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Gift Ideas To Give Your Volunteer Before They Leave

Posted by Lindsay Hall on 9/9/18 4:04 PM

gift ideas to give to your volunteer

Christmas presents, birthday presents, graduation gifts, farewell gifts - if you're anything like me, it's hard to come up with so many gift ideas! If your volunteer is preparing to leave for their semester abroad and you're looking for gift ideas, these things may just be the PERFECT present they've been hoping for.

Sending a child abroad is always hard, but it makes it just a little bit easier if you know your volunteer is prepared for their new adventure! There are different ways to make sure they're prepared -- helping them pick out the best luggage, making sure they know what to do if they lose their wallet or having a way to get a hold of each other in case of an emergency

We have the ultimate ILP Parent Guide to help guide you through the experience as well.

Best gifts for your international traveler:

Now, these gifts may seem a little strange to those who aren't preparing to leave the country for a little while, but you're just going to have to trust me -- your volunteer will consider these gifts invaluable while they're living abroad!

  • An insulted water bottle
  • Teaching supplies
  • A sturdy backpack
  • Good quality walking shoes
  • American snack basket
  • Travel neck pillow
  • Gift card for e-books
  • Portable charger
  • Nice head phones
  • A memento from home
  • Of course -- cash

An insulted water bottle

Water bottles are something every traveler needs. You can always purchase bottled water at the nearest 7/11 or convenience store while you travel, but that can get pretty pricey abroad (plus it's not so great for the planet anyways), so having a reusable water bottle to refill every day is key.

I would suggest getting an insulted water bottle, especially for hot weather countries. ILP volunteers will have access to filtered water at their home or school so that they can fill up, but it can quickly get warm in those humid countries. There's nothing worse than living in hot weather and having to drink warm water every day. 

These are our favorite water bottles to travel with

ILP adventure

Teaching supplies

ILP volunteers who are teaching will bring supplies with them, so giving them a goodie basket full of teaching supplies is a great gift!

Just as a heads up, we actually recommend that volunteers get their supplies donated because they don't need to be new (or expensive!). But, it can be nice to have some fun supplies or small toys to share with their kids. Just an idea!

A great backpack

Your ILP volunteer will have the opportunity to go on some pretty amazing vacations. They will mostly be living out of their backpacks during these trips, so having a good quality, decent sized, sturdy backpack is important.

There are different kinds of backpacks (ones intended for school, for hiking, traveling, etc). Make sure you look for one that is intended for hiking and traveling. They will have some extra features like chest clips to make carrying weight easier, more pockets and they will probably be a little bigger.

They have really big backpacker's backpacks and just normal size (maybe a little bigger than a school bag) backpacks. Unless your volunteer is planning on traveling for weeks out of a backpack, I'd go with the smaller version! 

Here are some of our favorite backpacks you can look into! 

Volunteers also love having a day-to-day backpack. So this would be a smaller one (like they would use at school at home) so that they can carry supplies to and from their ILP classes or just to have if they're riding their bikes to the market. Fjallraven backpacks are a HUGE hit right now and a great gift. You might want to check for deals on Amazon!

gift ideas to give your volunteer

Good quality walking shoes

Your volunteer is going to be walking A LOT. They will travel by public transportation and foot in their city and while on vacations. Save their feet some pain and get them some good quality walking shoes that have a lot of support. 

The type of shoes you will want to get them will depend on where in the world they are going. If they're going somewhere hot -- shoes like Chacos and Tevas will be the best. Somewhere cold? A nice pair of warm, water proof, insulated boots will be best! They may want to buy the boots there though, so check with them first.

Here are the best shoes we would recommend packing for an international trip!

American snack basket

Your volunteer will LOVE you if you gift them some American snacks for their trip. They may not know it yet, but those snacks will be a life saver when they are deep in the middle of their semester abroad. When you're out of your comfort zone, familiar things like snacks from home are so nice to have.

Things like Easy Mac, just add water chocolate chip cookie mixes, cheese flavored snacks, their favorite candy or any of these hard to find items will be the best! 

American snacks are one things almost every past ILP volunteer says they wish they had more of. 

gift ideas to give to your volunteer

Travel neck pillow

They are the best on those long flights and train rides.

Depending on your budget, you can find cheaper ones ($10) or you can find some nicer microfiber ones. It depends on preference, but IMO-- the firmer the neck pillow, the better. You want your pillow to totally support your head and keep it from falling all the way down to your shoulder (hello neck pain if you are in that position for too long).

You can find neck pillows all over the place, so just keep your eye out. Places like Target, Amazon, travel stores ... you name it.

Gift card for E-books

It can be for a Kindle book or an audio book depending on what your volunteer prefers! Like I mentioned earlier, your volunteer will have the amazing opportunity to travel around and will be on lots of long plane, train and bus rides. They will need some good entertainment.

I love Audible from Amazon. You don't need to buy an extra device like a Kindle because you can use their app right on your phone. There's a monthly fee of $15 and that gets them 1 book per month!

If your traveler loves to read, e-books and audio books are such a thoughtful idea.

Portable charger

They will be using their phones, tablets and computers a lot while they're abroad to keep in contact with you at home, read their new E-books, listen to music and just keep themselves entertained.

It'll be important for them to have an extra charging source for their vacations because we all know electronics don't hold charges for nearly long enough. 

Portable chargers are easy to find and there are some for every kind of device you'd need one for. Amazon has a great selection and great prices for these

gift ideas to give your volunteer

Nice head phones

I'm sure you've noticed a trend that a lot of these gifts will be the most useful when you're volunteer is traveling (because that happens quite a bit). A nice pair of head phones will make that traveling all the better! 

There are different kinds of head phones you'll have to chose from, so make sure you know what your volunteer prefers before getting them some! 

A memento from home

Just about every long term traveler gets home sick every now and then. It happens to everyone and it's nothing to worry about, but having a little memento from home can help them through that tough time. 

Some good mementos would be a nice picture of the family, something that will remind them of a good memory or even a hand written letter for them to read when they're down. 

If your volunteer is experiencing homesickness, here are some ways you can help them through it

Of course - cash

If in doubt, cash is one of the best gifts for a young traveler! You can never go wrong with this gift and it will be just as appreciated as anything else. 

gift ideas to give to your volunteer

Just keep in mind when buying gifts for your volunteer that they'll have limited packing space. Try and keep everything small and light and don't get them anything that will take up their whole suit case. 

Want some more tips like this? Did you know there's a whole section "For The Parents" on our blog? It's all about ILP for parents and making it easy for you. Make sure you check that out.

If you still have questions about ILP and want to speak to someone in the office who has participated with ILP before, click below!

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Topics: Semester Preparation, Travel Tips, For The Parents

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Hi! We are ILP, a non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. Check out our tips for making the most of your time traveling and living abroad.

ILP Semester Abroad

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