Gifts for Visitors & Travel

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Gift idea for UK family we'll be visiting

May 2012

During a longer trip this summer, we are planning to spend the day visiting a family in the UK that we got to know when they were living in Berkeley for 3 years. We'd like to take them a small gift, something California-ish that they can't get there. Their kids are 11, 6, and 1. It can't be perishable or weigh too much. No wine - don't want to pack it. Maybe something that the whole family would enjoy. Any suggestions? a mom

My family likes to get little fancy bottles of maple syrup and the guys like salami. Fridge magnets of California beauty spots and parks are popular because there are not many nice fridge magnets in the UK. Also we found a monopoly game which featured US national parks-it's a little bulky but not heavy. Be aware that gifts brought in to the UK may be charged import tax if they are over a certain value and the duty free allowance for persons from outside the European Union is smaller. Frequent flyer

Take Giants hats or hoodies. They'll love them! Worked for me

Scharfenberger chocolate. That's a ''it came from Berkeley'' treat that everyone can enjoy. The milk chocolate is the most family-friendly. Actually, get a canister of their light-weight hot coco mix. Enjoy! Berkeley lover

I would go to Fisherman's Wharf in the city, where there are TONS of inexpensive shops that sell all kinds of memorabilia that say ''California'' on them. Key chains, T-shirts, and more stuff that you wouldn't think of...lots of personalized stuff too, so you could maybe find little trinkets with their names on them. Or...near the university there are similar shops that sell ''Berkeley'' memorabilia, but I'd guess they're a little pricier. heidilee

Have you asked them what they miss about the US? When we lived in the UK last year, I could not find decent peanut butter, graham crackers, marshmallows or Ranch dressing anywhere, so when friends came to visit that is what I asked them to bring. I also missed Peets coffee. Are there any candies that the kids miss? We are going back to visit the UK this summer, and I will bring back my favorite teas and chocolates. AmeriBrit

Does See's Candies or sourdough french bread count as perishable?? I don't know a person in the world who would not be happy to recieve See's. And, of course you are not going to find real sourdough anywhere except our west coast. mouth watering

American play money, American candy (there's is better, but ours is different; tootsie pops, rootbeer or peanut butter flavor, mixed bags, See's) Native American theme anything (a paper village they can all build together, Dover makes some good ones) a light weight puzzle of the US where each piece is a state, CA or Berkeley ( or whatever your town is) tshirts are crazy cheap at walgreens, like 4 for ten bucks! CA seeds if they are gardeners. My Irish family like pancake mix and maple syrup but it's heavy. Have a wonderful time! fellow traveller

Hi, Our UK family members love:
-maple syrup
-Jelly Belly jelly beans
-USA tshirts - the kinds that come out in target/old navy for 4th july celebrations.
-Reeses Chocolate
-Pez candies
-ghirardelli chocolate

I guess my family has a sweet tooth! We bring packages like this back every summer, and they always request more! Cathy Have fun!

They don't know about s'mores in the UK. Our Irish friends LOVED them, so I sent them a s'more's kit. Apparently they don't have graham crackers, so include an extra box along with the directions. They invited friends over to try this US treat. Meredith

Gift to family in Bordeaux and London

June 2011

My daughter and I are visiting the family she lived with for 6 months when she was on semester abroad. Does anyone have ideas for gifts? My daughter's French mom likes to cook and read English books, and I have already sent her some books. Also, I am visiting a friend in London and I appreciate any ideas such as a restaurant for a gift certificate. Thank you Judy

Given their love of cooking and ability to read English, I would suggest American cuisine cookbooks, such as Southern, New Orleans/Creole, New England, classic San Francisco, or American comfort foods. Also, speciality foods such as maple syrup, dried cranberries (brought cranberries to a French friend last year who said that she'd been wanting to do a recipe with cranberries but couldn't find cranberries ANYWHERE in Paris!), Louisiana hot sauce, real grits, or high end spice blends/mixes. A bottle of zinfandel wine (particularly late harvest)would also be a nice gift.

Also, a nice photo of YOUR family would also probably be appreciated - especially if taken in front of a landmark such as the Golden Gate bridge. Karen H.

Our daughter brought a ''Cal'' stadium blanket as a present when she studied abroad through UCB. Ed

Local stuff makes great gifts. Try They have California/western soaps and teas that pack easily. Other ideas: UC Berkeley tshirt or other gear, California olive oil, California photo book or calendar. Have fun shopping. Tiffany

Gift for friends traveling to Asia?

Nov 2008

Dear friends of our are traveling to Asia soon (Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos). I'd like to give them a bon voyage care package of little practical items that will be useful to them on the trip. But I've never visited any of these countries, or done much overseas travel at all. What should I give them? -Friend of Globetrotters

As someone who has lived in Southeast Asia, although not the countries you mention, this is the stuff I bring with me when I go traveling there: wipes, sunscreen, small hand lotion, bandaids, travel pak kleenex, ibuprofen, pepto bismol tablets, Zantac, oral rehydration packets(although these can be bought there), favorite toothpaste, dental floss. In other words, toiletries and over-the-counter stuff that may be hard to find there, or that aren't made to my own preference (band aids in particular are something I always bring tons of). Not the most glamorous gift, but it's the kind of things that you end up having to go to Long's for on your way to the airport! SEA person

