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November 1, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

What should I get my kind, but difficult to shop for in-laws for Christmas? More details inside.

My in-laws are visiting us in early December and we'll be exchanging gifts at that time. The number one requirement is that the gift be something that can travel back with them. We've done gift cards a few years in a row now, but they do the same for us and it's getting kind of bland. I would like to do something different, but I can't think of other options.

My in-laws are well off and don't really need anything. My father-in-law is a former naval officer and likes to be handy around the house. My mother-in-law loves super healthy things and is a bit of a world traveler.

Any suggestions for suitcase friendly gifts?
posted by shesbookish to Shopping (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have kids or pets? Last year I gave my in-laws a custom-printed calendar with pictures of our dogs and they loved it. (But, for the record -- they also love our dogs.) They bring it up every time we see them and have mentioned several times they'd love another one this year. If you don't have kids or pets, photos of you & your husband and trips you've taken (or even vintage family photos) could be used instead.
posted by kate blank at 4:31 PM on November 1, 2008

Silk scarf; travel game/Sudoku/GamyBoy Advance with Brain Age or other travel games for MIL (big hit last Christmas with 55-70 yos on my husband's side)

Laser thermometer (most popular gift evah among my handy male relatives) for FIL - allows him to see where heat is leaking out of his house in winter
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:32 PM on November 1, 2008

Can you sign them up for a "something of the month club" home delivery. It's more personal than a gift certificate, but they won't need to pack it. Club-offers.com has a lot of different options for fruit, cheese or wine.
posted by saffry at 4:38 PM on November 1, 2008

How about tickets to a play, musical, opera, or similar event in their area?
posted by peep at 4:43 PM on November 1, 2008

I second the fruit-of-the-month club... Harry & David has a nice "light size" that is perfect for two people. It's what I got my inlaws last year and what we'll get them again this year. It's not really a take-away gift, but you can at least give them a card telling them what they will receive. Personally, I love nothing more than a wonderful piece of delicious fruit in the dead of winter. It's quite a treat.

Other than that, how about a magazine or journal subscription? You can order the subscription but give them a copy of the magazine or journal as a take-away.

I was thinking the edges-only brownie pan would be a fun gift to get my co-workers. Kitchen gadgets often are good gifts, even for the person who has everything, because there are so many specialized kitchen gadgets. Just peek into a Williams-Sonoma catalog and you'll see what I mean.
posted by FergieBelle at 4:47 PM on November 1, 2008

There's also flowers of the month, or even bacon of the month (check out Zingermanns). My parents love the "weather station" gadget we got them last year -- you put part outside and it gives you temp and humidity, plus tells you sunrise, sunset, etc. It's pretty small when it's unpacked.
posted by dpx.mfx at 5:17 PM on November 1, 2008

i was coming in to suggest the of the month gifts.

if you know where her next travel destination will be you can get her a phrase book or some other "make your trip better" sort of memento...for him, a good stud finder or a device that he can measure the electrical output of the computers/clocks/tvs in the house
posted by nadawi at 5:56 PM on November 1, 2008

As a professional organizer who sees way too many not-quite-right gifts that wind up as clutter:

I like the of-the-month club ideas for foods and such, assuming you know their tastes. The personalized calendar and the tickets are nice ideas, too. And "stuff" can certainly be good, if you're pretty sure it's stuff they'll really enjoy.

A few more thoughts:

How about membership in a museum in their area?

What about a gift certificate from a masseuse or esthetician in their area, assuming you can find a recommendation for a good one?

Not everyone likes this idea, but some people love it: doing something like adopting a manatee or giving a Gift of Service from Seva.
posted by jeri at 6:19 PM on November 1, 2008

I have had good results giving Netflix.
posted by what-i-found at 11:14 PM on November 1, 2008

I'm with Jeri -- I have some friends and family who don't really *need* anything, so we've decided that together we will donate to an organization like Heifer International or Kiva, for those people who do have very basic needs that aren't being met.
posted by runningwithscissors at 9:34 AM on November 2, 2008

Along the lines of making a donation in their name, your retired naval officer might like a gift to an organization that's restoring a historic US Navy ship. You can find several by Googling - I don't know anything about them so I won't endorse any one in particular, but the USS Forrest Sherman, a fast destroyer commissioned in 1955, is being restored, as is the USS Joseph P Kennedy, a "tin can" that was commissioned at the end of WWII. A ship that was in active service during his heyday might be especially nice, if you can find one.

There are lots of non-Navy historic ships being restored, too, like Liberty ships, sailing vessels, etc.
posted by Quietgal at 11:36 AM on November 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much for the variety of answers, everyone! I'll comment again once Mr. Shesbookish and I decide on gifts.
posted by shesbookish at 1:49 PM on November 2, 2008

posted by Mephisto at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2008

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