Medium-known fact/disclaimer: I’m an American living in Scotland. I know a lot of people and more than half of them live not here. I have been sending and receiving airmail since I was 12 years old. These are my personal tips on how to send stuff to people who live where you don’t, while still keeping your bank account happy. And theirs, too.
Most of the stuff I send goes to people in the US.
My mother has been sending me stuff for years. I am forever telling her mark it as a gift. Because if it is a gift, and it isn’t declared a gift, the recipient pays the fees/tax on their own gift. Thereby making it not a gift.
Don’t overvalue what you are sending. If you have to put a number on the customs form, use a number that reflects the value of a replacement of the item. Do not pad it out with all the love and energy that went into that sweater you made.
Work with the shape of the item. Don’t send a pair of socks in a giant box.
If you are sending books, use a padded mailer/Jiffy bag/whatever the hell it’s called.
Don’t put a postcard in an envelope.
Send flat things: Like books, or book sleeves, or king-size chocolate bars, or IOUs for the money your people had to pay for their gifts.
Know your shipping times. Even cheaper shipping still gets between my two (three?) islands in about a week.
Order stuff online and have it delivered to your person. Make sure the company/artist/glass-blower you are ordering from actually delivers to your person.
Don’t send glass. Yes, I know some of it is pretty. It’s also heavy. And breakable.
Know their size. This cuts out the need for expensive returns and the guilt of regifting or having to be nice about the fugly shoes.
Have them pay the shipping and promise you will pay them back. I don’t recommend this. Keeping friends is more important than having stuff. Unless you compensate them with a bunch of booze. And then share it. Getting drunk together deepens friendships faster than giving people
unwanted crap gifts, anyway.
Or ignore all of this and send them a gift card, a magazine subscription, a place on an online course. Or do a video call and hang out in their kitchen like you used to. Because they miss your face.