December 3 2012 by Sam Lowe
'Tis the season to be jolly about most things, but picking out the right present for a senior traveler can frequently result in uncertainty ("What if they don't like it?") and even trauma ("What if they ask for the sales ticket so they can take it back?") There are no sure cures for either, but careful investigation beforehand (Read that: Ask 'em outright what they'd like) can avoid embarrassing situations.
And so, if anyone asks what I'd like wrapped and lying under the tree, here are some suggestions:
A small travel alarm clock. Especially one that lights up at night. Many lodging places (with the notable exception of BEST WESTERN, of course) don't provide in-room clock radios, and those that do sometimes don't give you detailed instructions on how to operate them. Or, even worse, if you do figure it out and the alarm does go off, it's decibel-shattering music that not only gets your day off to a bad start, but also blows all the wax out of your ears. A little wind-up clock with a nice tinkly ring is a much better alternative.
A battery-powered mini-razor that travels well and doesn't take up much space. It's handy for trimming sideburns when you're in a strange city and need a tonsorial touch-up but don't know where to find a good barber. Not for the major haircuts, of course, but for trimming the sideburns and, in some cases, getting rid of ear hairs.
A FM transmitter that links a mobile phone and/or music player to a car radio, which gives the driver hands-free calls and audio without fiddling with knobs and dials. They can not only reduce frustration, but traffic accidents as well.
I don't own a computerized electronic reading gadget but plan to invest in one eventually (Read that: As soon as they start selling them in half-price used-book stores). When that time comes, I'd like a tablet cover that can stand up to baggage handlers, butter-fingered bellhops and my own excursions into flippity-flopping. Some of the new ones can withstand a Justin Verlander fastball or a drop off the Empire State Building.
Although I am not a big fan of gift cards, I would gladly accept those that help defray travel costs. Grocery stores, drugstores and other retailers sell airline and hotel gift cards, as well as ski and golf packages, theme park tickets, snorkeling trips, helicopter tours, even a day at the spa. My personal favorite, of course, is the Best Western Travel Card.
And finally, something inexpensive but exceptionally gift-worthy - a multi-outlet extension cord. There are countless incidents where there aren't enough electrical outlets in your hotel, motel, B&B, inn, lodge or tent to plug in your hair dryer, toothbrush, laptop, razor, night light, lighted cosmetic mirror, electric blanket, and reading lamp.
But please, no neckties showing hula dancers.