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When friends and family move overseas it can be difficult to find gifts for expats that are not only suitable to send (i.e. can be posted/shipped) but also something that they truly want. After moving abroad in 2019 we realised that we have way too much stuff as it is and while we appreciated the sentiment of gifts received, we would rather have things we want or need than generic ‘stuff’. The best policy when buying gifts for friends and family overseas is to ask them what they need or want.
If you have loved ones that have moved overseas or are about to and you really want to surprise them with a gift then this gift guide should help you decide what is the right thing to get for them.
Buying a physical gift to send versus buying a gift online
The good thing about buying a physical gift is that you can choose the exact thing you want and then add some little extra touches like fancy wrapping paper, bows and gift tags with a personalised message. The downside of this is that if you are posting the gift internationally it is going to get very expensive for large parcels.
Buying a gift online and shipping it directly to the recipient should reduce the costs slightly but the downside of this is that you can’t personalise the gift as easily. Lots of companies do offer a gift-wrapping service these days but it may still be costly in the long run.
Subscription gifts are ideal for friends or relatives abroad as they don’t need to be shipped. They are instantaneous and extremely useful because who doesn’t love a good movie day when it’s raining?
Depending on where you are in the world Netflix has a huge array of movies, tv shows and documentaries for everyone. If you want to watch your favourite shows from home though you may not be able to watch them without a VPN. Starting from £4.99 a month you can sign up here.
Kindle unlimited subscription
For all your bookworm friends and family a kindle unlimited subscription is the best gift in the world with access to hundred of titles they will never run out of reading material again £7.99 a month sign up here
Amazon Prime membership
A prime membership is not just about free next day delivery it also come with some cool perks. Similar to Netflix, amazon prime video has some awesome original shows and movies. We absolutely love and recommend The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel, The Man in the High Castle and The Boys on amazon prime video. You can also access thousands of books and audiobooks for free every month. £7.99 a month sign up here
One of our favourite investments is our spotify premium subscription. With spotify you can create playlists of all your favourite songs and download them to listen to offline too. There are also thousands of podcasts to listen to with subjects from travel to motivational speakers to comedy there will be a podcast for you. £9.99 a month sign up here.
Has your friend abroad raved about how much they miss buying Cosmo every week or maybe they miss their vintage car mag? Why not buy them an online subscription to their favourite magazine, that way they can read it from wherever they are in the world on their tablet, phone or kindle.
Useful gifts doesn’t have to mean socks, there are exciting gifts that are useful too, especially for travellers. Long term travellers and expats are more likely to appreciate something useful than just tat that will take up unnecessary space.
Maybe your loved one has always wanted to learn a new language or how to code or something creative like writing in calligraphy. Nowadays you can buy online courses to learn pretty much anything, check out Centre of Excellence.
Check their amazon wish list
If you don’t know what to get them do some low key stalking and look on their amazon wish list at things they have saved. Then do some probing and strategic questioning to find out if they actually want those things anymore and if they do, sneakily buy it for them.
The best gift ever for book lovers going abroad. A kindle means that wherever you are going, no matter on how long for, you can take as many books as you want with you. It’s a dream come true. I have the Kindle Paperwhite with built in wifi and 3g and love the fact I can download books on the go.
Virtual Private Network
A Virtual Private Network or VPN allows travellers to do important things like online banking without the risk of someone stealing their private data. It also lets you watch Netflix or amazon prime shows that you may not have access to by changing your demographic area. The VPN we us all the time that allows us to watch everything from Netflix to BBC is NordVPN it is super reliable and costs £11.95 a month.
Noise cancelling headphones
One of the most useful gifts you can buy someone who travels frequently is noise cancelling headphones. They are useful for long flights to drown out the drone of the aeroplane but also just for busy places such as train stations or even hostel dorm rooms.
A really good quality travel speaker should be lightweight and sand, water resistant. Perfect for any environment. If you don’t want to spend the big bucks on this JBL speaker, then we recommend this Betron one instead, it is still lightweight and compact but it’s not waterproof or sand proof but on the plus side it’s cheap enough to replace if it breaks.
Personalised luggage tags are always handy for spotting your bags in the sea of black on an airport conveyer belt. These cute travel themed ones will go down a treat with overseas friends and relatives.
Lightweight travel towel
We use these towels by Sand Cloud all the time on St Kitts and they are perfect to keep in the back of your car for impromptu beach outings. They are also perfect for travelling as they are lightweight, fast drying and roll up really small to save luggage space.
Travel document wallet holder
The chances are the expat in your life will love to travel and do it frequently. This travel wallet is useful for holing all of your important travel documents like passport, boarding cards and booking reservations when you are on the go.
Universal travel adapter
Boring but essential for anyone who loves to travel. A universal travel adapter means you only need to take one with you no matter what countries you are visiting. This travel adapter allows you to plug in in the US, Europe, UK and Australia.
Portable travel scales
Another boring but super useful gift especially for travellers who don’t enjoy packing light *cough* STEPH *cough*. These portable weighing scales for travellers are small enough to take everywhere and never have to pay excess baggage fees again.
