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Give the gift of travel for as little as $10 to $25

SmarterTravel

So, you have a traveler on your list and don’t know what to get for him or her. Allow us to step in to save you from a holiday frenzy by compiling a few ideas, most of which won’t cost you more than a few bucks. Plus, you won’t have to set foot inside a mall.

Because most travel gifts come in the form of gift cards or certificates, you can spend as much or as little as you want. There’s no need to fret if you can’t afford a flight around the world or a luxurious cruise. Your loved one can just put whatever you give towards his or her dream trip.

We’ve outlined what we think are the best gift options: credit towards air travel, frequent flyer miles, hotel stays, and more?most of which can be purchased online. We’ve also come up with some favorite stocking stuffer ideas for your wayfaring friends.

1. Airline gift certificates

With airline gift certificates, you can give that special person the gift of flight, and let him or her choose where to go and when to fly. They fit within just about any budget, usually from as little as $25 (every little bit helps, no?). If the ticket price is greater than the gift certificate, he or she simply pays the difference. Some airlines even wrap the certificate up for you in holiday packaging or present it as a decorative e-card.

Airline gift certificates are usually not heavily restricted, which means that the recipient can apply them to just about any flight the airline offers. Plus, many are transferable, which means that your friend can pass along the gift to someone else if he or she can’t make a trip.

Keep in mind that most certificates require that the recipient travel within a year, however. Also remember that if you want guaranteed delivery by December 25, purchase early, and be aware that some airlines have purchase deadlines. Be sure to find out if the recipient has a preferred carrier, as not all airlines are created equal. Click on the airline below to see its complete rules and restrictions.

Domestic Airline Minimum Purchase Domestic Airline Minimum Purchase
AirTran $25 Delta none
Alaska (800-252-7522) none Midwest
$25
America West $25 Northwest $50
American $25 United (800-241-6522) none
Continental $25 US Airways $25

Don’t forget about smaller airlines like Frontier, JetBlue, and Southwest, just to name a few.

International airlines also offer gift-giving options. British Airways and Cathay Pacific offer gift vouchers similar to most domestic airlines, with minimum purchases of $50 and approximately $65, respectively.

Aer Lingus has launched a holiday promotion that allows you to purchase tickets for others, with fares starting as low as $99 each way (not including taxes and fees). The best news is that the airline has eliminated its Saturday night stay-over restriction, and will allow the recipient to change the ticket if the dates you picked don’t work for him or her. Icelandair will allow you to purchase either a gift voucher for a set amount with a minimum purchase of $250, or buy an actual ticket with guaranteed pricing based on the season of travel (unlike Aer Lingus, the actual tickets are nonexchangeable).

Smaller airlines are also getting in the holiday spirit. For travel within Europe, Ryanair has gift vouchers with a minimum purchase of either ?50 (about $60) or ₤50 (about $85). And for every voucher, Ryanair will make a donation to charity. For travel within Canada, look to WestJet, which has no minimum purchase. This is just a sampling of what some international carriers offer. Contact your airline to see if it offers similar programs.

2. Gift miles

You can purchase frequent flyer miles for others on many North America-based airlines. Often, you can have the miles deposited right into the recipient’s frequent flyer account, which he or she can later redeem for a flight. Just make sure you find out his or her preferred program and the associated frequent flyer number.

The cost of one mile starts at just over two cents per mile (around $25 for 1,000 miles), and might include a 7.5 percent federal excise tax and a processing fee. You can purchase a minimum of 1,000 miles to a maximum of 25,000 miles annually per account. (However, if you’re familiar with mile-purchase programs, note that some airlines have different maximum amounts for buying miles for others than buying for yourself.)

Airline Minimum Mileage Airline Minimum Mileage
Alaska 1,000 Midwest 1,000
America West 1,000 Northwest 2,500
American 1,000 United 1,000
Continental (713-952-1630) 1,000 US Airways 2,000
Delta 1,000

Another option for giving miles is to go through Miles4Sale.com, where you can either buy miles and have them deposited into the recipient’s own account or give a gift certificate of miles to use for his or her airline of choice. The second option is ideal if you don’t know the person’s account number. Miles4Sale.com currently works with American, Delta, and America West. One benefit to this service opposed to going through the airline is that you can buy miles in smaller increments (500 miles versus the standard 1,000). However, Miles4Sale charges four cents per mile, whereas the airlines only charge around two cents.

3. Hotel gift cards

Many hotel chains and individual hotel properties offer gift cards, which can be redeemed for stays or other hotel services like dining and room service. You choose how much you put on the card, usually in increments of $50, although many have lower limits.

This season, Best Western will also give you a gift for your generosity in the form of double miles on your choice of several airlines. W Hotels will also reward you with complimentary gifts like a CD, shopping discounts, and free gift wrapping.

Other notable hotel companies with gift card programs include Destination Kohler, Historic Hotels of America, and Marriott. And the list doesn’t stop there. Call your hotel to see if it offers a similar program, or do a simple Internet search using the terms “hotel gift card” or “hotel gift certificate.” You’ll be amazed at how many turn up.

4. Other travel gift certificates

Gift certificates and cards aren’t limited to air travel and hotels, as many other travel providers offer similar programs. Often you can spend as little as $25. For instance, you can give money towards a cruise through United Cruise4Miles or a train trip with Amtrak. Also, online travel sellers like Cheap Tickets, Travelocity, and Site59 have gift certificates for last-minute trip packages.

GiftCertificates.com is a consolidated program that offers gift certificates for multiple travel providers, but also allows you to purchase a “SuperCertificate,” in which the recipient chooses the vendor.

Many resorts, spas, and tour companies also offer them. Basically, if you can go there, stay there, or play there, you can probably get a gift certificate for it. The easiest way to find other gift certificates is to either call the provider or do an Internet search for “_____ gift card/certificate.”

5. Stocking stuffers

Here are a few neat travel goodies to put in someone’s stocking. For the city slicker, CityPass offers booklets full of city-specific discounts on admission and attractions (including popular theme parks like Disney) for eight U.S. cities. Depending on the city, they’ll cost you between $34 and $166, less for kids.

For the ski bum, consider a ski gift card offered at resorts like Steamboat Springs and Sunday River. They’re good towards lift tickets and other things like lodging, rentals, and lessons. And, you can often put as little as $25 on them. Contact your ski resort to see if it offers them.

For the pickiest traveler on your list, you can only get it right with an American Express Gift Cheque or Card. You won’t have to worry if you bought the wrong thing because they can be redeemed for just about anything, including items at shops, movies, hotels, museum entrance, and more. Plus, prices start as just $10.

As for other gifts, don’t forget the traditional travel guide, many of which can be had for under $20. The possibilities are endless.

Hopefully, the items we’ve mentioned will either provide you with a quick solution or inspire other gift ideas. Either way, we hope we’ve been able to help you jettison some of your seasonal shopping stress.

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