Travel restrictions and the risk of being infected with COVID-19 have forced millions of people to postpone their travel plans this year. As a result, the ones you’re meant to be close to might still be far away and out of reach for now. Consider these long-distance gifts for friends and family members living overseas or in another part of the country. It might not be the same as getting to see them in person but, as the next best thing, they’ll help you stay connected to loved ones in this time of uncertainty.
The selection of gift ideas in this article have been categorized as follows:
- Utility Gift Ideas – These are practical gifts of utilitarian value. Essentially, they’re the gifts that keep on giving, as the expression goes. They’ll prove to be of immense value to the receiver and, at the same time, give you the satisfaction of knowing that your gift will be used frequently, if not daily.
- Fun Gift Ideas – Some gifts are for sheer fun. The thrill of gifting is enhanced when you see the look on someone’s face as they open a just-for-fun gift versus a utility gift. Sometimes, it’s the difference between an “Oh, that’s nice” and a “Wow, that’s amazing.”
- Sensory Gift Ideas – These are gifts that can be touched, smelled, tasted, heard, or seen. Of course, the ‘seen’ part usually applies to any gift, but these will bring an additional sensory appeal to the thrill of receiving a present.
When Should You Send Long-distance Gifts to Friends and Family?
In one word, anytime. There’s no perfect time for gifting unless it specifically marks a festival, a birthday, an anniversary, or some other special occasion. In fact, a gift that’s not ‘attached’ to a special event or occasion is often enjoyed much more because it’s unexpected. It’s also prudent to set a fixed budget per gift. Money is tight for everyone these days, so setting a monthly schedule for gifting is a great idea if you have lots of friends and/or family members living far away from you.
With that, let’s look at some great gift ideas for long-distance family and friends.
Utility-based (Practical) Long-distance Gift Ideas for Your Loved Ones
For someone living in a hot climate (psst, summer’s coming up in Australia), a mini-fridge is a perfect utility gift idea. It’ll keep their beers and sodas ice-chill wherever they go. It’s not self-powered, but it works off any AC or 12V DC power source, so you can hook it up to your car or boat battery, a wall plug, etc. A standard model should hold about 12 cans of 12 ounces each or about 8-10 500ml bottles.
Polarized Car Visor Extension:
This clip-on shield is made from polarized material, which gives you greater visibility when driving. Just clip it to your car visor and you’re good to go. It’s excellent for night-time driving because it provides glare protection against oncoming headlights and too-bright streetlights. If you have an older long-distance relative who still drives at night, this might be a good gift idea for them.
Battery-free Bidet Attachment for Any Toilet Seat:
Hygiene is of paramount importance during a pandemic, so why not help a relative or friend bring it right into their bathroom. This DIY attachment is easy to operate and doesn’t require batteries or electricity. Just fix it and attach the water hose to it, and it’s done.
Lint and Microfiber Catching Laundry Ball:
This uniquely designed laundry ball catches microplastic and microfiber bits – that can’t be seen by the naked eye – and stops them from being sent to the ocean or the rivers along with your greywater. It’s great for the environment and will also keep your washing machine filters from clogging up quickly. Just throw it in with every wash.
Folding Reading Glasses in a Chain and Pendant Style:
Older family members who use reading glasses will find these extremely useful. All you need is their eye power for reading and you can order a pair of these online to be shipped to them directly. It’s convenient and stylish, and it will serve its purpose for a long time. It’s perfect for those times when they don’t have their regular reading glasses on them and they just need to quickly read something on a label or an envelope.
These utility-based gifts are practical and will be appreciated long after the thrill of receiving the gift is gone. They’re also very thoughtful and are sure to endear the person receiving them to you. There are tons of gifts in this category, and all they need to be able to do is answer ‘yes’ to these questions: Is it practical enough to use? Will it be used frequently? Does it solve a tangible problem?
Funny but Useful Long-distance Gifts for Relatives and Friends
Now for the fun part! These gift ideas listed here might not have strong utilitarian appeal, but they’re sure to put a smile on the face of the receiver. These are the kinds of gifts where you ask someone to take a photo of the receiver opening the gift, just so you can see and enjoy the look of surprise and joy on their face when they see what you sent them. Believe us, it’s priceless. By the way, just because it’s fun, it doesn’t have to lack any practical value. The gifts showcased here are really fun to receive but also offer some practical value, as you’ll see.
This particular one burns an image of Darth Vader on it, but you can choose from a range of options. How about a two-slice Batman toaster? Well, Robin’s gotta eat, too, right? Or what about a selfie-toaster? These are not as easy to find, but all you need to do is find a website that offers this type of customization, such as burntimpressions(dot)com, send in a selfie (preferably you and the person you’re sending the toaster to), and have it tailor-made and shipped to your friend or relative.
Bluetooth Banana Phone for iOS and Android:
…because who doesn’t want to talk on a banana when discussing a serious business deal, right? This fun gift is good for several hours of laughter and giggles. Every time your friend uses it, they’re bound to get laughs from their colleagues at work or their family members. Just tell your friend not to use it at the local zoo. The monkeys might start talking into their own bananas. On the other hand, what a laugh riot would that be!
