Tips for Buying Holiday Gifts Abroad

Holiday shopping can feel overwhelming in the best of times. If you’re abroad and buying for people on a different continent, it can be hard to know where to start. Whether you’ll be traveling home for the holidays or sending gifts to your loved ones overseas, here are some tips to keep in mind to make the process easier. 

Gift a taste of your travels

If you’re able to gift a memento that your loved ones would not be able to find at home, that’s a win. You’ll have gotten them a souvenir and holiday gift all in one. But the logistics of traveling with or shipping bulky packages can get complicated. 

For simple gifts that won’t necessarily take up too much space, focus on art or food. These don’t need to be large or complex items either. A smaller print from a local street vendor, specialty preserved or canned goods, or some specialized candy from the country you’re visiting would all make unique, fun gifts. 

Plan for packaging issues

If you’re flying home with your gifts, avoid wrapping them ahead of time. If an item is flagged during screening, TSA agents will need to unwrap it, causing increased delays and undoing your hard work. 

If you are shipping your gifts, prioritize padding. Use bubble wrap and tissue paper to make sure your gifts will survive the long journey. You can wrap a shipped gift, as long as the outer box stays unwrapped. Better yet, you could order a gift from an online vendor that will ship and wrap the gift for you. 

Avoid plants and produce 

As a plant lover who adores gifts of greenery, it pains me to write this. But the truth is, plants imported into the United States are rightfully subject to restrictions that prevent insects and invasive species from damaging our native wildlife. Yes, this includes houseplants and items made from plant material, like wreaths. Whether traveling with them or shipping, you would need to obtain and include an official permit called a phytosanitary certificate. It’s doable, but with the extra step, it might not be worth the hassle. 

Take a cue from the pandemic 

Chances are, you gained experience giving in a distanced way during the first year of the pandemic. With rampant shipping delays, many people gave gift cards and experiences that could be sent over email. Of course, it’s wonderful to share something unique from your time abroad, but if you are prioritizing keeping things simple, an online-only gift is an excellent choice. 

Happy shopping!