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Exclusive | The Gift of Travel

Exclusive | The Gift of Travel

This holiday season tuck something different under the tree. Don't just give a pair of novelty boxer shorts or some cute but unwanted tchotchke like you did last year. Instead, give a gift that will be remembered forever.

Imagine the scene; your loved one rips off the wrapping. Inside he finds a digital camcorder, a leather-bound travel journal, and a card that reads, "Pack your bags!" but gives no clue as to where he'll be going. Or there's a guidebook to a country that your partner's always dreamed of visiting, and tucked inside are two plane tickets.

Whether you choose to add the suspense of an unknown destination or opt to add delicious weeks or months of anticipation to your offering, the gift of travel can be more precious than a platinum Bulgari watch -- and they go for fifty grand!

Trip of a lifetime
An African safari will blow all other gifts out of your sweetie's stocking for years to come. Two excellent tour operators offer specific LGBT packages to this great continent. Among trips scheduled by Gay2Afrika, the gay arm of New York's 2Africa, is the enticing 12-Day Air-Inclusive Safari to Kenya and Tanzania (866-GO-2-AFRIKA or 212-385-9770; Gay2Afrika.com; departures monthly, from $4,695). It takes in Nairobi, Maasai Mara National Park, and the Serengeti. Philadelphia-based Africa expert Premier Tours has also ventured into the LGBT market with 12-day packages to the deserts and savannahs of Namibia (800-545-1910; PremierTours.com; various departure dates; from $1,506 land only).

Dream vacation
The gift of a cruise is really any number of gifts. In addition to time away and the flotilla of destinations, a smorgasbord of parties, shows, on-board activities and new friends make it the perfect present. Atlantis Events' Rio Carnival Cruise (800-628-5268; atlantisevents.com; February 3-15, 2008; from $1,899) offers a party-packed itinerary, including three days at Rio's famed festivities. At the other end of the scale, RSVP Vacations offers intimate, all-gay, small ship voyages, such as Barbados Bliss (800-328-7787; RSVPVacations.com; March 1-8, 2008; from $1,895). Olivia, undisputed queen of lesbian cruises, dips toes into European waters with a slew of riverboat trips, including Provence and Burgundy (800-631-6277; Olivia.com; July 1-8, 2008, and July 8-15, 2008; from $2,999).

Set off an adventure
Tie a ribbon 'round tickets to join LGBT dive divas Undersea Expeditions' men-only scuba diving week in gay-friendly Saba, Dutch Caribbean (800-669-0310 or 858-270-2900; UnderseaX.com; February 9-16, 2008; $1,595 land only) or their women-only Cinco de Mayo exhilarating drift diving adventure in Cozumel (800-669-0310 or 858-270-2900; UnderseaX.com; May 3-10, 2008; $995 land only) and make someone's holiday season.

Escape convention
For a refreshing change, pick a package somewhere gay marriage is legal. Head for Massachusetts or hop over the border for winter delights and cozy nights up north. Snap up a Bed and Breakfast and Back to Bed package at Montreal's sparkling new Opus Hotel (10 Sherbrooke Ouest; 514-843-6000; OpusHotel.com; from C$159), a thrilling base for exploring Montreal's hot nightlife. Chill out skating the world's longest skateway, the Ottawa Rideau Canal, and then glide into ARC (140 Slater St.; 613-238-2888; from $188), a luxurious hotel offering Ottawa's most stylish surrounds.

Weekend getaway
Wrap up the season with a weekend away. Whatever your budget, Vancouver and San Diego beckon with an abundance of urban delights and easily accessible outdoors activities. Strap on snowshoes or a snowboard and take to Vancouver's Grouse Mountain's slopes, just minutes from downtown. Sample boisterous B.C. wines at Zin (1277 Robson St.; 604-408-1700; Zin-Restaurant.com; dinner entrees C$17-26), home to a sleek women's soiree the first Saturday of every month, and treat your loved one to a chic room in the adjoining Pacific Palisades (604-688-0461; PacificPalisades.com; from C$149). In San Diego, dramatic urban retreat The Sofia (150 W. Broadway; 800-826-0009; TheSofiaHotel.com; from $149) is the perfect haven to sink into after a long day exploring the energetic city and its beaches.

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