If you're looking for last-minute holiday gifts for your favorite traveler, I have three ideas. You might also want these items for yourself since they could be handy for your own travels.
One of my favorite travel gadgets is the magicJack that allows you to make phone calls through your computer. The magicJack is about the size of a matchbox. It plugs into a USB port on your computer. You then can plug a telephone handset into the other end (I have a Slimline phone), and as long as you have an Internet connection, you can make calls.
The cost is quite a bargain when you compare it with what you'd pay to call home from your hotel or cellphone from overseas. When I was in Buenos Aires recently, the hotel wanted $6 per minute for international calls, but I was able to call home free with the magicJack. I use the device at home, too, where I get spotty cell reception.
The device costs $39.95, which includes one year of free calling to the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. An additional year costs $19.95. You'll also get free caller ID, free voicemail and free call-waiting. With the magicJack, you don't have to worry about using up your cell minutes at home or on the road, and you may decide to get rid of your land line when you compare the price of your monthly service plus extra fees for features such as caller ID.
For more details, visit www.magicjack.com.
I like to keep up with the local news and sports TV when I'm on the road, and the Slingbox allows me to do that while I'm away. It doesn't matter if I'm in Hong Kong, Santiago or Los Angeles. I can stay in tune with the local news with this gadget as long as I have an Internet connection.
When I was traveling in South America, the hotel TV had CNN, but it was the international edition with very little U.S. news. Using the Slingbox, I could keep up on local news. I even was able to catch the last episode of "Monk." Slingboxes cost $180 or $300, depending on the model, and there's a $30 application for the iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm OS or Smartphone. Details: www.slingmedia.com.
A device my wife likes to take with her when she travels is a netbook. This mini computer doesn't have all of the features of a laptop, but its small size and light weight make it very portable. You can use magicJack and Slingbox with a netbook. Prices vary, but there are many options in the $280-to-$400 range.