Many of us will be spending Christmas 2020 away from our loved ones, some perhaps for the very first time. The beauty and convenience of online shopping does not mean however, that friends and relatives need to have an empty space under their Christmas tree.
As a family, we have spent many birthdays and special events away from the rest of our family, and know from experience that it can be very difficult to find gift ideas for overseas relatives. International postage costs can be extremely expensive, and the reliability of the postal service is often a factor. Here are some of the very best ideas to help you (number 3 is my favourite: check it out!). These online solutions will enable you to send gifts directly to your loved ones, with either free, or very low cost delivery.
1. The gift of books
One of my favourites is British based company The Book Depository, who offer free international delivery with all of their lovely books. When I lived in the Cayman Islands, I used these guys a lot and service was always prompt and reliable. They have a great children’s gift guide for inspiration, and offer over 20 million books, so I am sure that there is something there for everybody.
Of course Amazon are the obvious ‘go to’ company for sending gifts abroad. If you use the Amazon site linked with the country that you are sending to (using Google Chrome translate as mentioned below if required), then you will often save on delivery cost and time. We have noticed this year (2020) that delivery charges have jumped to around £5.00 per item on the UK site to Europe, which is another reason to use the home site of the country to where you intend to send the gift.
Amazon Prime can also cost significantly less in other countries (in 2019 it was 19.99 Euros compared to the 79GBP annual cost), so may be a worthwhile investment if you know that you will be sending multiple gifts to one country during the year.
2. Clothing and Accessories
When thinking about gift ideas for overseas relatives, free international delivery is music to one’s ears. ASOS is one of the primary online stores to offer this, and they offer free delivery worldwide on nearly everything from clothes to ‘secret santa’ gifts. I tend to veer away from anything that requires a certain size, so accessories are a great choice.
British high street clothing store Next has really expanded into the international market over the last few years. They have a great range of clothing and accessories for all of the family, and as an example, delivery to Spain is free over €40, and in the USA free over $30, or around $4 otherwise.
3.The gift of free time
Now this may sound slightly strange, but one year I gave my mum the gift of cleaning. I was in Spain and absolutely at my wit’s end as to what to get her, and then it struck me. My mum would never get a cleaner in of her own accord (no idea why, I find them a Godsend!), so I got her a voucher. Ten hours of cleaning to use however she pleased. Five weekly cleans, or a deep clean following a family gathering, it was entirely up to her. Not only did she love it, but many of her work colleagues at the time commented on what a good idea this was. For the United States, MollyMaid.com offer gift vouchers. Other countries like Spain are a little trickier: you would have to contact local cleaning agencies directly (they all speak English and are usually very obliging). This company covers the Costa Blanca whilst a list of Costa del Sol cleaners can be found here.
4. Flight vouchers
Again, going back to my earlier point, expats tend to also be great travellers (keeping fingers crossed that Covid gives the poor travel industry some respite in 2021) to so a flight voucher is always a winner when you are thinking about those gift ideas for overseas relatives. FlightGift.com have a gift card that has the flexibility to cover 300 airlines from 70 countries.
Furthermore, it may encourage your loved ones to come and visit you in 2021! Additionally, you could always give them the gift of your presence as a present, and buy your own flight to visit them as a surprise (obviously you need to be 100% certain that they will be happy with this, or it could be disastrous!).
5. An annual pass to local attractions
I love this idea: an annual season pass for free entry to their favourite attractions all year. This may take a little research on your part, and a lot depends on your budget. It is however, an extremely thoughtful gift that will give them many great family days out. I’ve listed a few area specific ideas below; ultimately you will have to put the groundwork internet research in for specific regions. Trust me, your family will certainly recognise and appreciate your efforts.
United States: How about a US National Park Pass for the whole family, $80. This allows free entrance to over 2000 recreational sites across the US, from Yosemite to the Grand Canyon.
I’ve given Spain as my other example as we used to live there, but essentially, these should give you some good ideas for other destination research:
Portaventura Annual Pass is a perfect option if your family live near to Salou.
Selwo Aventura Estepona – Again, this was close to where I was living in Estepona, but a great place to be able to visit throughout the year with a pass.
Look out for local play parks and attractions close to where your family reside, and see if they offer annual passes. The season prices often represent very good value if it is somewhere that they are likely to visit every 2-3 months.
If you have any problems with non-English websites, use Google Chrome and it will do all of the translation for you!
6. Sending a box is cheaper than you may think
This year due to Covid restrictions, we are spending our first Christmas alone for nearly ten years, so have had to work out the best logistics for sending presents. Sending a 15kg box from the UK to Spain costs just £25.33 with Parcelforce-found through the delivery comparison site ParcelMonkey. My parents will then still have the joy of choosing and wrapping their grandchildren’s presents, and additionally, other relatives will also be able to put in their presents and cards. We have used the box delivery service on numerous occasions over the years, and have never had a problem-just ensure that the weight and measurements that you input are accurate to avoid any extra charges.
As a final note…
From experience, it was often the thought and the effort that was put into sending a gift overseas, rather than an extortionate price tag. Plan well in advance to ensure that your gift will arrive in plenty of time. Try to send a handwritten card if you remember. Although Facetime and Zoom have made the world a far smaller place, you cannot beat something handwritten, handmade or personally booked by your nearest and dearest, especially at the end of what has been a ridiculously challenging year for many.
If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to have a look at my post where I explore the ‘fails behind the photos,’ in a world where most of what we see on the internet doesn’t always reflect reality!