Updated December 2017
If you travel, I bet at least once you found yourself in this situation. Christmas or your best friend’s birthday is just around the corner, but you are thousands of miles away panicking about gifts. This pesky issue could cause you not only a minor headache but, potentially, put a significant dent in your budget.
In most cases, buying gifts locally and sending them back to your country is prohibitively expensive. Asking a fellow traveler to bring gifts back with her/him is a subject to so many conditions that it is virtually impossible: she/he must travel to your country in particular time frame, can take additional luggage (with airlines imposing draconian fees for exceeding luggage weight limits it is a serious question), logistics of pickup/delivery…
Hence, the internet comes to the rescue: you buy online and ship it to an unsuspecting recipient. Nice and easy. There is only one glitch: where to buy? The most obvious and frequently recommended choice is Amazon. Unfortunately, there are couple pitfalls. Looking for something surprising? Exciting? It’s a gift after all, right? Well, Amazon is a titan of online shopping. Do not get me wrong, sometimes, a blender or a pair of socks make a great gift. As for uncommon one-of-a-kind things, you better look somewhere else. There is another tiny wrinkle pointed out by our reader. Despite popular belief, Amazon is not omnipresent. There are countries where it still does not work. BTW, congratulations Australia – you are no longer amazon-less.
To be fair, books are still Amazon’s strong point. There are some rare, out-of-print, hard-to-find books that I could not find anywhere else. Yes, I would recommend Amazon if you are looking for a book.
If I am not after books, haven’t received a Christmas list(s) or do not have a clear indication that, let’s say, a vacuum cleaner [replace with whatever “serious” device might catch your fancy] is a matter of life and death, I need an inspiration. To a certain extent, online shopping is still a gamble. Some trial and error ensued, and, voilá, I came up with a list of online stores that meet my expectations. Here are my favorites.
- Bluefly – sells designer apparel and accessories, household products and accessories at discounted prices. Bluefly ships to over 100 countries. In their own words: “… a highly curated fashion marketplace for the style-obsessed… email-only exclusives bring you the best of the splurge and the steal – from designer shoes and handbags to clothing to accessories, and even home décor.”
- Blue Nile – online specialty retailer of fine jewelry. In their own words: “we were the first to sell diamonds online in 1999. And today Blue Nile is the world’s largest online jeweler.”
- Etsy – the global marketplace for unique and creative goods. Shop directly from people around the world. Handmade or vintage items, supplies, as well as unique factory-manufactured items.
- Fab – a design-focused company, dedicated to helping discover fun and unique products.
- Garrafeira Nacional – with more than eight decades of trade history, this family-run store has been supplying exclusive fine wines and spirits. They ship to almost any location in the world.
- Guilt – Gilt became famous for its exciting daily flash sales. There is something new every day for women, men, kids and the home as well as exclusive services and experiences and luxury travel. You’ll always find an impressive selection of top designers, emerging brands, exclusive styles and wow experiences. Gilt ships to over 100 countries.
- HauteLook – acquired by Nordstrom in 2011, HauteLook is a members-only shopping website offering limited-time sale events with top fashion and lifestyle brands.
- igourmet.com – Specialty Cheeses. Fine Foods. Exquisite Gifts. Food lover’s paradise. Currently ships within the US only.
- Munchery – delivering wholesome prepared dinners from the best chefs in town. Munchery is an online marketplace for consumers to purchase meals directly from local, professional chefs. Check their service areas here (US locations only). NOTE from TB: a great idea and a perfect alternative to “Get well soon” flowers or gifts.
- Novica – an online, fair-trade marketplace. It features limited edition and one-of-a-kind handmade works of art, ranging from artisan-crafted jewelry to handmade apparel to world-style home decor. Novica ships to over 100 countries.
- Rue La La – Rue La La is the destination for the most desired brands at members–only prices. Each day, they curate boutiques filled with the best of the best in fashion, home accessories, travel, kids stuff, and more. New boutiques open at 11AM ET and stay open for just 48 hours. Rue La La ships outside the US.
- Shop @ deviantArt – Prints Shop. Their motto: “Absolutely Breathtaking Prints.” Ships to 100 countries.