Summer break is approaching and lot of Indians in US will be travelling back to home. And like me, they will also be deciding on what gifts to carry from US to India that are appreciated by the receivers. It is a difficult decision to make as almost everything is available in India these days. You may want to pick that is affordable and yet, does not look too cheap either.
Here is a list of my top favorites that are not too heavy on the pocket and hopefully, recipients will like them. Most of this list excludes the costlier stuff that is above $50 (though some of the options below can also be scaled up to breach that mark). I assume that a pricier gift will usually be bought at someone’s request or will be a gift for someone special.
This will be for all the ladies of the house – moms (in-laws), sisters (in-laws), daughters (in-laws), nieces etc. Depending on their tastes and age, you can find both the Makeup and Skincare products. You have an option to buy products from luxury, premium or the drug store brands. Quality is good, variety is huge catering to numerous skin tones and you can pick latest products that usually take almost an year to launch in India.
Best time to buy:
If you have the luxury of time, pick these up during Thanksgiving sale and even better, in January – when these specially created holiday sets go on clearance. Almost all luxury brands that rarely offer products on Sale (NARS, Dior, Chanel, Sheseido) tend to provide some discount during the Black Friday. If these luxury brands seem out of budget for you, pick up Value sets offered by premium brands like MAC, Clinique, and Bobbi Brown. All these brands sell a lipstick over Rs 1500/- or a kajal worth Rs. 1000 in India. But in US, you can get full size value sets of 2-4 lipsticks, glosses, eye shadows on a very discounted price ($20-$35) making them way cheaper than what you pay in India. You can gift individual products from these sets to multiple people. Other brands in same category will be Bareminerals, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Estee Lauder, Urban Decay, Tarte, Too Faced and Lancome. Some of these may not be available in India though.
Edit: I tried a new skincare brand – Philosophy recently and it is so amazing. I bought 5 kits of exfoliating facewash and purity moisturizer for about $8 each on Sephora during a sale. Ended up using one, and lol :-).. I am now a non-celebrity endorser for these products.
Still looking for a cheaper option? Well you can buy products from drug store brands like NYX, Maybelline, Loreal, IT Cosmetics, Revolution Beauty (UK brand) and even Sephora or Ulta. With its glitzy stores already open in top malls, Sephora is a desired brand in India but products are much cheaper in US.
Important things to look for:
One – Buy only from a reputed store like Macys, Ulta, Sephora etc or directly from the brand store to avoid fakes. Don’t buy from E-bay.
Two – Check the Sale/Goodbyes/Last Chance sections of the websites. You can get further discounts on the value sets by combining offers.
Three – Check the size of the product in value sets. Sometimes, the value set is not worth buying because the amount of product in an individual item is not even quarter of a full size product and looks like a shampoo sachet.
Four – For most Indian skin tones, brighter lipstick shades are a better choice.
Last – Be wary of Indian customs allowance- they will value every item at the price for which it is available in India.
My Recommendation: I personally love Clinique both for quality and the fact that there are a ton of decent size free samples that you can gift too. You can buy both great skin care products and makeup from same place. I received requests for repeats from two people after their lipsticks got over :).
Another option is MAC lipstick, lip pencil and lip gloss sets launched during Thanksgiving. They are good quality and good size. Sometimes, you get good finds in MAC Goodbyes at 40% off.
Body care products
There is no dearth of options in this category. You can buy face creams, hand and body creams, age defying and firming solutions, sunscreens, body lotions, face masks, body oils, sulphate-free shampoos and conditioners, sunscreens and body mists. Some of the popular skincare brands are The Body Shop(TBH), Burt Bees, Bath & Body works, Victoria’s Secrets and Neutrogena etc. TBH runs sales campaigns like 40-50% off and Buy 3, Get 3 Free almost all through the year. You can also find these deals on BBW and VS, especially during January and June when they go on clearance.
I received requests for buying sunscreens from my nephew. Pick up some from Costco during summer sale.
There are many good companies like Braun, Remington, Phillips Norelco and Panasonic that offer electric epilators, shavers and razors. These are much in demand among the younger generation in India these days. You can look for deals in Target, Amazon, Walmart or even Costco for better quality products. Pick an year old version for a discount to save money or the latest one if your budget permits. Some of the latest models are not available in India. While shavers may be bought for $15-25, epilators will be a little on the higher side.
You can always pick Cotton T-shirts, but hey, most of these would have been manufactured in India only. The polyester blends are typically not much appreciated because of hot and humid Indian weather. But you can pick Tees and Shirts for people greater than XXL as large sizes are not easily available in India.
You can buy branded jeans which cost between Rs 2000-5000/- in India. Head to nearest Ross or Marshalls and you can pick Lee & Levis for as little as $7-20. For kids, you can shop endearing & cute styles at Carters, Oshkosh B’gosh, Old Navy, Gymboree and GAP Baby and GAP Kids.
Another piece of clothing that can be bought are Jackets. You can pick from the GAP brands (Old Navy, GAP, GAP Factory), H&M, Lands’ end or Champion. Most of the time, these brands are offering some sort of discounts. I am in Southern California, so it is hot for most part of the year and jackets are almost always on sale. Ross & Marshall are always the options though. If you are not from North India and thinking that jackets are not for you. Think again. You can pick amazing windbusters/windbreakers for the kids. I had an all season rain jacket from C9 by Champion for my son and it is so light and usable in India during rainy or lightly cold days. It has lasted us for over two years now and my son could wear it even during sunny California days.
You can also pick swimwear for kids. Most good quality swimwear you find in India is from US based brands and is pretty expensive, especially, for women. Also, there is a huge variety in terms of colors, style, coverage, UVA protection and size.