USB portable charger
Great for any long journey whether it’s plane, train, bus or just a really long commute. A USB portable charger is essential to keep your batteries fully charged on your devices.
Portable solar panel
If your overseas friend or relative is concerned about climate change and the environment then they will love a portable solar panel for eco charging things. For expats in sunny places this is especially useful because it means they can charge things without having to use electricity which can be expensive in some places. We have this one by Anker for charging our devices, we even take it in the car on beach days so friends can charge up too.
Travel water bottle or cup
Save the turtles by buying them a reusable cup to take to the beach and a reusable water bottle to take everywhere!
These teeny tiny bags are great for days at the beach or hiking. They fold up super small too so the don’t take up any luggage space and they are cheap to send. We have two of these packable backpacks by Gonex and they are very robust.
For expats who want to make it on the ‘gram, selfie sticks are great for taking pictures of themselves in their new country.
For next level selfies that don’t look like selfies, get your loved one a gorilla pod tripod. These compact tripods are great for phones or small cameras like Go Pros and have flexible legs tat can wrap around anything.
Portable hard drive
Super important to back up all their amazing photos and important documents in case of an accident with their main computer. This portable hard drive is 4TB which should be plenty of space.
Memory cards are always useful to have for cameras and phones. The last thing anyone wants is to be out taking amazing photos and videos and to run out of storage space.
Another good idea for storage is cloud storage. Google drive is a popular choice but there are lots of options available as an extra back up in case their hard drive fails, then they won’t lose everything. We personally use iDrive which is cheap and reliable.
Friends that live overseas will love sentimental gifts that show they have not been forgotten by loved ones, even the smallest thing can make their day.
Personalised card from Moonpig
Small but effective, sometimes a card is more than enough to let someone know you are thinking about them. Just make sure you know how long it will take to be delivered if it’s for a particular occasion.
Printed Photo Gift
These days everyone and their dog has a smart phone which usually means thousands of pictures that sit on a memory card long forgotten. So dig out those old photos and get them printed! You can go traditional with a photo album or photobook with multiple pictures, or something different like a canvas or hanging photo display, or even a personalised calendar for the new year.
Hand painted mug
Visit a paint-a-pot experience and decorate a mug with a personal message for your expat friend or family member. One of the best gift ideas for overseas friends and family as they will treasure the thought you put into it.
A scratch map is a great gift idea for expats so that they can showcase all the lovely places they have visited or lived.
Travel related décor
If travel is their life then travel related décor will never go down badly. Choose from bedding, cushion covers, throws, tapestries, posters, globes, etc. You get the idea.
Posters or postcards from their hometown
This is sure to brighten their day and make them smile, it is also a cool way to decorate.
A care package with things from home include their favourite treats such as facemasks, hair products, bubble bath, and moisturiser, then add in some lovely edible gifts.
You can send a small package from their home country with items such as chocolate, cookies, sweets, crisps, coffee, tins of their favourite comfort food (hello Heinz tinned spaghetti) or microwave desserts.
Things they may not be able to get abroad like jam, chutney, marmalade, and pickles these could be made by Grandma or just Mrs. Brindley at number 42.
For edible gifts in their new country there are many ideas too, they just require a little pre-planning and knowing when your loved one will be home to receive it.
Send a fruit basket from local vendor
Living abroad the chances are the local fruit is amazing and exotic compared to what they are used to, and generally fresh produce is incredibly cheap. You will also be supporting a local business which is a great thing to do.
Order them a takeaway from their favourite restaurant
You don’t have to be with them for them to know you care. If you know what restaurant they love in their new town, order them a meal to be delivered when they get home from work using a service like just-eat or uber eats.
(FYI- our favourite restaurant in St Kitts is Rituals Sushi and it can be found on 869togo)
Send them some wine, or a special liquor, if you know they love a certain drink, then send a bottle directly to them.
When asked most people will rate experiences higher than physical things and science shows that the joy from an awesome experience lasts much longer than buying or receiving an item.
Take them out when they come back to visit
Either to a restaurant for a meal or even buy some concert tickets or plan to go to a local event. This can be the greatest gift of all so they know you haven’t forgotten about them and they have something to look forward to.
Buy them an experience for a local activity
This could be a local tour, event or a spa day. Not only does it support local businesses in their new town, it also helps them get to see places they might not have visited.
Buy them a resort day pass
If they live somewhere with nice hotels then you can pamper them by buying them a resort day pass. A day pass typically includes access to all the facilities, pool, gym, spa and beach and sometimes includes drinks, lunch and even money off spa treatments. It’s one of the ultimate pamper gifts.
Google local classes in their country and sign them up for one. Choices usually include painting, music, jewellery making, swimming, cookery and dancing to name a few. Whatever they are into or not there will be a class for them and they might find a new hobby out of it.
This could be something simple like a gym membership or something meaningful like a cinema membership, a theatre membership, US National parks or national trust membership, or a theme park membership.
Now normally I am not a fan of gift cards because they are easy to buy and don’t really require a lot of thought or effort. However, for the avid traveller or expat in your life a gift card is a fantastic present.
Nowadays you can buy gift cards for just about anything from airlines and hotels, to spa treatments or even haircuts. Bonus points if you can buy a gift card for a local shop/restaurant.
