Presents for the future

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The Independent Online
A partridge in a pear tree won't get you far. The gift for the person who has everything is the world. Fortunately, writes Simon Calder, a veritable globe of travel-related presents can be found.

Bus gift vouchers

The international coach operator Eurolines (0990 143219) sells gift vouchers in denominations of pounds 10 and pounds 20 - one of the former and two of the latter would be more than enough for a London-Paris return.

Airline gift vouchers

All right, so airlines don't sell gift vouchers - but they do the next best thing. This is a Miscellaneous Charges Order (MCO), made out in the beneficiary's name to a certain value and exchangeable for air transport. In theory an MCO can be had for as little as pounds 1, though these days that will get you nowhere fast; BA's lowest adult fare is pounds 13, between Westray and Papa Westray in Orkney.

An MCO issued by an Iata airline can be used on other carriers. If the gift proves to be unwanted, then a full refund is possible providing you have paid in cash.

Fear of flying class

If the love of your life refuses to soar to the skies with you, then offer to take the anxiety out of aviation. Aviatours (01252 793250) runs one-day courses based at Heathrow (next one 21 February) and Manchester (28 February).

A senior British Airways training captain and psychologists spend the first part of the day putting fears to rest. The course culminates in a 45-minute "round the houses" flight in a Boeing operated by a specially selected crew. The success rate is 98 per cent. High-priced Heathrow costs pounds 179; moderate Manchester pounds 149.

Keeping to time

Patek Philippe has just launched a new watch that shows two time zones at once, priced in the region of pounds 6,000. The one I use, a Casio, cost pounds 24.99; I'm on my third already, the first two having met untimely ends, but I would need to get through another 397 before a Patek Philippe is justified.

Thomas Cook doesn't exactly offer a gift subscription for its rail schedules, but for pounds 117.60 the company will supply your true love with 12 months of the oldest continuously published train schedule in the world, the European Timetable. Its bi-monthly Overseas counterpart costs pounds 58.80.

Reading matters

The arrival of Conde Nast Traveller to Britain's newsstands makes a glossy addition to the range of travel magazines. A year's worth will cost you pounds 32.40, or pounds 38 with three free bottles of wine; call 01858 435359. If you order by 1 December, the subscription will begin with the February edition, published in January; you will be sent a gift card to present to the beneficiary in the meantime.

The more established Wanderlust magazine appears bi-monthly. An annual subscription, pounds 15, is available on 01753 620426.

National Geographic doesn't just offer a subscription - the recipient receives "A handsome personalised Membership Certificate suitable for framing and a brief illustrated history of the Society". Plus 12 issues, and some excellent maps, for a total of pounds 24, if you write to the National Geographic Society, PO Box 19, Guildford GU3 3BR.

Mixed blessings

The strangest present of the year is "Gate 23", an audio compendium of flight departure announcements at Heathrow airport, compiled on cassette by Jake Tilson, 16 Talfourd Road, London SE15 5NY (0171-701 3689), for the modest outlay of pounds 6.

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