A Christmas gift guide (for the family on the move)

05 December 2012

One question has plagued us for the last two Christmases: what do you give the family, the children, the friends who are about to move? We've been in a perpetual state of waiting to move for that long and even before that, were always searching out new, small, easy to pack yet meaningful treasures for our wee three.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer...

1) DIGITAL GEAR : You may see this as a cop-out, but I see this as a God-send. If you've ever travelled 28 hours in a van with three kids in the course of one weekend, you know what I mean. Now is the time to maybe corral your mutliple item gift-giving into a single more expensive, but long lasting (and peace-keeping) digital gift. 

Ideas: E-reader, MP3 player, portable dvd player (if moving by land), handheld game device (if moving by air).

Pros: The whole family will be entertained and occupied during the move and long after; games, videos, books or music can be purchased affordably online or in stores; easily transportable; many options come with headphones.

Cons: Large one-time expense; screen-time overload; if moving overseas, check region restrictions.


2) BOOKS : Thanks to the e-reader, travelling or moving with your library intact is so much easier than before. Everytime we move, we unload our collective body weight in books. But this time, we are taking an e-reader loaded up with our favourites. If the family in question doesn't have a Nook or Kindle or are afraid of it like I was, children's books or colouring books are still in vogue and easily transportable via backpack.

Pros: gift cards (Barnes & Noble, Amazon, iTunes) make online purchasing and downloading easy and fast (no need to check region restrictions); affordable apps and games for kiddos; you can literally read anywhere; educational fun for the whole family.

Cons: Internet connection to download is a must (once downloaded, no need for wifi); children may be prone to losing gift cards; that one free app that keeps freezing up the Nook (I speak from experience).

3) CLOTHING : I don't want to pack things that will no longer cover the belly buttons of our growing children, so before we move I take a strict inventory of the clothes we have and what we'll need. Things to keep in mind: the climate, shoe size (I always forget this!), socks and underwear, layering, seasons, wrinkle-free options, and puffiness of winter coats.

Pros: practical gift giving you know they will benefit from; clearance for off-season items keep it affordable.

Cons: some children may not react favorably to opening a present filled with socks. Ignore them; you know what's best.


4) TOILETRIES : If moving overseas, do not underestimate the gift of toiletries. The comfort your loved one will feel when they taste their favourite toothpaste, smell that one brand of shampoo that suits dry and frizzy hair, or live worry-(and perspiration)-free without having to find deoderant for a couple of months will be INVALUABLE. For reals. Tip: gift it to them in a tupperware container for ease in packing and containment of possible spills.

Pros: low investment; small and easy to pack; practical with a capital P.

Cons: not super sentimental or fun; requires research (as well as checking airline and security requirements for liquids); spillage.

5) LUGGAGE : A few times the grandparents have bestowed upon our children new suitcases and/or backpacks. They love this! Within moments they're filling it with the rest of their gifts and excited for their new adventure. 

Pros: super practical; wheels for ease in transportation; options are everywhere and prices widely vary; will carry all of the above gift options.

Cons: requires checking of airline size and weight limits.


6) PHOTO ALBUMS : This is where practicality gives way to sentimentality. Before we move I ask family members to cull together photos of themselves and the kiddos into a small photo album. They want to remember you, want to hear stories about you, want to kiss you goodnight. What? No, I'm not crying... moving on...

Pros: can be made digitally; small and cheap photo albums available everywhere; easy to travel with.

Cons: Requires effort (and tissues).

I realize this is a pretty specific gift-giving guide for a pretty specific purpose in mind, but we all know someone who is downsizing, living in flux, or travelling. Whether you or your loved one is moving across state or across oceans, these gifts will help you go together.

Have fun, go shopping, pack kleenex.

Ooh, I should mention that this was inspired by Jen Hatmaker's christmas gift giving advice: "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read." Thanks, BFF. What is your favourite practical or family friendly gift idea?


  1. Great, Great, Great ideas in this post!!! From now on I'm going to point people to this when they have questions! I love the suggestion to put the toiletries in tupperware too. A bonus gift! Great ideas! I know I would love them!

    1. Thanks, Stacey! I couldn't decide if I was writing this for other people or for myself. This year we've really had to dig deep for ideas (and give the grandparents pep talks, but they've all been so lovely and up for the challenge). Would love any other ideas/expertise you have!

  2. For flying families, a small gift bag for the plane with individually wrapped gifts (know what can and can't go on planes please!)for kids to open one every hour are nice.

    For one family, I made toddler sized blankets with a pocket on the back that the whole blanket folded into. Then I attached straps so the kid could carry them. Worked well for pillow or blanket on the plane, and as an added bonus, they worked good as a small tote place to throw those last minute things they were playing with or a sippy cup into as we exited the plane. (yup, such a great idea that I decided to make my own for my tribe, and it was wonderful!) As far as luggage limits go... as my dad said, no airline is going to take a blankie away from a small child. no. Especially if it means tears. And it was small, only about one foot by one foot.