If you're frantically looking for a last-minute gift, you still have a little time. Travel gadgets can be among the most fun to receive, so get to a travel store or the travel section at a department store. You're almost guaranteed to score.
Here are some of our favorite things reviewed by me and others in 2011. I'll start with a surefire hit that you can find without having to wait for mail. Based on my test and those of friends, I recommend this one most highly. We never expected something so cheap and simple to have such an impact on the way we travel:
Space Bag To Go: You can consider other brands, but Space Bag is the one we tested and can vouch for. It's a vacuum storage bag with Ziploc-type seal. The bag rolls up, forcing air out and creating a kind of luggage "brick" of your clothing, dramatically cutting down mass. The bags come in numerous sizes. I tested the medium roll-up, 131/2 by 191/2 inches ($4.95), perfect for carry-ons. This is the best way I have found to dodge checked-bag fees. You can find the bags at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Wal-Mart, Container Store and numerous drugstores. Online visit spacebagbrand.com.
Scosche boomCAN: About the size of a small Vicks VapoRub jar, this tiny speaker delivers huge volume from your MP3 player or laptop speaker. It also works with iPods, iPhones, iPads, Android devices, BlackBerrys, gaming devices and more. It's small enough that you'll easily find room for it even when traveling light. List is $24.99, though you can find them cheaper. Visit scosche.com or many other online retailers.
iMainGo X: For something a little more upscale in sound, this portable speaker for iPod, iPhone, iPod Touch and most MP3s — even electric guitars — is a new iMainGo 2 generation. The sound is huge for such a small device, and friends who heard me testing it also bought some. It's bulkier than the Scosche but worth that bulk. List is $70. Available from: portablesoundlabs.com, amazon.com or Target.
VinniBag: Occasionally you find a wine overseas that you'll never find in your store here. Thus, the VinniBag is the way to ensure you get it home unbroken. The heavy plastic bag protects a wine bottle or other fragile vessel in transit. I kept dropping a full bottle of wine on pavement from higher levels until I finally reached 5 feet. That cracked it. But impact like that won't happen in a checked bag. List is $28 (cheaper in multiples). Available from: vinnibag.com or various wine and travel stores.
Joby Gorillatorch Switchback: A combination headlamp and lantern, with five LED lights. The product comes with the trademark Joby Gorillapod, which is three legs of plastic ball-and-socket joints that wrap around branches or table legs, or they simply stand on their own. It's $54 to $60 from amazon.com or joby.com.
iWatchz Q Collection iPod Nano Clip system: It's a watchband that transforms a sixth Generation iPod Nano into a stylish watch and music player. It's great always having tunes available on your wrist. $24.95-$89.95, iwatchz.com amazon.com and apple.com.