I organized tours to Asia in my past life. Here are my picks: The Travelers' Tales books on those countries: short anecdotal stories by travel writers and journalists that make for fun reading on the trip. Light weight, folding umbrellas. We bought a folding seat that could be used as a walking stick when folded up for my travel partner who was older and had bad knees. It was an absolute life saver in the heat while waiting in lines or just resting. Tons of people asked us where we had gotten it (The Travel Store on-line). A gift basket with gold bond powder, wet wipes, waterless hand sanitizer, small flash lights, extra batteries, dried fruits, nuts and granola bars, and heavy duty sun screen (all travel size). kathryn

Pepto Bismal--its amazingly hard to find when you need it and nothing works like it. Get the tablets, they pack better. Baby powder is really great in hot humid countries. It's nice to have your own sheets and pillowcases, esp. if your friends are traveling on the cheap--some travel stores sell a set of thin silk sheets that fold up very small. A small photo album with pictures of their families and friends to show to their new acquaintances (people love to see these). former Asia traveler

Bay Area gift for birth mother in London

Sept 2004

I'm going to meet my birth mother for the first time at the end of September. We've been in contact since February, but this will be our first face-to-face meeting. I'd like to take her a little gift. She lives in London and has for 20+ years, is very worldly and cool (NOT a snob nor rich) and of course she has access to lots of cool stuff there; what I'd like is to give her something small (she's going to have to schlep it home to London from Missouri where we're meeting), a unique ''Bay Area'' kind of thing, but it has to be really cool and not mass- produced (not along the lines of Pottery Barn candlesticks, pretty as they may be). I also don't want to spend a ton of money. I'm thinking something that a local artist has made . . . probably not jewelry because that's so personal . . . any suggestions? (P.S. not looking for advice about the meeting itself, got that covered, thanks, just want gift advice!) Laura

You know you can give her the tackiest, stupidest thing possible and because it's from YOU she'd love it forever. And I know there's also the need to impress and ''prove'' yourself, but hey, there are a lot of really ''uncool'' people in London too! (Lived there - I know!). Go with something that says YOU - not SF/Bay Area - something YOU love, something you made, something you admire. I think a beautifully framed photo of you would be THE best by far. Easy, touching, something she'd proudly display or keep somewhere close and look at it and say ''That's MY *child*'' Ellen

How about a nice bottle of wine? For many gifts, I go into my local wine store in Montclair and ask for a suggest of a bottle of wine that someone wouldn't be able to get outside of the Bay Area. The only problem is, the bottles are usually at least $40. And, you have to know if alcohol is an issue or not. But, for the wine-friendly, it has brought joy to many people I know. Anonymous

There are lots of nice, locally-made hand-crafted albums (hand- tooled leather or hand-made from paper or fabric). Why not get one of those and head down to the scrap-book place on 4th Street in Berkeley and make a lovely scrap book for your birth Mother, with photos of you growing up, special events in your life, and anything else that would reflect your unique self? For example, if you like to hike in Tilden, you could include a map from the East Bay Regional Parks. Or include a copy of the program for a play you were in as a kid in school, maybe even copies of report cards, a used BART ticket if you ride BART a lot--you get the idea. You could also wri! te in the book about what was going on at the time or what you were thinking about or what your favorite songs were at that point in your life. She probably would love to have such a memento. Becky

Congratulations! I suggest locally-produced, easily transportable food, like Scharffen Berger chocolate (don't leave in a hot car), fancy local olive oil like McEnvoy, or Frog Hollow dried apricots or preserves. Sure, it won't be an everlasting keepsake, but almost everyone likes gourmet food. David

Of course you know that you are probably her greatest ''gift'' ever and she hardly needs more. However, I was thinking maybe a nice framed picture of you as a young person or something that you have made, sewn ,written, drawn, etc.... Keep it personal. Best of luck to you

I would suggest finding a shawl or nice scarf--something handmade. There are some amazing artisans here in the Bay Area who work with textiles. Last Christmas I took a number of scarves to England as gifts for not-so-near relatives and they were a big hit. nzh

How about a nice bottle of California wine? anon

Small gifts for French families we are visiting

July 2002

In various guises (as renters, new relatives, home exchangers), we will be meeting a number of families in France this summer. We have already had such pleasant communications with them all that we would like to take small gifts to them. What items could we bring from the U.S. that would be appreciated by French children (from 13 mos. to 18 years of age)? The smaller, lighter, and cheaper, the better! We are at a loss for ideas. Siobhan

As a high school exchange student, I needed to take small gifts that not only met your criteria but also represented where I was from. This may not be what you have in mind, and I was going to a third world country so French children may not be as pleased as my gift recipients were, but I brought: a cardboard puzzle map of the US, t-shirts and other cheap San Francisco tourist items like keychains from Chinatown, books of postcards showing where I lived, small items (coin purse, eye pillow) made from kimono silk from a Japanese giftshop because Japan is very exotic and interesting in the country where I was on exchange (and to me things Asian are an important part of what makes the SF area great), UC Berkeley souvenirs (pencils, book marks), and some crisp one dollar bills. It was very handy to have on hand a number of extra things for children I met in my travels. Charis

When choosing gifts for my husband's family in France, I've had a lot of luck with American Indian items -- beaded jewelry, dreamcatchers, T-shirts, etc. My favorite store is Gathering Tribes on Solano, and I've also found items at Bill's Trading Post on College at Ashby, and the gift shop of the anthropology museum on campus. Jennifer M

It may be polically incorrect, but the french boys loved the monster-type transformers we bought them. Lisa N.