this convention can produce. There were activities for children; a kid’s craft workshop was on the agenda for Saturday morning. Trekkies are all ages; they come from all walks of life, from all parts of the globe… maybe even the galaxy? All are brought together for a common passion for Star Trek. Anyone who comes to a Star Trek Convention and isn’t thoroughly entertained and relieved of all stress and worry – the definition of an ultimate vacation — is probably from another planet… or maybe an assimilated cybernetic organism (“Borg”).