Vampire Garlic Mincer:
What do you get when you put a shape-shifting, blood-sucking bat and garlic together? Well, technically, you should be left with just the garlic and some vampire dust, but in this case, you get a Vampire Garlic Mincer! The irony of the combination will not be lost on anyone who grew up looking forward to Halloween as their annual opportunity to dress up like werewolves, ghouls, witches, and, of course, the Count himself. All you have to do is remove his head (of course), put the peeled garlic inside, put the head back, and grind away. You can ‘Count’ on this gift being a big hit with long-distance friends and relatives!
Smartphone Nightlight Converter:
Imagine being able to convert your harsh smartphone flashlight into a soothing night light. That’s exactly what this little gizmo does. Just clip it on to any smartphone with the lamp side right on top of the flashlight. Now, turn on your flashlight app and enjoy a good night’s sleep with a calming night light on.
Dad-belly Fanny Pack:
We’ve all heard of and seen six-pack and eight-pack abs, but we’re sure you’ve never heard of a dad-belly fanny one-pack! Now’s your chance to gift your long-distance friend a couple of laughs with this not-too-cool-looking fake belly fanny pack. Very realistic-looking and loads of fun wherever it’s worn.
Sensory Long-distance Gifts for BFFs and Close Family
A sensory gift is one that arouses one of your five senses. Any present arouses the sense of sight, obviously, but some of them go beyond and awaken your other senses. Candy, for example, can be eye-candy as well as mouth-watering, which tickles your tastebuds as well as your eyes. Perfume will make your nostrils flare up with passion, and the perfect playlist will have your BFFs ears perking up. Here are some other sensory gift ideas for you to think about.
Ha, you didn’t think it would be this simple, did you? Well, a beanbag is one of the best sensory gifts you can give someone who’s living far away, especially if you know they’ve been struggling to find inexpensive and comfortable furniture. This one addresses the sense of touch and is one of the best ways to let your body find a naturally comfortable position. You also get beanless chairs with memory foam for greater comfort. Guaranteed to have them nodding off thinking of you.
Bubble Lamp or Lava Lamp:
Lava lamps were all the rage many years ago, and they’re back in vogue! These are visually very soothing to watch, and the ambient lighting helps as well. They can also be used as night lamps. They’re quite inexpensive, too, so you can easily find one on any e-commerce site for about twenty bucks or less. Look out for fun variants as well, like bubbles, shiny fish-shaped floaters, etc.
The perfect gift for a long-distance friend or a family member you want to stay connected with. These high-tech lamps work through their respective Wi-Fi signals and connect with each other over the Internet. Touch one lamp and the other one lights up in a pre-selected color of your choosing. It doesn’t matter whether the other lamp is in the next room, across town, across the country, or the other side of the world. It takes a couple of minutes to set up these lamps and they’ll even remember previously used Wi-Fi signals, which lets you move them around between your home and your office. Whenever you think of the other person, just touch your lamp to light up their world – literally. It’s great for BFFs, siblings, grandparents/grandkids, parents/kids, or anyone that wants to stay emotionally connected and have an instant way to show they’re thinking of the other person.
Amazon Echo Dot:
The perfect low-cost, high-tech gift for someone who favors audio over visuals. They can be connected to speakers for better audio performance or just used as a search utility by Prime Music fans. It’s also a good way to get quick information without having to type out your query on a desktop, laptop, or smartphone. Just use the voice-triggered Alexa to get all the answers you need.
Aromatic Bath Salts:
Know anyone who’s constantly stressed? Aromatherapy is a widely used therapeutic method to calm the senses, reduce stress, and minimize the risk of stress-related ailments. And they’re not expensive, either. A 5-aroma bath salts gift set runs you about fifteen to twenty bucks for the good stuff. The olfactory triggers in the salts will help your long-distance grandma or older relative immediately relax or feel more invigorated, depending on which ones they use.
A Final Word on the Art of Gifting
Not many people give importance to the way a gift is given. For example, a wrapped gift is more appealing because it enhances the anticipation factor. And it looks prettier, too. Most e-commerce sites let you tag a purchase as a gift for a little bit extra, so why not go for it?
Another consideration is how much you spend on a gift, especially if you’re buying a round of long-distance gifts for everyone who lives away from you – friends in another city, state, or country, overseas family members, etc. A gift is not valued at the price you pay for it; it is valued by the effect it has on the receiver. That’s why a thoughtful gift, though it may be less expensive, is often more valuable than the ones you just throw money at. However, don’t buy cheap; buy affordable. For example, rather than getting your long-distance granddad a poor-quality fishing kit for $50, get him a relatively expensive cologne or shaving kit for the same amount (as long as you know he likes wearing cologne, of course.)
As a matter of fact, you don’t even have to buy gifts for long-distance relatives and friends. A handwritten letter is equally special, particularly with the older crowd. Nobody gets letters in the mail anymore, at least not the kind they appreciate. That’s why writing a letter to a friend or family member can be more valuable than spending money on material things. Just a few lines about what’s going on in your life and asking them about theirs goes a long way in strengthening the bond between friends or between family members.
As a final note, if you do spend a lot of money (or even a little) on long-distance gifts for everyone you know overseas, don’t expect anything in return. Worst case scenario, not even a thank you note or a texted acknowledgment. Gifts are given from the heart and never kept account of.