How to Buy Gifts for Others While Abroad

It is the season of giving, and if you are abroad or beginning your journey soon, something that may cross your mind is how you will go about buying presents for friends and family. It is easy to get lost in a maze of tourist-aimed souvenir shops and feel at a loss when it comes to making a gift decision. Here is a quick guide to help your gift-buying thought process.

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Make a List

Before you decide what presents to get, you need to know for whom you are shopping. Making a list of friends and family you want to purchase gifts for will give your direction and organization during your present search, which will take some of the stress away. Of course, you can add people on as you go, but it is always efficient to start with a general outline.

Know Your Budget

Knowing how much money you have to spend is vital. Give yourself an overall budget, and then break it down by the money you have to spend on each person. For instance, you may set aside $20 for your mother and maybe $10 for your cousin. Of course, this is all up to you.

Think of the Gift

When it came time to buy presents for people, I knew for whom I wanted to get special items and whom I planned to give general souvenirs. For instance, I had a group of friends I bought a pack of Perth shot glasses for, but there were a few closer friends I wanted to give personalized gifts. Here are a few tips when it comes to buying gifts.

  • Personalize: Getting presents for friends and family is a nice gesture, and of course is not expected. However, if you are purchasing presents, it is better if the person can really use it. I gave shot glasses to my young adult friends who I know could put them to good use. I bought my mom a wine holder with aboriginal design because she loves wine. I got my friend a stone elephant from Thailand because elephants are her favorite animal. I also try getting something that is meaningful to the spot I was in: I bought the elephant from a sanctuary at which I volunteered, for instance.
  • Size: Think about the size of the presents you are buying because you need to fit them all in your suitcase, unless you are willing to send them home separately. When I was in Rome, I brought home tiny bottles of Limoncello for my friends and family to try. I also bought hand-painted bottle stoppers from Tuscany. These were meaningful and useful, and also tiny gifts. Presents do not need to be great in size to be great to give!
  • Durability: Remember that your presents are most likely coming home with you. Get items that can go through some bumps! If you are bringing something fragile home, make sure it is well wrapped and placed in soft items in your suitcase.
  • Customs: There are many restrictions when it comes to bringing items from country to country. For instance, if you are bringing a plant-based product such as a grass fan or wood carving from Fiji to Australia, it needs to have a stamp that says it is treated to be legally transported into the country. Make sure you are aware of these regulations so you do not end up having to throw out your souvenirs or pay a fine.

Keep this list in mind and you will be a pro gift buyer in no time. Happy shopping!


21 Gifts for Someone Studying Abroad

If someone you know is studying abroad and you want to get him or her the perfect present, look no further. Here are some useful and budget-friendly items that your departing friend will love.

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  1. Passport holder – I love mine!
  2. Travel size toiletries – this is useful for long flights or weekend getaways
  3. Travel size refillable bottles – for extra conditioner, shampoo, etc.
  4. City guide book – for those who have not completely switched over to the internet
  5. Space bags – these will come in handy when they are trying to stuff everything in his or her suitcase!
  6. Portable phone charger – an absolute must for long days spent exploring
  7. Power adapter/converter – there are cheap packs that come with several types for a worldly traveler
  8. Journal – so your friend can write about his or her experiences
  9. Neck pillow – to assure comfort on long flights
  10. Luggage tag – so your friend knows which bag to grab!
  11. Toiletry bag – help your friend stay organized in the bathroom while abroad
  12. Phone camera lens – there are lenses you can attach to your cell phone to increase the quality of photos. Some are expensive, though!
  13. Earbuds – something that will come in use on long flights or road trips
  14. Microfiber travel towel – these are quick-drying, lightweight and do not take up much room at all
  15. Stain removing stick – something small that will come in handy when your friend least expects it
  16. Travel money – there are many pre-paid cards that work overseas
  17. Translation tool – whether it be a digital lesson or book, having a guide to the country’s language is always useful
  18. Money necklace – there are different types of wallets that can fit under clothes that are useful for traveling abroad and keeping money and passports safe and out of sight
  19. Card protector wallet – these wallets keep credit and debit cards protected from scanners that crooks use to see through normal wallets and steal information
  20. “Open when…” cards – these will not take up much room and are the perfect idea for when your friend is feeling unsure, missing home or just might need some motivation
  21. Something sentimental – there are so many gifts to remind your friend of home, from a keychain with his or her state or a necklace with sand from his or her favorite beach

Easily Overlooked Study Abroad Expenses You Should Know

It may seem that there is a never-ending list of tasks to accomplish before you study abroad, and that makes it easy to overlook the small details. Specifics such as how you are going to get around town or if you will have a plate to eat off of your first night may not be at the top of your list of worries, but they are something to keep in the back of your mind as your trip approaches. Here are some easily overlooked details that you may want to unpack from the back of your mind before you unpack your suitcase when you get to your destination.

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Everyone has different living arrangements while abroad. Something everyone uses that you may not think about is how you are going to access the internet, assuming you are not using data 24/7. Some housing may come with Wi-Fi, while others may not. In that case, there will be Wi-Fi plans available similar to data plans in the United States. I suggest doing some research about the Wi-Fi situation of your abroad housing before you get there so there are no surprises.

Living Essentials

It would be easy if you could just simply transport your whole dorm room to your abroad location, but unfortunately, that is not an option. You may have enough space to bring every toiletry necessary while away, but you are going to realize there are still some things you cannot live without. Save some money for living items you may forget about until you need them such as silverware, a stand-alone fan, a mirror, or small commonplace items such as tape and scissors.


You already paid for your flight, your visa, your abroad housing and tuition, and maybe a change in your phone plan. With all the things being taken care of and paid for prior to arrival, it is easy to forget that you will need to purchase textbooks once classes start. Try setting a chunk of money on the side before you leave so it does not hurt as much when you have to dump hundreds of dollars away as soon as classes begin.

Public Transport

Something many students overlook before going abroad is the travel expenses once they have arrive at their destination. This is more than the expensive first cab ride from the airport to your accommodation. Most likely, you will not have a car while abroad, and although campus may be easy to walk through, going to the food store, beach or a museum may not be as foot-friendly. Luckily, companies like Uber have helped ease the burden of transport necessity, but definitely think about public transport and those costs so you have some money to cover.

Bank Charges and Exchange Rates

Depending on where you go, you may gain or lose money due to the exchange rate between American currency and the currency of your location. Make sure you are aware of this rate so you don’t have a heart attack when your 200 dollars turns in 150 euros. Also, be aware of foreign transaction fees and ATM charges, which can add up. I loved my TD Bank debit card because there were no transaction fees through the bank and I know other people used the pre-paid VISA TravelMoney card. There are many ways to ensure you have protected, fee-free money, so do your research and you will find an option that works for you.

Extra Fun

I am sure you plan on traveling to other locations while abroad, and you probably have money saved for that. However, there are the “little things” you will find yourself doing that you may not have planned. For instance, while in Australia I attended a music festival I did not learn about until I was abroad. I also ended up spending a hefty sum of money on clothing shopping, which I definitely did not expect at all. It is always smart to have extra money for the extra “extras!”


As much as we may sometimes deny it, we are only human and we get sick. If your illness is worth a trip to the doctor, be aware that you will more likely than not have an out-of-pocket expense, even if you have traveler’s insurance. It is smart to set an “emergency money” stash aside for times like this.

There are so many things that may not seem big, but make a huge difference once you are abroad. Use this list as a reminder as your trip gets closer, and you will be ready to go with a plan once your feet touch foreign soil.