There are a lot of toys out there for the traveling photographer (for whom a gift guide is forthcoming), but a simple, durable tripod is just plain essential. There are quite a few options in this area, and if you wanted to pay $90, you could get a nice Gorillapod with a ball head. But I prefer to keep it simple, and will be buying myself a new Ultrapod II for Christmas.
I traveled around the world with one of these things, and it did me proud. It was even a hand-me-down from I know not who, but the velcro had gotten all fuzzy and it had scratch marks all over it. I’ve since lost my original one and only recently discovered that they’re still for sale at Pedco’s shockingly primitive website, and for the totally reasonable price of $19 (at B&H).
It folds up nicely and secures with a velcro strap, has a rotating, lockable head, and grippy feet. It’s durable and will last forever, although I lost the feet and eventually the tripod itself over time. You can never have too many tripods around the house, so think of picking one of these up for the photographer in the family.