Your baby-adult is off to college, but you can still be a rock star parent from afar by sending a care package. Unlike showing up unexpectedly for the weekend, a surprise care package will make you popular with your child — and their friends. Skim our genius list of ideas below for inspiration year-round.
Make-it-Easy Packing Tips
- Stockpile boxes to reuse (shoeboxes, online retail boxes).
- Securely tape a piece of paper on top of the old address if you’re re-using a box, and write the new address on the paper.
- Crumple up paper or junk mail to use as stuffing in the box.
- Keep padded envelopes on hand for small packages.
- Hate standing in post office lines? In most regions you can ship boxes under a certain weight right from your home. Go online to the USPS website to verify that you can schedule a package pickup. For this, you will also need a small digital postal scale.
- Cover the box in wrapping paper during a birthday month.
- Consider an express shipping method if you’re shipping homemade treats.
- No time? Research online websites and have someone else do it for you.
- Ask a grandparent or a special aunt, uncle or godparent to send a care package. Genius!
Ideas for Every Season
August: Back-to-school basics (and beyond)
It’s back-to-school time, and whether you have a freshman or senior, a little love from home always helps. Since the first week or two means a little extra goof-off time (no major assignments yet), back-to-school goodies and warmer weather essentials are perfect.
- Summer clearance sales! Send your child a new pair of flip-flops or sandals
- Pedicure gift card
- Mace or safety whistle
- Gasoline gift card
- Restaurant or movie gift card for date night
- Mints and gum
- Whiteboard with clip-on dry erase marker for room door
- Ship large items that were missing on move-in day (bean bag, lap desk)
September: Homesick for summertime
The semester is ramping up, and stress levels are increasing. Home and summer days are way behind college students now. It’s time for a little memento or some shopping therapy.
- Handmade “miss-you” card from a sibling
- Favorite homemade cookies or snacks
- Framed photograph
- A memento from his/her room at home
- Gift card to most frequented clothing store, for fresh fall clothes
- LED Reading light (for studying late at night when roomie is snoozing)
- Rolls of quarters for laundry or vending machines
- Fun office supplies — colored sticky notes, sparkly pens, etc.
Organize all your dorm room needs with a sign up! SAMPLE
October: Fall weather’s calling, but it’s study time on campus
The beautiful fall days are here, but your little angel will have a lot to get done this month with midterms approaching. A Halloween pick-me-up will help, along with fresh toiletries and foods. Who has time to go to the grocery store?
November/December: Homeward bound
- Favorite Halloween candy
- Silly Halloween makeup kit or wig
- Fall nail polish or eye shadow colors
- Clothing store coupons
- Warmer socks (seriously!)
- Workout pants or shirt
- New toiletries or medicines: toothpaste, toothbrush, flossers, contact lens solution, razors, face or bar soap, acne prevention, deodorant, ibuprofen, cortisone or antibiotic cream
- More food items: K-cups, protein bars, nuts, chips, dried fruit, mac-n-cheese, low-fat popcorn, water flavoring drops, applesauce packs
The weather’s chilly and stress levels have peaked, with exams and whopper assignments due. Your kiddo is coming home soon for winter break! Send some new cold weather gear, exam munchies and maybe an early present.
- Cash (it’s always the right size and color)
- Plane ticket if they’re far from home
- New phone case
- New fall clutch/wristlet purse/wallet
- Hat and gloves
- Rain or snow gear
- Christmas candy
- Holiday decorations (cheesy/funny ones)
- iTunes or coffee gift card
- Munchies: chocolate covered espresso beans, energy bars, favorite candy
Carpool, anyone? With a sign up, you’ll have your car filled up in a jiffy! SAMPLE
January: Hibernation month
It’s cold out there, and everyone is back to their caves. New Year’s resolutions replace holiday cheer. Your little nugget might have some extra time at the start of the semester to squeeze in a workout — or have hangout sessions with friends.
- Send their roomie or significant other a favorite food (genius!)
- Extra gloves, socks, hats
- Cozy throw blanket
- Cold medicine, lip balm, hand lotion
- Restaurant or movie gift card for date night
- Favorite movie DVD
- Fitness band or DVD
- New workout shoes for gym
February: Romance is in the air (along with germs and a few snowflakes)
It’s chocolate month, but the semester is in full swing. College kids are in close quarters and immune systems are down, so expect a sniffly call (or text). Try sending winter comforts and healthy food.
- Make homemade granola bars containing healthy supplements, such as flax seeds, raisins or nuts
- Vitamins or vitamin-enhanced water
- Favorite Valentine’s Day candy
- Handmade Valentine’s Day card from a sibling
- Insulated coffee cup or hot chocolate K-cups
- Refresher on food and toiletries (see October tips)
- Winter clearance sales! Ship a new winter coat, boots or rain coat
- Addressed, stamped envelopes to send a handwritten note to a sibling or grandma and grandpa (hint hint)
Recruit student volunteers and plan campus events. SAMPLE
March: Gettin’ some spring break on!
The heart of the semester is here, but students are still thinking about spring break! If home isn’t on the to-do list, some fresh food and toiletry items will help — and so will vacation items.
April/May: It seems like just yesterday they left home …
- Pre-paid Visa or MasterCard Gift Card for spring clothes
- Cash or gasoline gift card for spring break
- Green shirt for St. Patrick’s Day
- Allergy medicines, nail polish or lipstick in spring colors, fresh toiletry items, new toothbrush, hair accessories
- Sunglasses, summer jewelry item, new sports sandals or flip flops
- Sunscreen and bathing suit catalog
- Favorite magazine for reading on the beach
- Cashews, pistachios, dried fruit, granola bars
Fire up the laundry machine and clear a space! They will be home with all their stuff before you know it. April and May bring warmer weather, Easter, job interviews and exams. Send one last package, and it might just get them through to the end.
- Favorite Easter basket candy
- Religious keepsake
- Homemade slices of favorite cake, double wrapped for freshness
- Suitable clothing items for a summer or full-time job interview (gasp!)
- Grocery store or all-purpose gift card (online or retail)
- Munchies (Animal crackers, dessert cereal, popcorn, gum)
- Squishy stress ball
- Energy drinks
- Collapsible bags for packing up belongings
- Anti-bacterial wipes for cleaning up rooms before checkout
Remember, it’s the thought that counts. No matter what you send, your child will be thrilled that you’re thinking of them and sending love.
Emily Mathias is a freelance writer living in Charlotte, NC.