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On the Road with Nancy Brown: Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers

Travel Writer Nancy D. Brown shares the gift of adventure




Float under the Golden Gate Bridge on a Hornblower cruise. Photo courtesy of Hornblower Cruises.

Imagine floating over the Golden Gate Bridge in a Zeppelin. Or perhaps you’d prefer to float under the bridge on a yacht. Of course, you could always cruise across the Golden Gate, while sipping sparking wine, as your private driver explains the sights of Marin County. For those on a budget, there’s even the option of biking or walking across the bridge with a loved one. However you and your friends and family like to travel, there’s something for every price point in this holiday gift guide for the traveler.

If you’re reading this blog, it’s a given that you enjoy travel. Question is: do you prefer the gift of an experience or  a gift-wrapped box of gear that you can bring on your next adventure? Personally, I like a little of both. Let’s start with the lavish and work our way down to a stocking stuffer.

Experiential Gifts

  • Bird's Eye View of San Francisco from an Airship Ventures' Zeppelin. Photo by Nancy D. Brown.Airship Ventures offers the soaring gift of flight to Bay Area and Monterey County residents. In a ten-passenger airship, Eureka, guests can hover alongside Alcatraz Island and get up close and personal with San Francisco’s Palace of Fine Arts. Be sure to bring your camera for one-of-a-kind aerial photos of the San Francisco skyline. One hour flights cost $495, (650) 969-8100, airshipventures.com.
  • From San Francisco to San Diego and to many ports in between, Hornblower Cruises is sure to impress your sweetheart with a city dining cruise. For the grandkids, consider a Santa brunch or whale watching outing. A two-hour yacht cruise with a full brunch buffet and free-flowing champagne is $76 for adults and 40 percent off for children four to 12. Prices vary depending on dates and departure port, (888) 467-6256, hornblower.com.
  • When’s the last time you had someone else guide you around your City by the Bay? With Carried Away, you’ll be whisked around town in a new Ford Flex with no worries of getting lost or feeding the meter. The guides at Carried Away will take you on a food truck tour of San Francisco, complete with snacks, or a custom shopping tour for some retail therapy. A five-and-a-half to six-hour shopping tour costs $199, (415) 786-2424, carriedawaysf.com.
  • Are you one of those people who can’t make up your mind, but you know what you want once you see it? Passports with Purpose is a feel-good gift for the giver and the receiver. The brainchild of several Seattle-based travel bloggers, PWP is a fundraiser that raised $30,000 last year and built a school in Cambodia. This year, the organization plans to  build a village in India. How can you help? For each $10 donation, you’ll be entered to win a prize (or prizes) of your choice. Beginning November 15, you can see a list of prizes on the PWP website. My sponsor, Hurtigruten has donated a gift certificate for a Norwegian Coastal Voyage for two. For a $10 donation, that lucky duo might include you. passportswithpurpose.com.

The Gift of Travel Gear

SEv Carry-On Coat with 33 pockets. Photo courtesy of Scottevest.Admit it. You’d consider wearing a special coat, complete with 33 pockets, if it saved you from having to pay a checked luggage fee. In fact, such a coat exists, it’s called the SEv Carry-On Coat, and you can have one for $225. (866) 909-8378, scottevest.com.

  • If you prefer to carry on, Briggs and Riley has recently introduced the BRX luggage series for the adventure traveler. The ultra lightweight, high performance baggage delivers, and if by chance the airline breaks or damages your bag, Briggs and Riley’s “simple as that” warranty will cover the repair. Just mosey on over to the Briggs and Riley repair center in Moss Beach. Briggs and Riley 22” Upright wheeled carry-on, $290, (877) 745-3978, briggs-riley.com/brx/.
  • If you’ve ever been fly fishing in Alaska or ridden horseback along a lake, you know what it’s like to have mosquitoes buzz incessantly in your ear. Give the fisherman or equestrian in the group some sanity with ExOfficio's insect shield clothing. Based in Seattle, the folks at Insect Shield have partnered with ExOfficio to offer clothing with insect protection that can withstand 70 washings. ExOfficio Women’s Insect Shield Halo Long Sleeve Shirt, $60, (800) 644-7303, exofficio.com.
  • For the female business traveler or budget lodging guest, bring along the Ila Wedge Door Alarm. Part door wedge, part personal security alarm, the Ila Wedge triggers a 130dB siren when breached, while preventing the door from being opened. Ila Wedge Door Alarm. $20, ilasecurity.com.

What are you hoping to see under your tree this holiday season?

A lifelong resident of Contra Costa County, Nancy D. Brown grew up in Moraga. When she’s not traveling, she lives in Lafayette with her husband and teens. Nancy is the Uptake.com Travel Editor, writes the What a Trip blog and is a Contra Costa Times Lamorinda Sun columnist. Horse lovers will find her at writinghorseback.com. Follow Nancy on Twitter at twitter.com/Nancydbrown.