The holidays are officially here. This means running around getting ready for charter or the boss. Don’t forget about your own gifting and find yourself caught out on December 23, frantically over-nighting gifts home to family and friends. You’ll spend more on shipping than on the actual gift. Take a few minutes now. Sit down, write your list, and hit the road — or the Internet highway.
Here are a few tips to speed things up and ensure a smooth ride.
Buy local and ship early. Gifts from your travels are a great way to share your adventures with people back home. Keep an eye out for items made in and around the region where you are docked or anchored. This could be French lace, batik in the Caribbean, cookbooks and quirky cooking utensils or handmade jewelry or crafts. Textiles fold into small packages and won’t break. Avoid food and spices. Customs officials aren’t too keen on organic substances of unknown origins coming past their borders. If you avail yourself of this local shopping option, ship early and from a reputable source. An overnight DHL package from Fiji actually takes up to two weeks. First class mail from Antigua can take up to six weeks to arrive in the U.S. Some shopkeepers may do the shipping for you, it never hurts to ask.
Two hours on the Internet can pretty much sort out your whole list. Be aware of how secure your connection is to protect your credit card information. The whole world is available through online shopping. To save massive international shipping fees, go to websites in the country where you’ll ship your gifts. Start with a search engine in that area to connect you with stores. Spending your holiday shopping budget in your hometown is a gift for the shopkeeper, the local economy and the receiver.
Etsy.com is the world largest marketplace of handmade goods. You can find everything from jewelry, clothes, handbags, housewares, fresh cookies, pet toys and more. Sellers often will work with you to make something in the size or color you need. And you can easily locate sellers in the country where you are shipping. For example, a quick search of sellers in Canberra, Australia turned up almost 3,000 items for sale. What can you find in your home town?
Gift cards can feel impersonal, but your unemployed brother is likely to appreciate a gift card to a local grocery store more than an Armani sweater. Do you really want to try to find something for your sister-in-law when you can shoot her some dosh to spend on Zappos.com?
This is the year of small business shopping, but be savvy. Sure, Amazon operates in ten different countries and ships everywhere, but you may feel more comfortable spending your money elsewhere. While this is laudable, it will take extra work to locate small companies selling online. Be sure to find reviews for these sellers and make sure they are associated with a Better Business Bureau or another organization which can help you attain satisfaction if your gifts arrive damaged or not-at-all.
Don’t forget the most important benefits of holiday shopping online: no parking hassles, no bags to schlep, no queues, and, best of all, no Christmas carols!