Countdown to the holidays: just 50 days left

That’s how many shopping days are left until Christmas. (Did I really say that?)
Yes, it’s true, but I’m here to help if you have travelers in your life who could use a little help in making their journeys just a bit easier — or even a little more fun.
I’m always on the hunt for practical and clever products that do just that, so here are some of my picks:
Wings of Nature nutrition bars: Portable food is usually at the top of my travel-needs list, especially if it’s gluten-free. Fresh Harvest Products has created three new health bars that are tasty, good for you and gluten-free. Three flavors: espresso (my favorite), almond raisin and cranberry. Each is a blend of organic nuts, seeds, raisins and, in two out three, coffee beans. The only problem is trying not to eat 10. They are available at Walgreens and Whole Foods. Check them out at www.freshharvestproducts .com.
Cool–It Caddy: This item deserves the genius award. These clutch bags, which come in various colors (my favorite: hot pink), are the answer to mushy chocolate, melted lipstick and moldy string cheese. A chemical coolant is built into the lining of the purse, so you just pop it in the freezer before you leave, then grab it, stuff it and go. No leaky gel packs or melting ice. The coolant also acts as a buffer to breakage. Plenty roomy, too, for several bottles of insulin or other medication, so forget the bulky cooler and Cool-It. Cost is $35 to $40. Check them out at www.cool-itcaddy.com.
Travel Socks by Ames Walker: If your seat is generally in economy class (if not, don‘t tell me), you know that space-per-passenger is shrinking. That means less room to move, which means people move less. That’s not good on those long flights because it translates into a greater risk for developing “economy class syndrome” — deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, or blood clots in the leg veins. These microfiber Travel Socks help force the blood into the larger vessels where it can flow more freely. A bonus: they wash easily, dry quickly and take up practically no room at all in the suitcase, should you bring extra pairs. $11.49 each or three for $33. Call (877) 525-7224.
Chicboom Keychain Speaker: This little device is just plain fun and that might be enough, but it’s practical, too. Plug in your iPod, MP3 player, a CD or DVD player — even your laptop — and you’ll get big sound. This little, round pink-flowered speaker, small enough to carry on a key chain, gives new meaning to Flower Power. But don’t worry, guys; more masculine versions are available. The speaker is 2 watts and has a built-in rechargeable battery. Plays up to four hours. Plug into your computer to recharge. Cost is $25 at www.chicboom.com.
The Travel Book: A Journey Through Every Country in the World: How much do you know about Mauritius, Benin and Burkina Faso? How about Kiribati, Lesotho and Seychelles? If you’ve never even heard of these countries, you can get a fast tour in this weighty, stunning and captivating tome published by Lonely Planet. All ages will find its 817 color images of 229 countries compelling, and the fast facts fascinating; they tell readers the best time to visit; the top things to see and do; the best foods to sample (think I’ll pass on tripe soup in Romania); and movies to watch before you go. And who knew that Bulgaria was the world’s fifth largest exporter of wine, or that nearly $4,000 a day is tossed into the Fontana di Trevi in Rome? Travelers — armchair and otherwise — will happily get lost in this book’s pages. Google the title for a variety of prices or go to www.lonelyplanet .com.

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