Care packages…. the stuff expat dreams are made of. Really, a package from friends or family back home can turn my day right around. There’s something about the comforts of home that have the ability to do that. Are you thinking of making someone’s day? Not sure what to send in a Christmas care package to a friend overseas? If you have a friend or family member living abroad, read on for my Christmas care package ideas.
Christmas care package ideas for friends who live abroad
This year has been absolutely insane with the pandemic and the holiday season won’t be the same. That means even if your friends and family don’t live abroad, you may not be celebrating in person. My Christmas care package ideas apply not only to those loved ones who live abroad but to friends and family you won’t be able to celebrate with in person.
What makes the best care package? From food items to cosmetics to clothing items and more, there are endless options for what to include in a special box for a loved one. While there’s no one item that will work for everyone, hopefully my list is a good starting point that will spark some ideas for you based on the person’s hobbies, preferences, and favorite things.
In some cases, the items below that I mention can be found abroad. I’m not saying that things on my list are unique to one country. Of course there’s deodorant in France! But here’s the point: Even if the recipient can buy the item where they’re living, it’s not always easy to find and/or it could be really expensive. Besides, there’s just something special about receiving things from a loved one at home who took the time to shop for you and carefully put together a box.
For me, receiving my favorite deodorant or toothpaste brand from home is comforting and makes me feel like I’m not so far away. It makes me feel like I’m home, in a sense. The brand I know and love from the USA will always be better than a French equivalent for the sentimental value alone and during an extra lonely holiday season, it can be something small like a familiar brand that brightens our day.
And remember, everyone loves receiving mail!
Here are my Christmas care package ideas for a friend who lives abroad.
Tips on sending a care package abroad:
- Stop by the post office to check costs before you pack the box. Otherwise you might be in for a surprise. Flat rate boxes from the USPS might be your best bet if you’re in the USA. Here’s a post on sending packages overseas the stress-free way that may be of use.
- Go light. Lighter items are cheaper to ship and if you can go light and small? Even better. Forget bulky, heavy items that will empty your wallet in shipping fees. USPS is going to be the most cost effective but it’s also the slowest. If you’re not sending food or liquids, Send My Bag is also an affordable option.
- Check country and shipping restrictions. There’s a whole list of items you can’t ship overseas from the US (like nail polish) but be sure to check the receiving country’s restrictions too so your package isn’t confiscated. Some things are obvious (like explosives) but some items are more commonplace, so check! Certain food items might not be allowed. Same goes for nail polish.
What to send in a Christmas care package to a friend or family member abroad:
- Toiletries/cosmetics: For items that I’ve been putting on my face or body my whole life, sometimes you just want what you’re used to buying. As I pointed out above, Secret deodorant is a must. Cosmetics are often cheaper in the USA too. In some cases, the brands we know and love from home aren’t even available so although simple, toiletries can be a godsend. I’m Team Crest toothpaste and can’t use anything else!
- Gum: I love Trident cinnamon gum. The brand doesn’t exist in France and cinnamon gum doesn’t either. So grab your pal’s favorite gum.
- Candy: Who doesn’t like candy? Seasonal stuff is the best. I personally can’t resist the big holiday size Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Many candies from home aren’t available abroad, so stock up.
- Specialty food items: For me personally, canned pumpkin is a must! So is Kodiak Cake Protein-Packed pancake mix and some of my favorite energy bars. Also, Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning is amazing. Annie’s macaroni and cheese. Just YES to all of that.
- A handwritten card: Cards are so much more special to me now that I’m far away. Seeing that someone took the time to hand write a note really makes my day!
- Magazines/books: You can get English language books on Amazon even in France but it’s so much more fun when they come in a care package as a surprise. Favorite English language magazines are always a hit too!
- Seasonal gifts: Christmas cookies (if shipping won’t take too long), Christmas ornaments, I LOVE the Bath & Body Works candles they release this time of year, practical things for the kitchen such as holiday themed dishtowels, spatula, etc.
- Unique handmade gifts: If you have a local artisan who makes jewelry, soaps, ornaments, housewares, or anything else that might catch your friend’s eye, why not include a one-of-a-kind gift she can’t get anywhere else?
- Photos from home. Yes, we share all of our photos from our phone online all the time but there’s something so special about an actual printed photo and that goes double if you send it in a nice mat and frame. It’ll remind me of you every time I look at it!
- Virtual gift card: If you have a small budget or can’t stomach the shipping costs, opt for a virtual gift card instead. A gift card that arrives via email to one of your friend’s favorite stores or services will be a welcome surprise and might be the best option this year if in-person shopping isn’t an option. My favorites? Lululemon France and the Uber Eats delivery app.
If you’re abroad with no chance of a gift arriving for you anytime soon? Buy yourself a treat or two from My Little America – my go-to for American baking supplies and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. That’s where you can buy American food in France.
Tell me, friends who live abroad, what’s your favorite thing to receive in a care package? Share your Christmas care package ideas with me below!