Easy to pack presents for anybody coming home for the holidays from far away.

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It’s always a tricky thing to buy gifts for somebody who lives far away. It’s not quite the same as buying presents for somebody who’s always on the move. After all, they’ll probably appreciate cash or a practical travel accessory most of all. But you’ll also want to give your far-way person something that’s lightweight and easy to pack for their long journey back to their new corner of the globe.

That’s why I’ve collected some of my favorite gift ideas from over the years of living abroad. It’s not easy coming up with things that travel well and are nice gifts, but it can be done! Whether the person  you’re shopping for lives in another country, lives across the country or is going to be away for a while doing something like studying abroad, these gifts are thoughtful and easy to pack.

A big thanks to my very thoughtful friends and family for always coming up with nice little things to give me for Christmas and my birthday! And of course, the best bit of the holidays isn’t the stuff, but getting to spend time with all of them. Cheesy, but also 100% true.

P.S. I’m trying out Amazon affiliate links in this post. That means if you buy something, I’ll get a small commission. I’ve only recommended things I actually own or very similar products. Let me know how you feel about posts like this! 

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A mug from home

gift-ideas-for-expats-travelersCalifornia flag mug /  Greetings From California mug / Bear mug

Mugs often come helpfully packed in cardboard that makes them easy to stick in your suitcase. Just wrap them in a sweater and you’re ready to go! I picked out three I liked from my home state of California, but there are cute designs for just about any location. Etsy always has lots of nice handmade stuff!

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A print or a poster from home

gift-ideas-expats-travelers-3Yosemite poster / California poster / San Diego poster / Barcelona poster

If your person is more limited on space, then a flat, lightweight poster or print may make the perfect gift, whether it’s of their home or their new living quarters.

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A map-themed decor item

christmas-present-ideas-for-expats-travelersClassic World Wall Map / Goil Foil Map

Chances are, somebody who lives far away likes to travel. You could give them something pretty with a travel theme to jazz up their new digs.

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Lightweight photo hanger

gift-ideas-for-expats-living-abroadBirds on a Wire / Photo Hanging Clip String Lights

I know that I love having photos of my friends and family from near and far away all over my apartment. These photo hanging devices weigh next to nothing and are a nice way to keep people feeling close to home.

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Airport code pillows

gift-guide-for-expats-2LAX pillow cover / Barcelona pillow cover / London pillow cover

I actually have two of these myself, one of LAX and one of Barcelona airport. Having a set of your home airport and your new one is a great way to be reminded of two places you love. They’re also a great conversation starter!

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A pretty or personalized calendar

gift-guide-expat-travelerGarden Wall calendar / Lonely Planet calendar

I always like having a calendar, and this year I actually have two – last year’s edition of this pretty flowery one I’ve posted here, plus a personalized one with photos of all the places I went in 2014. You could also get a travel one if your expat loves adventuring around the world.

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A Kindle or e-book



For somebody who travels a lot, an e-book is an amazing present. I was totally against them, and still prefer reading an actual book, but in the end being able to take literally thousands of books on an airplane with you on a small device is amazing.

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English language books



These are always nice to have, especially if you live in a country where English language books are hard to come across or expensive.

I don’t know what you like to read, but here are a few I’ve liked recently:

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A subscription to something they’ll use abroad

It could be a gym membership or something like a Spotify premium account – but no matter what it is, this makes a great gift as you don’t have to pack it. 🙂

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Travel accessories

christmas-present-ideas-expats-travelersInflatable neck pillow / TRTL neck pillow / Eye mask / No-Jet-Lag

Especially if they’re coming from far away, a handful of little things can really make a long-haul flight much more comfortable. These are a few of my personal picks for things I really like to take on planes. A 12+ hour flight is never going to be comfy, but it can be a lot more bearable! Neck pillows and eye masks make sleeping much easier, and the No-Jet-Lag supplement has honestly been life-changing for me. It reduces my jet lag to nearly nothing, compared to 2-4 weeks without it.

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BONUS: don’t forget to equip your Californian with lots of actual winter clothing items, such as thermals, fleecy leggings and big cozy sweaters! 😀 Or perhaps if you have somebody coming from a cold climate going to live in sunny California, a great pair of sunglasses could do the trick.

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That wraps up my gift ideas for expats and travelers! Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite gift you’ve gotten for the holidays?

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