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ROAD TEST

Stamping grounds

March 04, 2007|Mimi Avins

Although it's widely thought that the world can be divided into butter people and olive oil folks, the two groups often overlap. Now, consider those who won't leave home without a passport case, and the rest of us. We can see no earthly reason to add another travel accessory to our collection. After all, passports and tickets can be shoved into purses, jackets or trouser pockets. (Cargo pants work especially well.) But passport-case lovers can't be convinced. And some of the world's best-known designers are giving them what they want -- at luxury prices. At the other end of the market are inexpensive holders; the newest ones claim to block scanners from stealing ID information. And, of course, there are holders that dangle from a strap. Travelers who choose these believe the trade-off for looking a little dorky is peace of mind. Maybe they're on to something.

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THE 3-IN-1

First look: Prada burgundy Saffiano -- if that doesn't mean "travel wallet" in Italian, it should -- folds neatly in thirds, and unfolds to reveal subtly labeled slots for tickets, passport and credit cards, plus a zippered compartment that could hold money, good luck charms or family photos.

Likes and yikes: This type of textured leather will wear well, and the case is light. A double snap closure is a nice security feature. At 9 by 5 inches, it's big, but its many compartments make carrying a wallet unnecessary.

The 411: $345 at Prada, Beverly Hills; (310) 278-8661.

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ENVELOPING

First look: Hermes calfskin Flight Envelope couldn't be simpler -- an outside slot for a boarding pass; tickets and passport fit inside. Although it's available in Hermes' trademark orange, the case is logo-free.

Likes and yikes: Unless you like keeping your passport and tickets together, why bother? But the leather is beautiful, and if quiet luxury is your thing, this could make your day.

The 411: $760 at Hermes, Beverly Hills, (310) 278-0890.

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DISCREET CHARM

First look: For the traveler who has everything, Hermes' Azap Vertical Money Holder is simple, streamlined and logo-free. Big enough for boarding passes and tickets.

Likes and yikes: In rich brown, this holder has an elegant, masculine vibe. But there's no place for money, especially change, so you'd probably want to carry a wallet too.

The 411: $1,575 at Hermes, Beverly Hills; (310) 278-0890

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WRAPPED IN STYLE

First look: Louis Vuitton passport cover in LV logo-coated canvas has one credit card slot. Thanks, Louis. If you just gotta have that Vuitton logo, this is for you.

Likes and yikes: The inside, of cinnamon Epi leather, is handsome, but there isn't room for anything more than a passport.

The 411: $315 at Louis Vuitton, Beverly Hills; (310) 859-0457.

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HANDY DANDY

First look: Magellan passport/ticket holder has windows for your driver's license, passport and boarding pass, and a back pocket for other documents. Anyone who's traveled with small children knows you never have enough free hands, so the neck strap could be convenient.

Likes and yikes: Bright blue rip-stop nylon is easy to spot, light and won't stain as easily as leather. If you can hang your passport on your chest without feeling like a first-grader on a field trip, more power to you.

The 411: $9.85 at Magellan's Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com

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SECURITY BLANKET

First look: Magellan RFID-Blocking Passport Wallet purports to protect your ID from identity theft. Radio frequency (RF) tags that can be read by security scanners are also vulnerable to hackers. This wallet's leather keeps out the bad guys.

Likes and yikes: If you're that paranoid, maybe you should stay in bed. It has the appropriate compartments. But it wouldn't win any beauty contests.

The 411: $19.85 at Magellan's Travel Supplies, (800) 962-4943, www.magellans.com

-- Mimi Avins

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