Dresses and dressy jackets/cardigans for girls are good options too. They are available in so many styles, sizes and for many occasions. You can also pick cute hats, visors and caps.
Athletic or Sports Shoes
You can buy these shoes for anyone in the family.
KIDS: There is huge variety of cute shoes for the kids. Piece of advice: when in doubt, pick a bigger size – their feet grow very fast.
FOR ADULTS: I bought walking and running shoes for my in-laws. They love to walk/exercise in the morning. Since my mom-in-law suffers from arthritis, she loved those comfortable Skechers shoes.
Look out for the premium stores close to your location and you can find great deals on mostly all major brands (Adidas, Nike, Skechers, ASICS) offering a huge variety. Depending on the brand and shoe style, you have many options ranging from $15-$50. Recently, I noticed that Ross is also offering similar discounts at my location (however, the variety is limited).
You can also buy shoes online from sites which offer discounts year round. Some of these sites are:
Chocolates & confectioneries
I had come to associate Hersheys nuggets, mini snickers and kisses with the arrival of anyone from US. They are a favorite for people returning from US because they are easy to carry, one can buy lots without burning a hole in your pocket and everyone’s favorites. They are good for kids in the house, children of friends as well as for your colleagues at office.
If you are okay to splurge a bit, you can also buy some of the premium chocolates like Lindt and Ghirardelli. You can get great offers for these awesome chocolates on their websites if you are planning to buy in bulk. Lindt and Ghirardelli have their retail stores as well providing same offers as their websites but the stores are limited. Ross and Marshalls provide the small 10 pcs. packets for about $2.5-3.5.
Tip – You can sometimes get about 60-70% discounts on seasonal chocolates from Lindt or Ghirardelli websites after the festival is over. Like the bunny shaped chocolates they launch before Easter will be available at a steep discount immediately after that.
Another option will be sugarfree chocolates.
You can also pick stuff like Rice Krispies, Granola bars, marshmallows for the kids.
Also pancake mixes are cheaper and yummy options.
For my most dearest ones, watches make a perfect gift. You can buy watches of major US brands at steep discounts. Most of the big retail stores keep providing offers on these brands all year round, with best deals thrown in during Thanksgiving, Christmas and mid-January. Of course, you can buy watches from Swiss or Japanese brands but I did not find great discounts when compared to the US based watch makers.
Major US watch makers:
Fossil, Michael Kors, Citizen, Timex, Tapestry brands( Coach, Kate Spade ), Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Bulova
You can also buy smartwatches from Apple, Samsung or Fossil depending on what handset your loved one is using in India. You can also look for hybrid smartwatches under $125 if you are tight on budget.
Some of the brands like INC, Nine West, U.S, Polo Assn etc offer beautiful watches from $20-50 in sale. You can also pick the watches and cute looking alarm clocks for Kids in stores from $5 onwards.
Word of caution: Buy only from reliable retail stores. And be aware, that warranties may not hold good in India. Some brands do offer global warranties but that may not be easy to find. But then we do take those risks with iPhones and laptops too. Also, if you have time, it is better to go to store and pick the watches in person- saves a ton of headache if (the size or width or looks of) the watches ordered online do not turn up as per expectations.
A pretty common and well-received gift for any of your family members. Whatever is said in the section above for watches, holds true for perfumes too. Just remember, perfumes are mostly a personal choice. IF you plan to just pick any high-end perfume as a gift, ensure that its fragrance is not TOO strong. Stay clear of discount websites and only buy from reputed ones or directly from the brand store.
Some of the body care brands like Bath & Body Works and Victoria’s secrets also offer good perfumes and body mists at decent prices. Macy’s also offer perfume value sets all year round.
Fitness gear and accessories
Indians are now spending a lot on fitness. If there is a fitness enthusiast in your house, you can buy sports gear like Fitbit, active wear clothes, caps, visors or protein supplements/bars for them. There are arm and waist bands available for storing phones and keys on the run.
For all the little ones in the house, you can pick stuffed toys as well as educational or battery operated toys. Building blocks are available both for toddlers (Mega Bloks) and young kids (Lego, Mega Construx, VEX). You can also find small drones, helicopters, cars in battery operated toys. There are figurines that you can buy, or fun toys and safety gear for pools. Options are endless and there is something to suit every budget.
Other things that we take as spare gifts (some of which can be used by us if we could not gift them) are:
- Honey (smaller size bottles so that they can be gifted to different people)
- Dried fruits like california almonds, apricot, cranberry, nuts (macadamia and brazil nut is not found in India easily)
- Bluetooth wireless speakers
- Branded/Unbranded Handbags for women – You can buy discounted branded bags from Ross/Marshalls/Macys.
- Kitchen Accessories
- Knife sets
- Non-stick pans and pots – most people are turning to stainless steel utensils now in India after Aluminium is declared unsafe. You may buy discounted steel cookware sets from Cuisinart and Belgique brands (I have used Cuisinart and its beautiful and easy to clean).
- Timers, Herb cutting scissors, Garlic crushers, dicers and slicing mandolins
- Good quality Cutting boards (beautiful glass boards are available)
- Freezer sticks or packs for water bottles or lunch boxes (these packs have been life savers on long road trips in US for us. Check these links: https://www.target.com/p/bentgo-ice-lunch-chillers-4pk-purple/-/A-53295244
- Multivitamins (you can buy these in the form of gummies for kids)
Disclaimer: These are just somethings I bought for my family & friends and I think they liked the gifts. Use your judgement, look at online reviews and buy things that suit your budget. And yes,I am not paid by any of the brands mentioned above to endorse any product. 😊