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Shopping Abroad for Kid's Gifts


Evelyn Hannon

By virtue of (1) the hundreds of hours I've spent browsing in foreign destinations and (2) the three satisfied grandchildren I've shopped for in over 60 countries around the world, here is my advice for finding the best kiddies' gifts to bring back home.


Be prepared with proper sizing...
Before you leave home trace each child's feet on pieces of paper. Now you won't have to guess whether those beautiful sandals in Italy or those inexpensive socks in the markets of Hong Kong will fit. Ditto for T-shirts. Carry one sample per child in your backpack and shopping becomes a cinch. P.S. Always buy one size bigger. Kids grow like weeds and you want this new T-shirt to fit for as long as possible.


Be aware of sale times around the world...
For example, in Paris there are two sale periods legislated by the government each year: summer and winter. Each sale runs for about six weeks. The summer 'soldes' typically start at the end of June, while the winter 'soldes' begin in January. In London, England, the very posh Harrod's holds a mega store-wide clearance in January though it takes very careful shopping to find affordable trinkets here even at sale time.


Think seasonal...
Remember that the end of season in Australia is the beginning of a different season in North America. I bought some great Earth Child summer outfits normally very pricey in Canada on sale in February in Sydney, Australia. These particular styles only became available in Canadian shops in Spring previews three months later. It was a wonderful Australian find - up to the minute styling at half the price.


Look for dollar store equivalents around the world...
These stores are always worth a browse. You never know what sort of wacky objects you'll find. What is common in one culture becomes a treasure in another.


Holidays offer special gift buying opportunities...
On a recent Christmas Market Cruise I choose an 'angel theme' and then picked one wonderful Christmas tree ornament from each market in each country we visited. This gave me a focus while I searched through hundreds of handicraft stalls along the way. Then I gave the entire angel collection to my little granddaughter. Now, each year it's her job to decorate a special section of the family Christmas tree with lovely European angels.


Do your research...
Certain chains in certain countries are renowned for interesting products at bargain prices. There's Monoprix in Paris, HEMA in Amsterdam and Muji in Europe, Asia and USA. Click here for Muiji locations. P.S. Check out the Muiji item called, City in a Bag -- a set of wooden blocks that represents iconic symbols of some of the major cities in the world. Interesting gift for kids both big and little.


Pop into post offices...
Often times the main post office in a major city is housed in an interesting, historic building. I always enjoy exploring the interior and taking photos but I never leave without buying a couple of dollars worth of colorful postage stamps. Remember, the smaller denomination stamps are just as beautiful as the bigger ones and most postal employees love helping you pick the nicest when they know it's for your grandkids.


Think ornamental boxes...
I've found that since I have my own personal collection of boxes from around the world my grandkiddies are intrigued with the idea of having one of their own as well. If the theme is right, these containers are always so well received by both the girls and the guys, no matter their age. The biggest hits to date are the delicate tooth fairy box I found in London and the stunning, masculine mother of pearl dragon box I stumbled upon in Seoul, Korea. The best part about these box collections is you never know where you'll find the next one you'll love -- in a market, gift shop, museum or dollar store. P.S. I often open the box and add local stamps or currency of the country where the container was found. Now the purchase becomes an interesting, painless geography lesson.







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