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Wrap it up

A gift of travel allows family and friends to create memories that will last long after the holidays have gone.
By Diana Lambdin Meyer

The travel bug has infested the Eckert family of Holland, Mich., for decades. China, Egypt, and Europe were tucked away in the family vacation portfolio as early as the children could appreciate such opportunities. So when budgeting for his daughters’ weddings, Bruce Eckert, a management consultant who spends much of his week in airports and hotels, gifted 100,000 frequent flyer miles and 60,000 points for hotel stays to use for their honeymoons.

gifts on beach

Above: ©Franck Boston–Fotolia.com photo

Below: A thoughtful gift for those planning a cruise is a bottle of wine that will be waiting for them in their stateroom. Holland America Line photo

at rail

“A memorable honeymoon trip is a great way to start a lifetime relationship, so I wanted my daughters to have that without too much financial stress,” said Eckert.

The first daughter to marry chose Paris for her honeymoon, and the second daughter, who will be a bride in June 2011, will head to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

But for those who don’t have millions of frequent flyer miles to give away, it is possible to give the gift of travel for the holidays or any occasion.

Give the deep blue sea

Holland America Line offers an onboard gift program that allows friends and family to give anything to passengers from shore excursions to spa treatments or other indulgences. A monetary gift also may be deposited into the traveler’s onboard account to cover the costs of an extra drink or souvenir. Holland America provides a gift card, and notifies their guests who provided the gift.

If ordering for friends or family sailing on a Holland America ship, all you need is their last name and booking number or last name, ship name and sail date. Call (206) 286-3900 or click www.holland america.com and click on the “book onboard gifts” link in the lower right-hand corner to order.

Most cruise lines similarly offer gift certificates that can be redeemed for food, wine, fine art and a ship-to-shore phone call home, among other items. However, if the travelers booked their trip through AAA Travel Services, you can contact their AAA Travel agent to make arrangements for an onboard gift, or you may make a contribution to help cover the cost of travel.

“Our honeymoon registry is growing in popularity, but we also provide gift cards for graduations, anniversaries and other gift-giving occasions,” said Sue Wells, vice president of Travel Services. “Whatever idea you may have, we can help out or brainstorm to come up with the perfect gift idea.”

For more information about AAA’s honeymoon registry, visit www.AAA.com/Travel. AAA Travel agents can assist you with travel gift cards.

Give the wild blue yonder

Delta Airlines has a great stocking stuffer idea: a one-day pass to the Delta Sky Club. The great thing about this gift is the recipient doesn’t have to fly with Delta to redeem the pass at Delta Sky Clubs, and it’s good for one year. The day pass is $50, but discounts are available if you buy in bulk.

Most airlines have a gift card program. American Airlines, for example, has gift cards in denominations between $50 and $1,500. You can buy either a gift card to put under the tree or choose to have a virtual card delivered via e-mail. Gift cards are available on American’s Web site, www.aa.com, or can be purchased at Admirals Club lounges. American’s gift cards have no expiration dates.

A word of advice from frequent travelers: If you would like to gift your frequent flyer miles to someone, it’s often most economical to simply book the ticket for the individual in their name, via your account. Some airlines charge a fee for transferring miles and others don’t allow for the full mileage benefit.

How about a gift of in-flight Internet service? The company is GoGo InFlight (www.gogoinflight.com) and technically, the company does not offer gift cards, but if you buy a 24-hour pass that’s priced at $12.95 prior to departure, you receive a 15-percent discount, making your final cost $11. You’ll get a promo code that is then redeemed during the flight. You may simply gift the promo code to friends, family and associates. The code does not expire and is good on any airline that’s equipped for GoGo InFlight service.

Additional travel ideas

  • Amtrak (www.Amtrak.com, 800-872-7245) offers gift cards in denominations beginning at $50 that can be redeemed for any of the railroad’s rail tours or vacation packages.
  • If you know that an individual prefers a certain hotel brand, consider bringing that vacation experience home. Westin Hotels & Resorts (www.starwoodhotels.com/westin/index.html) sells their entire line of Heavenly Bed linens, bathrobes, blankets and bathroom fixtures.
  • Almost every hotel, bed-and-breakfast inn, restaurant and major attraction offers gift certificates and gift cards. If you know an individual is a frequent traveler to a city, call its convention and visitors bureau and ask for ideas of specialty tours, events or restaurants.
  • For a golfer’s spouse, think about Alabama’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail new Spa Trail card. More of a loyalty program than a monetary gift card, when you buy a card for $40, you receive $20 for spa services. It’s a gift that will continue to keep giving as cardholders receive discounts on services and products, along with a number of other benefits. If the card is stamped at all five spas on the trail, the recipient then receives a $100 spa treatment of their choice.

Diana Lambdin Meyer is a contributor from Parkville, Mo.

Nov/Dec 2010 Issue

BEFORE YOU GO

For more information on AAA Travel services, call (888) 366-4222 or visit www.AAA.com/Travel.

View a list of offices to serve you.


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