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Originally published Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 7:00 PM

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Frugal gifts for travelers that go the distance

Gadgets that make travel better, from headphones and maps to online app subscription.

The New York Times

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This holiday season, it’s personal. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been wandering through shops and roaming the Web in search of gifts for my favorite frugal traveler: me. But what I’ve found might also work as stocking stuffers and modest gifts for your family and friends, because no matter how tough they are to please, I’m even tougher.

To me, most travel gifts are just extraneous gadgets or tools that purport to make life easier yet actually just complicate things or waste packing space. These ideas, though (all but one under $30) have met my stringent but simple standard: They make travel better.

Muji Deodorant Case, $16.95,

Be done with ad hoc solutions to packing dirty laundry: This compact deodorizing bag from Muji separates the clean-and-fresh part of your suitcase from the smelly-and-nasty section. The large version can fit maybe a week’s worth of dirty clothes (if you skip bulky stuff like jeans).

“No Foreign Lands,” $9.99 (Kindle) and $17.09 (print),

This slim volume of thought-provoking quotations about traveling, from the Matador Network, a travel site, provides instant inspiration. I recommend the cheaper Kindle version, so it’s always handy. When you’re frustrated with a flight, pull it out and be reminded why you left home in the first place.

VIOlight Slim Sonic Toothbrush, $16,

Often-bulky electric toothbrushes are tricky to travel with. But the Slim Sonic is compact, runs on a AAA battery, comes in pretty colors and is about the size of a fat fountain pen. Yet it packs an antiplaque punch.

Travel Stub Diary, $14.95,

Thanks to Facebook and other social media, post-travel image-sharing is now easy. But what about those theater stubs and other tactile mementos? This book features plastic sleeves for such items as well as space for notes.

Petzl Headlamp, $29.95,

These headlamps (which come in many varieties, including cheaper ones, and recharge through a USB plug) are great for camping or night hikes, and for looking under hotel beds for lost items or finding the hostel bathroom without tripping over a snoring Norwegian’s backpack.

Gift certificate from, $25

Google Maps is useful, but nothing beats a foldout map to help explore a city on foot or navigate a country by car. offers city and country maps from around the world (its $25 printable gift certificate should buy two) and also has reproduced antique maps for your wall.

A Year’s Subscription to TripIt Pro, $50,

It’s a tricky business knowing when to upgrade from a free app like TripIt, the useful trip organizer that, among other things, finds flight reservations in your email and registers them automatically. But as a former TripIt fan who just upgraded to the Pro version, I can assure you it’s worth it for the automatic flight change SMS alerts alone. Membership brings free access to 1,200 Regus business lounges.

Auvio Headphone Splitter, $14.99,

It’s unquestionably adorable to share earbuds with a friend, but such cuteness comes with a cost: one-ear listening. A splitter like this one allows you to share music in stereo with your travel companion.

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