Giving the Gift of Travel

Not sure what to buy for friends and family this year? Consider the gift of travel — it’s perfect for travel enthusiasts, and finding something of real value doesn’t mean busting the bank. Here are some of our picks for globetrotter gifts.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts Gift Card
Cost: $100 to $100,000

Recipients of the gift card enjoy access to more than 75 properties worldwide. The card can be used to pay for anything at a Four Seasons hotel, including rooms, restaurants, and spas. Anyone for a four-handed oceanside massage in Bali? Or maybe dinner at the Michelin-rated Jöel Robuchon in New York City, or a long weekend in a Strip-view room in Las Vegas? Visit fourseasons.com for more information.

Bed-and-Breakfast Gift Certificate
Cost: from $25 to $500

If someone in your life loves the cozy atmosphere of a B&B then no gift could be more perfect than a certificate from this clearinghouse for B&Bs in the U.S. and Canada. Spending just $50 can provide an upgrade to a better room while $250 can equal two free nights. There are also no blackout or expiration dates. Visit bedandbreakfast.com for more information.

Design Your Own Dream Trip with Altour
Cost: $250

If you can’t afford to pay for an entire trip for a friend or loved one, help your giftee design a dream getaway by buying them the services of a luxury travel consultant. Consultants can make dinner reservations at hard-to-get spots, arrange after-hours tours of museums (Sistine Chapel to yourself anyone?), and score room upgrades, among other things. Altour has 700 such consultants. Visit altour.com for more information.

Make a Gift of Miles
Cost: varies
At Points.com you can exchange miles from one program for miles in another, give hotel points, and earn miles for doing it. Affiliates include American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, SAS, and Virgin Atlantic, among others. See Points.com for details.

Add to an Already Booked Trip
Cost: varies
If one of your friends or family members already booked a vacation, consider buying them an experience during that trip. If your giftee is off to Hong Kong, for example, book a dinner at the hip China Club. Going to Tuscany? Pay for a private day-long tour of vineyards. The possibilities are endless. A good travel specialist, such as one from American Express, can help arrange such gifts. Visit americanexpress.com for more information.

Cruise with a Scholar
Cost: from $5,495 to $14,495
Have a loved one who adores cruising and learning about other cultures, history, and nature? Set them up with a cruise aboard one of Travel Dynamics International’s elegant small ships for a brainiac adventure in the Mediterranean, Africa, South America, or Antarctica. All voyages include a sparkling roster of guest lecturers that in the 2008-2009 season will include luminaries like journalist Bill Moyers and author Jared Diamond. See Travel Dynamics International for more information.

Yoga Getaway to Sedona Spirit Yoga
Cost: $495 to $1,295

Give the gift of good physical and mental health by buying a two- to six-day trip to this retreat center set amid a red rock desert. The cost includes several daily yoga instruction, hiking, a chakra clearing, and a range of accommodations ranging from simple rooms in the healing center to balcony suites with Jacuzzis. Visit sedonaspirityoga.com for more information.

Vacation-Gifting Etiquette: Know the Rules

Giving the gift of travel is a great idea, but before you start shelling out dough, check out these tips for vacation-gifting, courtesy of Martin Rapp, senior vice president of leisure at Altour, a luxury travel consultancy in New York and Los Angeles.

Don’t be a show off. Just because you have deep pockets doesn’t mean your recipient does. Giving too generously can make someone of lesser means feel uncomfortable as they might not be able to reciprocate.

Give with flexibility in mind. If you’re buying someone a trip, such as a package tour, make sure the dates are flexible. It makes no sense to give a present that can only be used during a certain week since it may conflict with the recipient’s schedule. The fewer restrictions with your gift, the better.

Knowledge is power. Tailor your vacation gift to a person’s lifestyle. Don’t, for example, spring for a three-week trip to Vietnam for a working professional. Most of us don’t have the luxury to take off that length of time. And if you know someone gets seasick, gifting a cruise — no matter how nice — is illogical. It pays to know something about the person for whom you’re buying.

Do your homework. It’s tacky to buy only part of a vacation gift, such as a hotel room in Paris for three nights. This forces the recipient to pay for airfare, meals and other incidentals which can add up to thousands of dollars. It’s a different story if you know your pal has a trip to Paris already booked and you pick up some of the cost of an already planned trip — it’s a gesture which will be highly appreciated. So it pays to know your pal’s travel plans before you buy.

Shivani Vora