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Shopping Abroad for Kid's Gifts


Think outside the box...
I love the things I find by browsing in drugstores and supermarkets around the world. It doesn't matter if the shelves are stocked with items that are common place to folks living there; to my grandkids they are novelties. In Hong Kong I bought Travel size Dove Shampoo with Chinese labelling for my eight year old grandson. He loved it. In Boots (a drugstore in London) I found perfect lip balm for his sister. In Japan, KitKat chocolate bars came in Japanese versions, so did Snickers. I also discovered some chocolate treats with unusual English names like Melty Kiss or Cotton Balls. Teenagers think these are a hoot.


Think small...
If it's tiny enough, you can mail a surprise from far away places. In Equador I found soft, knitted finger puppets for one child. At Hamleys, a huge, wonderful toy store in London I bought a sweet £1 Thomas the Tank Engine zipper pull for the youngest of our brood. P.S. Carry padded envelopes from your local dollar store in your suitcase and mailing these gifts from your hotel becomes a cinch.


T-shirts are light and pack flat...
Kids of all ages love attention grabbing T-shirts. Pop into university gift shops in small towns or major cities. It's fun for a tween to wear a shirt from La Sorbonne or McGill University. These academic shops often stock toddler sizes as well (a three year old in a Harvard t-shirt is bound to make anybody smile). Also, check out the creative T-shirt artists who sell their alternative designs in weekend markets. You're bound to find something funky or glam that wins the heart of the teenagers you love.


Sparkly anything is extra good...
Older girls love jewelry. Period. Young girls just love extra sparkly jewelry which is available in abundance in countries like India and China. Colorful bangles encrusted with shiny stones or diamante hair clips are so inexpensive that you can really stock up on loads of these. They are perfect for playing dress-up.


Children love books...
So many of our North American books are printed in the Far East. If you're in that part of the world it's interesting to browse the big stationary and book stores for bargains. I've been able to find wonderful, inexpensive children's books in Hong Kong, Penang and Singapore.


Have something unique tailored...
I was in Shanghai for a full week. On the first day I visited the Fabric Market and picked out a tailor whose work I felt comfortable with. Within three days he sewed matching red velvet Chinese jackets with black silk linings for my granddaughters to wear to a family wedding. He charged $25.00 for each jacket and they were a real hit. If you think you might like to do this too, bring measurements for the tailor or bring a jacket of theirs to copy. P.S. Bargain hard and don't pick up your stuff the last day of your visit. Leave time for alterations if they are needed.


Think ahead...
Not every gift you buy has to be given to the kiddies right away. I store some things in my gift cupboard and give those goodies out at Christmas and on birthdays. I also have a big glass see-through jar where I store colorful, inexpensive items I've purchased 'round the world. When my grandchildren come to visit they are allowed to reach in for the gift of their choice before they go home. It's a great hit with the younger ones and grandma becomes the happy recipient of juicy hugs. What better reason to shop for them!


10 bits of packing advice...

1. When choosing gifts, think (1) flat and think, (2) 'the smaller the better.'

2. It never hurts to carry a bit of bubblewrap to protect breakable items. When I need it I ask the hotel front desk for tape and no one has ever refused.

3. Put the most breakable gifts in the middle of your suitcase so clothing will provide protection.

4. To avoid damage from spillage, carry plastic bags to wrap liquids like the travel size Dove Shampoo with Chinese labelling.

5. Always ask the shop to wrap gifts in tissue for you. Then you don't have to buy the tissue and do it yourself.

6. Cut an empty plastic water bottle in half. Protect breakable figurines by wrapping them in tissue and putting them in the bottle and taping the bottle shut again. Great cushioning.

7. Bring some foreign newspapers home. They make great gift wrapping paper.

8. Collect cards from the merchants you enjoy. Now you have a record in case you want to reorder or would like to shop there again.

9. Carefully fold the shopping bags your purchases came in and pack them separately. Recycle these gift bags at home.

10. Always pack an extra soft foldable bag in case you need another bag to bring extra gifts back home.





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