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Author: Sean Keener

Buying Stuff While on the Road

Even if you’re the most minimalist of packers around, at some point during your RTW trip, you are going to want to buy something. Whether it’s a tapestry to bring home for your house or apartment, some silk scarves for your mom and sister, or a giant hammock to put in the back yard, you will purchase something for yourself or a loved one during your trip.
But since you have to carry everything with you on your back, choosing what and when to purchase something can be difficult. RTW trips are much different than a vacation, so simply purchasing a bunch of stuff and bringing it back to your room until you leave for the airport simply isn’t going to work. Lugging an extra bag or two of presents and things for home makes traveling by bus or train a little more difficult. Since you are always on the move during a RTW trip, a strategy is necessary.

When to Buy Something

Unfortunately whenever you want to purchase anything on your trip, you’re going to have to strategize. You can’t just up and buy whatever you want when you want. If you do, you’re going to find yourself with double or triple the luggage in no time at all, which is problematic when on a RTW trip and being constantly on the move.
Luckily you can plan ahead for situations like this, and that’s exactly what you’re going to have to do when you purchase stuff on the road. If you know a particular city is good for shopping or is well known for something specific that you or a family member would love, then plan ahead.
Look into shipping stuff home – how to do it, how much it costs, how long it takes, etc. Add a little extra into your budget for buying souvenirs and shipping them home, particularly if you plan on doing a lot of shopping. Even if you pay an extra shipping cost, if you got a great deal on something, then it’s still worth it (more on shipping souvenirs home later).

If you know that a family member or friend is coming to visit you at some point, then wait until they arrive and send a bag or two home with them. Unfortunately with the rising costs of checking and bringing luggage on planes, this option is getting more and more costly. Depending on where you’re sending it from, though, and it still may be cheaper to pay the extra checked baggage fee than ship it home.
You can always wait until the end of your trip to stock up as well. When we were on our RTW trip, we bought a ton of stuff in India as we knew it was our last stop. We hoped to send a package home, but the cost was ridiculous, and it just made more sense to deal with one extra bag for the last few weeks than pay to ship it home.

How to Ship Items Home

Every country is different, but it shouldn’t be terribly difficult to ship items home after you purchase them. Now you’re not going to want to do this with a few t-shirts or a couple small items, but once you get a good collection of stuff together and are looking for extra bags to carry it all, it might be time to check into shipping a box or two home.
The best strategy is to head to the post-office wherever you’re at. Hopefully you’re in a country where your language is spoken. If not, then you want to look into other options. But even in places like Thailand and India, we didn’t have any problems finding someone who spoke English to help us.
Once at the post office, ask what your options are. Chance are you won’t be home for a while, so sending it by the slowest method possible, usually by sea, is perfectly fine. The slowest method is obviously the cheapest, too. Even if the package is scheduled to be home after you, who cares? It’s probably not something you need anyway, so who cares if you have to wait a month or two. When it does arrive, you’ll be ecstatic to get it, and it will be like Christmas!
The post office will usually have plenty of boxes and packing materials for you, too, so don’t sweat having to find these things yourself. If you’re in a city that is known for its shopping (like Hoi An in Vietnam, known for it’s plethora of tailors and cheap, custom, hand-made suits), keep in mind they do this all the time, so shipping home is extremely easy. It may also pay to wait until you get to a big, international city like Bangkok or Delhi or Buenos Aires than shipping from a small town. Always explore your options.
Shipping souvenirs home is possible from nearly anywhere in the world, and the process for doing it is not very difficult. It would be a shame to travel for such a long time and not have anything at all to remember it by other than your pictures, so get a strategy together for buying and getting things home.
Photo credits: 1, 2
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