Holiday time is here, and that means most of us are trying to find gifts for our loved ones. This year has been a whopper of a year, though. September 11 was, among many things, a sobering reminder that life is short and families and friends shouldn't be taken for granted. Given that, you may be looking for something extra special, extra meaningful to give.

My suggestion? Give BIG gifts.

Here are just a few of many possibilities:

The world on a platter
Consider giving yourself and/or your loved ones a trip to see another part of the world. With America and other nations shaken since September 11th, travel has suddenly become much more affordable.

You might travel to a remote corner of the world (check on travel warnings first), or just stay in the country -- consider giving New York City a little business, perhaps. There are many websites where you can learn more and find good deals. Here are just a few:, Travelocity, Expedia, Sidestep, Bob's Internet Travel Tips, QIXO, Orbitz, Lonely Planet, Fodors, Rough Guides,, Yahoo!, USA Today.

A colleague had a brother who was down in the dumps: "I tried to think of something that would cheer him up or motivate him. I had found that when I got down, the only thing that could cheer me up in a hurry was hard exercise. Also, I'd been doing Karate for two years, and found it to be very motivating. So my wife and I gave him the gift of six months of gym membership or six months of the martial arts lessons of his choice. He chose Kung Fu, and has studied it ever since. It is a significant part of his life, and probably the best gift we have ever given someone."

Learn more at About Martial Arts, Yahoo!, Martial Arts Guide, MartialInfo, the Martial Registry, and USA Karate. Here's Yahoo!'s general exercise area, too.

Financial security and knowledge
Another big gift you can bestow on your loved ones is financial. And no, we're not talking about an envelope filled with thousands of dollars. (Phew!) We're talking about giving people you care about a financial wake-up call and some guidance to go along with that. Of course, we offer many Fool products and services that might be of interest.  (And most include a money-back satisfaction guarantee.)

  • For $12: The Motley Fool Money Guide. This book offers answers to 500 common questions about saving, spending, and investing. A great gift for those just getting started.

  • For $49: Industry Focus 2002. One of our most popular products, this annual research report covers 16 industries and offers 18 promising stock ideas. If you or someone you know is looking for investment ideas, you'll find many here.
  • For $149: TMF Money Advisor. This comprehensive service offers a wide range of objective financial guidance: toll-free telephone access to professional financial advisors, an online financial plan modeling tool, access to a host of fun and educational Fool seminars and Crash Courses, a 20% discount on all purchases from FoolMart, and more. Extremely useful for both the financially savvy and clueless, the resources included will help a subscriber answer questions such as:
    • Am I saving enough for retirement? If not, what do I need to change?
    • What do I need to think about and do if I'm getting married, having a baby, managing a 401(k), planning for taxes, changing jobs, nearing retirement, buying a car, saving for college, dealing with stock options, etc.
    • What can I do to get out of debt?

There aren't many gifts more substantial than helping people you care about get their financial ducks in a row. Whether you help your brother-in-law realize he needs to open an IRA and contribute to his 401(k) plan, or you help your stock-savvy dad find two terrific companies to invest in, your thoughtfulness will be remembered for a long time.

A second chance at life
You may have seen commercials for the Medtronic LIFEPAK on TV. I did, and I eagerly investigated, thinking it might be a perfect gift for my parents. It's a small and easy-to-use device that you can buy for your home that can restart the heart of someone in cardiac arrest. The downside is the price: north of $4,000. Still, if you have big pockets and a big heart, this might be a gift you're interested in giving to someone. (If the price is to high, then maybe the $6.95 Family Health and Emergency Guide will do, instead.)

A first chance at life
We often forget, but we share a planet with billions of others. Most live in conditions we should thank our lucky stars we don't live in. Through our annual Foolanthropy charity drive, the Fool has helped raise more than $2 million to make the world a better and happier place. We invite you to join with us in supporting five unusual and extremely effective organizations. Through them you can give the gift of life or a livelihood to one person or many people. Just $50 can provide a lifetime of safe drinking water to 10 people. One or more families can permanently lift themselves out of poverty with $100. Gift your gifts in honor of various loved ones and your gifts can serve two purposes! (A little more info.)

Big bucks for you and your family
That's right -- you may be able to give yourself thousands or tens of thousands of dollars by refinancing your mortgage. Learn more about whether this makes sense for you in our Home Center.

The universe
A big gift with big capabilities is a telescope, which can bring you the moon, the stars, the planets, and much more. Some consumer-level telescopes these days are so automated that once you set them up, you can just punch in the code for the object you want to see, and they will point themselves to it.

Learn more with the Sky and Telescope guide. Also, you might investigate Meade, Celestron,, Amateur Astronomers Association, and our Astronomy discussion board. (And check this out -- a nifty astronomical image each day.)

Other big ideas

  • Visit the Hammacher Schlemmer website and click on "Unexpected Things" for some big, unusual gifts, many with very big price tags -- such as an $8,000 60-person sun umbrella, for which you'll have to tack on an extra $650 for shipping and handling. (I kid you not.)

  • FAO Schwartz offers a BIG stuffed bear, which should delight most young children.

  • If you're actually looking for small gifts, try Archie McPhee, a vendor of unusual wares.