6 last minute travel gift ideas for the frequent flier

There was once a time when if you hadn’t finished your Christmas shopping by now, you’d be, well, pretty much screwed. But now, thanks to the ole Internet, you can order up virtual gifts and deliver them by email or print-out card with just a few clicks. And with all the free wifi specials in airports and airlines (thanks Delta, Skype, and Nintendo) you can even take care of your shopping while flying home! Here, a selection of great last minute travel gift ideas.

Travel experiences
For some, diamonds are forever. I personally prefer experiences: catching a show at the Moulin Rouge in Paris, swimming with dolphins in Hawaii, taking a helicopter ride over Manhattan. Gift these unforgettable travel experiences and more with gift vouchers from online travel activity booking companies like Viator and Isango.

Priority Pass membership
Airport hoppers will appreciate access to more than 600 VIP airport lounges worldwide through a membership with Priority Pass. A standard annual membership starts at $99 with a $27 per visit additional fee.Virtual travel books
With the proliferation of the iPad, Kindle and other e-readers, big bulky guidebooks are going the way of the Walkman. Give your favorite traveler a virtual travel book, or literature from their next destination, through the Apple iBookstore or Kindle Store.

Frequent flyer miles
The travel hacker in your life will flip over the gift of frequent flier miles. You can transfer miles that you have already accumulated, or directly purchase miles as a gift. Fees for these services vary from airline to airline. At United, it costs $15 per 1,000 miles to transfer and $35 per 1,000 miles to give.

Custom travel playlists
The perfect music mix can be an excellent companion for the solo traveler. iTunes makes it easy to create and gift a custom travel playlist — Gainsbourg for a jaunt to Paris, or maybe some electrotango for a trip to Argentina. Just create a playlist in iTunes, populate it with songs, then select the “Store” menu and the “Share Playlist” option. When prompted, indicate that you want to gift your playlist, then choose how you want your gift to be received.

Gifts for others
What do you get for the guy/gal who has everything? Something for someone else. Chances are, the traveler on your list has witnessed poverty and hardship in the places they’ve visited. Kiva gift cards provide a way to sponsor micro-entrepreneurship projects in developing countries, while a donation to charity: water provides clean drinking water in poor rural areas. Both sites offer printable gift cards.

[flickr image via Max Braun]

Free eBook promises a world of travel secrets and a donation to charity

It all started with a blog post. Katie Sorene of Tripbase, a Web site that gives you personalized destination recommendations, posted her three “best-kept” travel secrets and then asked five more bloggers to do the same.

The project mushroomed from there, with 500 secrets from more than 160 travel bloggers around the globe, including celebs Peter Greenburg, Rolf Potts and Johnny Jet, and the decidedly unfamous Leigh Caldwell (that’s me), who shared some Orlando travel secrets.

Now the California-based company has taken those travel secrets and turned them into a free e-book series with a charitable twist.

For every download of the free Travel Secrets e-books which were released today, Tripbase will donate $1 to Charity: Water, a nonprofit that builds freshwater wells, sand filters and other devices to bring drinking water to millions of folks around the globe who have a hard time getting it.

“We set out to make people’s passions and travel finds serve a purpose beyond sharing the memories and recommendations,” said Reuven Levitt, CEO of Tripbase. “We’re working with Charity: Water because people around the world still don’t have access to potable water and every bit helps save lives.”

Tripbase hopes to raise enough money to build four freshwater wells and provide an entire school with drinking water. All you have to do to help is download the book. For free.

And who wouldn’t want to know where to get the best risotto in New Orleans or how to find a deserted beach in Morocco anyway?

The Travel Secrets e-book series is designed to be an ongoing project. If you have a travel blog, Tripbase wants your contribution for updated versions of the books.