Splurge gifts for expats
Moving to a new place can often bring out creativity and what better way to document new experiences than with photography. A good quality camera can make all the difference when looking back or sharing memories. We personally use the Sony A7 for all of our photography on the blog and in general. Yes, there are more expensive versions available now but unless you have a ton of money to spend on gifts then this will do the job nicely.
With a great camera comes great opportunities, but only if you have the right lenses for the job. If you have no idea where to start check out this awesome guide on the best Sony lenses. We have the 28-70mm standard kit lens for the A7 which is a good all rounder for beginners, but we also have a 50mm portrait lens, a 400mm zoom lens and a 28mm wide angle lens. If the expat in your life already has a great camera then they might like a new lens to help them branch out with their photography.
The obvious choice for a waterproof camera is the GoPro Hero 9. It is the latest offering in the GoPro range and for basic underwater photography and videos it is perfect. If you want something a bit fancier then we recommend getting the Olympus TG-6 tough which has amazing photography results.
Scuba diving course
Scuba diving is one of the best things we ever learnt how to do. It opens up a whole new world when travelling and you get to see cool things no-one else can, like wrecks, sharks, wild dolphins, turtles, rays and so much more. Scuba diving is great for couples, we recommend getting scuba certified to everyone and it is definitely the best gift I’ve ever received! Look for a PADI dive centre here and check out our post on how to choose a great dive centre.
Coaching comes in many different forms but it can be expensive. If your loved one has aspirations they want to achieve, whether it’s a business goal, a financial goal, a fitness goal or even changing their mindset then coaching will help them realise their potential and fulfil their life goals.
Living abroad can wreak havoc on your body, from all the amazing new restaurants to try to the wide array of tasty new beers and cocktails available it’s easy to gain a few extra pounds. If your loved one had fitness or nutritional goals, then hiring them a personal trainer is a wonderful thing to do.
Expats tend to travel quite a bit, it comes with the territory of living abroad, so treating them to a nice lightweight luggage set is a great way to show you care…and get them to visit you! If we are using suitcases we swear by IT luggage for durability, manoeuvrability and they are all super lightweight.
Lightweight travel laptop
For loved ones that work remotely or if they travel a lot or even if they want to start a blog then a lightweight laptop for travelling if the perfect splurge gift for expats. We currently use this Huawei Windows laptop for all our blogging and travelling needs and it works great. If they are more of an Apple fan, then consider getting them this Macbook air instead.
Things to consider when sending gifts abroad
How to send gifts overseas
There are a couple of different ways to send items abroad, airmail or freight is the most common. If you are posting gifts internationally through the post office, courier service or another mailing company they will usually be sent by air, this is also the most expensive way to send things and is very much dependant on weight. That being said it is by far the fastest delivery route so if you have a short time frame to send gifts to expats then airmail will be the best choice.
The cheapest way to send a gift abroad is to have it shipped by boat. Lots of companies do cargo shipments every month and many will collect items from you to send. There is usually a minimum size package to send but this can be as small as 2 cubic feet, perfect for large items and packages with multiple items.
Time it takes to send
Once you have the gifts you want to send, and you know how you want to send it you need to consider shipping times. This is the time it takes for the item to arrive in the intended country. Royal mail and other mailing companies will have a general idea but it’s always worth checking with your expat friend or relative how long things take to process on arrival. Guaranteed 7-day delivery doesn’t necessarily mean 7 day delivery when posting things to another country.
You will also need to take into account any shipping dates such as the last post before Christmas or the collection cut-off date and loading date if sending gifts by boat.
There are always going to be shipping costs involved too so do some research and find out the best method of transit for your packages before committing to send it.
Additional Costs involved in shipping
Another consideration that may impact your expat friend or relative is customs duty and taxes that may need paying on items when they arrive. Most countries will charge some sort of import taxes on new items whether they are a gift or not and the amount is usually worked out on the value of the items sent. Expats may also encounter trouble at customs if their country has restrictions for certain foods or goods so be sure to check out these things on the local customs authority website before sending things. If in doubt don’t send it.
The final thing to think about when sending gifts abroad is packaging. If sending fragile items, then they must be adequately packaged with bubble wrap or suitable padding. We have all seen boxes and bags getting thrown around in airports right? Same goes for gifts being shipped by boat, the sea can get pretty rough at times and although the cargo is generally strapped in well there is no guarantee that it won’t fall. If you are sending valuable items, then you should consider getting insurance for the contents of the package. It’s usually not very expensive but it just adds extra piece of mind if something did break during transit you could claim the costs back.
The greatest gift for overseas friends and family
Go and visit them! Yes, that’s right, we love getting visitors! When you become an expat, friends and family always ask when you are coming home and when you are coming to visit but it’s less often they will come and visit you, even if you do live on a perfect tropical Caribbean island paradise.
If you really can’t think of a gift and you have some unused holiday time, consider taking that time to go and see your loved one on their little rock in the sea.
You might even enjoy yourself!
Do you have friends and family overseas? Let us know in the comments if you found this gift guide helpful or if you have anything to add.
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