One of the challenges of living life abroad is staying in touch with those you love back home. I must admit, it’s much easier today than it was ten years ago. Most people have Skype and Facebook. I can even use Gmail chat to “text” friends who are also signed in to chat.
And, while digital communication is marvelous, sometimes it’s nice to send (and receive!) something tangible. Sure, it’s possible to pick out a birthday card, scrawl a greeting, print out a photo or two, enclose it in the envelope, walk to the post office, stand in line, and mail the card.
But why would you want to?
As a furiously busy mama of three, I’d rather not freely give away my precious time to any of the above activities if at all possible. Luckily, I’ve found three companies that make my life easier – and my friends and family back home arguably happier.
Best for: photo cards and their free photo sharing site.
My first favorite is Shutterfly. Maybe you already love Shutterfly. If you don’t, here’s why you should: their photo cards rock.
Before moving to Germany, I only knew Shutterfly because of their kinda-pricey-but-decent-quality photo books. While these are great if you can get a coupon code or amazing Black Friday sale, chances are you won’t be sending photo books more than once or twice per year (and other companies have better deals when you factor in international shipping.. see below!).
But greeting cards? Those are a monthly staple. I don’t know about you, but I loathe picking out greeting cards. They are either too schmoopy, too cheesy, to childish, or too serious. I can’t stand it. I’d rather just see some photos of my favorite people, thank you very much.
Shutterfly’s cards are good quality, and a good price. Most cards are $2.99 or less, and you can jam as many photos as your heart desires on all surfaces of the card. I like the designs available, and I find them suitable for anyone on my list, old or young, male or female.
Shipping is reasonable for the cards, and Shutterfly will even mail the card to your recipient for you! The fees are fair, even for international.
Bonus – Shutterfly often gives out a code for a free card (CARD4U). This code resets every once in a while, so I always attempt to use it before purchasing my card.
And, just before I step off my I-heart-Shutterfly soapbox, may I also mention that with Shutterfly you can create a free photo sharing site? You simply upload your photos, password protect them, and then send an email to your friends and family with the details. Love it!
Best for: sending photo books anywhere in the world. Photo canvases if on sale.
Artscow is a company out of Hong Kong. I know, you’re thinking, what the junk yo?! Why would I want to order something from there?
Because they have tons of sales, and their shipping is the same price to anywhere in the world!
That being said, I only order their products on sale. The best deals are those that include free shipping or give you the product for free and you pay the shipping. Artscow always has a link to deals from their homepage. You can also find other sales and codes if you know where to look. Or if you ask me. Nicely.
Personally, my best luck with Artscow has been with their photo books. Their quality is satisfactory, or even better than that though if you consider that often I’m getting the books for nothing or next to it. Many a family member has received a photo book for Christmas from Artscow!
Tip: If you do decide to try Artscow for a gift, allow several weeks of lead time especially if ordering for Christmas. After all, the photo book will be coming from Hong Kong.
Full disclosure: I once ordered two sets of photo coasters. The colors were super saturated, and the glue adhering the photo-printed fabric to the non-stick pad had leaked in between coasters and mangled the image. But even without the damage, the quality was sub par. Personally, I’ll be sticking with the photo books.
Side note: Other folks have had a good experience with Artscow’s canvases when on super sale.
P.s.: I’m done now!
Best for: knocking out your holiday card list in one fell swoop.
I love sending Christmas cards. I really do enjoy designing the photo, and snapping together a little sentiment. But this year, with a baby, and an overloaded advent season, I knew I was not going to have any shred of time left to address envelopes – or put up with the post office for that matter.
Enter Amazing Mail! On a tip from another expat friend, I gave this new-t0-me company a shot. My first impression from their website was that they must be some kind of direct mail company. I thought, oh no, they make the stuff that most people directly recycle. I don’t want my holiday cards instantly tossed!
But the price just couldn’t be beat. It costs about the same amount to send a photo post card through Amazing Mail as it does to print, stuff, address, and mail a photo from Germany (adjusting dollars and euros to be equal). However, the time savings is huge. I could sit and design a photo and a message at my convenience, upload my addresses in an excel file, get an instant proof, and be done.
Feedback from friends and family was positive – the cards stood out and were of good quality. One drawback is that it isn’t possible to put an international address in the return address field. I know this is because the USPS won’t actually “return” the mail internationally. But, it’s still annoying. I got around this by placing the address in the message area.
Amazing Mail sends domestically and internationally, with acceptable rates for both.
What about you? Have you tried using Shutterfly, Artscow, or Amazing Mail for any of the services I mentioned? What other websites do you like for sending some love through the mail?
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are solely my own. I have not been paid or compensated in any way, and I do not currently use affiliate links. I only recommend products I have personally used. Happy sending!