If you're looking for a gift for friends or family planning a trip to Los Angeles, here are a few things that will make their trip easier or help them fit in like a local. Many of these gift ideas work equally well for people traveling to other destinations.
1. Smart Phone
The single most useful thing a person can bring along to Los Angeles is a smart phone with Google Maps and locally relevant apps installed. Being able to find a restaurant, read reviews, make a reservation, get directions and check traffic, all from your phone, is invaluable in LA. Checking in with your friends and posting real-time photos via Facebook and Twitter apps is a bonus.
Recommended Smart Phones from About.com's Guide to Cell Phones.
2. LA Travel Apps
Most smart phones come with Google Maps or another map/traffic application installed. Google Maps gives LA traffic reports including surface streets, not just freeways, so you can find the clearest route, but it works best if someone besides the driver is doing the navigating.
Mapquest 4 Mobile: Adds turn by turn voice navigation and re-routing if you make a wrong turn, so you can keep your eyes on the road, but doesn't show traffic.
Yelp: restaurant and business reviews by regular people - can tell you what's open near your current location.
Skype: especially good for international visitors, you can use your hotel's WiFi or any free public network to Skype for free with friends and family back home without carrying a computer.
Best Parking: this app is only good for downtown Los Angeles, but it will show you prices on different parking lots and garages, so you can see there's a $4 garage just a block from the $25 event parking.
Amazon Kindle App: I always keep a couple Kindle books on my iPhone for when I'm waiting for friends stuck in traffic or in long ticket lines or waiting at the airport. Lots of free books available.
More Useful Travel Apps from gps.about.com. More Smart Phone GPS Apps.
3. GPS with Traffic
GPS mapping with traffic reporting is pretty much essential for getting around Los Angeles these days. About.com's GPS Guide lays out the pros and cons of using smart phone navigation apps versus a dedicated GPS device. And our Business Travel Guide has tips for Before You Buy a GPS for Travel. My friends here in LA all recommend Garmin GPS systems, which require a separate traffic subscription.
6. Mini-Power Strip
Even though hotels are getting better at providing more electrical outlets, I always seem to come up short, so I carry a mini-power strip to plug everything in together. That way I'm less likely to inadvertently forget a battery charger plugged in behind a chair. If you have multiple items to charge with a USB cable, you can get a USB hub to plug into your computer, or a USB charging hub to plug into a standard outlet so you can leave the computer at home.
Kensington Portable Power Outlet has 3 standard and 2 USB sockets with surge protection
Monster 4 Outlet Mini Power Strip doesn't have surge protection, but 4 handy outlets with a short wrap cord
4 Port USB Wall Charger to plug 4 USB charge cords into a wall outlet
5 in 1 Auto Charger - 4 USB Ports plus a standard 12 V CD Cigarette Socket in a car charger
7. Pocket Camera
Even if you have a professional level SLR, it's handy to have a pocket-size camera that can go with you everywhere while exploring LA. If you don't have a great camera built into your smart phone, About.com's Guide to Digital Cameras recommends
Best Advanced Point and Shoot: Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-HX5
Best Budget Camera: Canon PowerShot SD1400
Best Tough Camera: Fujifilm FinePix XP10
The future's so bright…and so is the sun in Los Angeles, so a good pair of shades is a must. Look for sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. About.com's Jewelry Guide has tips on How to Choose the Right Sunglasses. Check out Betsy Johnson Sunglasses for the ladies or try classic Ray Bans for him. Compare more sunglasses.
9. Designer Flip Flops
10. Autograph Book and Movie Stars Homes Map
If your traveler is a star-stalker, a Map to Movie Stars' Homes and an autograph book (any blank bound book can work) may come in handy. To look a little less tacky, a travel journal can do double duty. Just realize you get a better view of celebrity homes from the elevation of some of the tour buses, rather than driving by below hedge level, and knocking on doors is not recommended.
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