HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE: TRAVEL; LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD You'll Wonder How You Ever Did without These

Article excerpt

Byline: JUDY WELLS

Gift giving is a snap if you have travelers on your to-buy-for list. They will try almost anything once. That's what leaving home is all about -- experiencing new sights, foods, cultures and climes.

And anything that makes that transition easier is worth a try, especially if it lightens the load rather than adding to it. The gifts of information and necessities are a good place to start.

Armchair travelers welcome new books and videos; you can package them with the latest brochures from the chamber of commerce or tourist bureau for their favorite area.

Drive-away enthusiasts can always use up-to-date maps. Combine a map and a gift certificate for a day trip or for a weekend-getaway's worth of gas -- if you can afford it.

Give a train traveler or cruise taker a handsomely bound trip journal in which to document their rail-riding, sea-going thoughts.

With some airlines eliminating blankets, pillows and even peanuts in coach, flying gadabouts need more stuff than ever. Package a guide book with a language primer for their dream destination or give a subscription to a travel magazine. Try Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel for penny pinchers, or something like Conde Nast Traveler for the more extravagant, for example.

And extra batteries and memory cards for digital cameras, travel-size toiletries and prepaid international phone cards are always appreciated.

For less generic gifts, we have tested, relied on and/or coveted a variety of things, and these are our favorites.

judy.wells@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4155

COMFASEAT

This reflective car seat cover will keep buckles from burning children during day-to-day errand-running and sight-seeing stops during summer vacations. It rolls up and attaches to the back of the car seat for easy storage. It's machine washable and dryer safe. Our test family's youngster even used it as a blanket. You can find it at www.caringparentdesigns.com for $24.95-$29.95.

Pass2Go USB key

Computer-savvy, identity guarding, PC and cyber-cafe frequenting travelers will love you for this tiny gizmo. It generates and saves your passwords, logs you in and fills out computer forms in many languages, even remembering that in London the day comes before the month. Siber Systems prices its product at $39.98 and offers it at www.roboform.com or www.pass2go.com.

BUZZ OFF

Insects bugging your traveler? Give him or her the shirt that keeps shielding, at least for 25 washes. With UV block, wrinkle resistance, moisture wicking and colors that don't look "campy," you'll want one, too. Ex Officio makes it for men and women, $69. Throw in a kerchief with the same properties for $12 and a spray can of Repel Permanone, $7.25, to extend their insect repellency. Black Creek Outfitters, 10051 Skinner Lake Parkway, (904) 645-7003

OH, DRY UP

The fabric in this shirt is so lightweight, non-wrinkling and quick-drying that one of these can see you through a whole weekend. Ex Officio makes it; Black Creek Outfitters, 10051 Skinner Lake Parkway, (904) 645-7003, sells it for $79.

TAKE IT WITH YOU

Travel vests are wonderful for toting cameras, batteries, bottles of water, lip balm, money, passports and anything else you've been lugging around. I've worn out two, and other travelers have offered me hard currency for the one on my back. Royal Robbins crafted this one of smudge-hiding, lightweight, quick-drying, breathable Supplex with pockets that zip or snap; $79.95. Black Creek Outfitters, 10051 Skinner Lake Parkway, (904) 645-7003.

EXPLORE THE BACK YARD

We live in a state brimming with scenic drives, so take one. Jan Annino Godown leads you down state and county roads in Scenic Driving Florida. …