AAA Excursion Road Kit

AAA Excursion Road Kit

By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

I hope the elves are listening.

This year, I hope everyone gets something they can use on their next trip, wherever they want to go, even if they are simply heading to a nearby city. If you’re thinking you don’t want to take your kids and grandkids anywhere anytime soon — in light of tragic events in Paris and Mali (I’ve gotten emails from those folks this week) — think again. That’s just what the terrorists want. And as travel expert Wendy Perrin points out in a compelling post, our chances of getting caught in a terrorist attack overseas are miniscule (one in 20 million). You have a greater risk of getting struck by lightning, Perrin notes — one in 5.5 million, though that does little to diminish the horror of recent attacks.

However, it’s just too important for us to continue to explore the world and introduce our children and grandchildren to different cultures. Besides, especially during the holiday season, it is important to consider that the livelihoods of millions of people depend on us continuing to travel — everyone from the shuttle driver who takes you from the airport to the maid who cleans your hotel room to the waiter who serves you dinner and the woman selling you souvenirs. So here are some ideas guaranteed to please your favorite travelers:

SOCKS won’t bust the budget and those that wick moisture will make the recipient smile whenever it’s cold or wet. I’ve long been a fan of Smartwool, but today I’m wearing a pair from BOMBAS designed for performance and comfort. They are available for women, men and kids and for every pair you buy ($10.95 for adults, $9 for kids), a pair will be donated — 600,000 pair so far. (It turns out that socks are the most requested clothing item at homeless shelters.)

A PUFFY JACKET or VEST doesn’t take up much room, can double as a pillow in a plane or car and will keep you — and the kids cozy. They look good, too! You’ll find them from every brand. I especially like those from REI because they are weather resistant, come in a huge range of colors and are well-priced (under $100).

Calluna fleece vest from Ex-Officio

Calluna fleece vest from Ex-Officio

INSTEAD OF A SWEATER, my favorite this fall has been a sweater fleece jacket from L.L. Bean because it’s lightweight and stylish with sweater knit on the outside and brushed fleece on the inside. Throw it in the washing machine ($79 for men and women). Fleece is always a good bet for kids as it dries much quicker than sweatshirts and takes up a lot less space. (L.L. Bean has them for kids under $40; REI has many brands and colors available.) For your favorite female traveler, check out the Calluna ™ fleece vests ($80) and sweaters from that are warm, lightweight and moisture wicking. I especially like the inside security pocket.

FOR SNOWSPORTS LOVERS, or anyone who has taken kids to the mountains in winter, they know it can be an organizational nightmare. That’s where gear from Transpack comes in handy. Developed by a dad from a skiing family, it enables each kid — and adult — to have their own bag for boots, helmet, gloves, sunscreen, lip balm, extra socks and everything else that seems to get forgotten. There’s even one that will heat your boots. (Transpack bags for kids start at $39.95 and they come in a variety of colors so the bags don’t get mixed up.)

A TRAVEL GUIDE. No, they aren’t outdated, says Pauline Frommer, noting that the Frommer’s Guides not only “ gives travelers everything they need to plan a great vacation all in one place,” and “as opposed to what you’ll find on the web,” the information comes from bona-fide experts. If you don’t want to carry around a book, of course, they are available in an e-book version. For kids heading to major U.S. cities, naturally, I suggest my own Kid’s Guides, written for kids with input from local and traveling kids. Lonely Planet also has a series of Not For Parents guides to cities around the world.

SOMETHING QUICK DRY — I never leave home without my Kizmet shirt from that looks as good in the city as on the trail, dries in a few hours, doesn’t need ironing and never looks rumpled. My husband is a fan of their T-shirts — long-sleeved and short-sleeved — that I’ve rinsed out in more hotel rooms than I can count. For those you’re closest too, Exofficio’s Give-n-Go underwear is as comfortable and functional as it is cute — and it’s moisture-wicking and quick-drying, which means you can really pack light.

FOR THE TWEENS AND TEENS. Nothing likely will please them as much as a gift card from iTunes or Amazon to use for music or a movie on their next trip.

BATTERY BOOSTERS are always a hit, whether you opt for a lipstick-sized portable battery from a company like JETech (available on for just $10.98) or my favorite, the mophie-Juice Pack reserve External Battery smartphone case (starting at $59.95). The California company has also just announced their slimmest collection of universal power products, starting at $39.99.

A TRIP TOGETHER is, of course, the best gift of all — perhaps for your favorite teen to explore the world. Here’s what one of my favorite teens wrote about a service trip we helped arrange for him with Rustic Pathways last summer. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know where or when you want the trip to be, whether it is for the entire family or one child. I wouldn’t suggest booking anything either if you haven’t discussed your plans with everybody first. Meanwhile, give a fun ornament. (Maybe a globe from, or a travel journal with your IOU for the trip to come.)

Are you listening, elves?