Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

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BIG gift box tradition

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We all have our own traditions. Some of our traditions are similar, but don’t we all have some that are just our own?

My mother and her friend, Polly, used to love sending BIG boxes of little gifts. Some might think they were traditional “care packages,” but they were more than that. They would send them to say “thank you” or “congratulations,” when someone had a baby, to a friend who was sick, to a family member who needed a pick-me-up, and often, for no reason at all. We considered it a tradition. I remember receiving gigantic shipping boxes (the kind people use to pack things when they move) FULL of stuff…sometimes there might have been 50 little things in one box! They were so much fun to receive, so it is something I have continued. Once I started putting them together, I realized how much fun it is!

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There are all sorts of ways to put these gift boxes together. The main thing is to consider the recipient and the message you want to convey. You can make it about the recipient, or you can just make it completely silly.

Recently I visited another city, and a friend hooked me up with some special things to do in her city. Since she has never visited Charlotte (and I would love for her to visit), when I got home, I put together a gift box of Charlotte/North Carolina products. Some of it was to entice her into visiting: a big coffee table book with beautiful photos of Charlotte, a copy of Our State Magazine, and some bourbon-infused honey bottled in Charlotte (it’s so good, she might walk to Charlotte for it!). I added some fun Charlotte stuff too: highball glasses with “704” on them, a North Carolina embroidered dish towel, and a Charlotte t-shirt with a dead penguin on it (For the story behind the dead penguin, click here. To order a t-shirt, click here.)Then, I added some things that have nothing to do with Charlotte, but they are  some of my favorite small gifts.

IMG_0149One of the favorite things I included was a Couch Guest Book. It’s completely silly. When I first saw it in Paper Skyscraper in Charlotte, I found it amusing, and then I remembered sitting on the couch in my friend’s office.  In this guest book, the pages aren’t blank. There are questions, one of which is, “What are you thinking (while sitting on the couch)?” It also asks who is with you and some other silly questions. I filled out the first page and put the book in the box. You can find them at Paper Skyscraper on East Blvd, in Charlotte, or order one here.

IMG_5523Another of my favorite things I sent her was a Dry Divas Shower Cap. It had nothing to do with my visit, but I posted about it on Instagram back on December 14. Some of you thought I was nuts. How can a shower cap be post-worthy? Well, this one is. I’ve purchased lots of shower caps, and none of them kept all my hair secure. I’ve used those dreadful hotel shower caps that some people use to cover food in their refrigerators. Maybe they work for covering food, but they don’t keep hair dry. I have a lot of hair, so I need a good shower cap that fits snugly and holds up in steam. The Dry Divas Shower Cap does, and it looks pretty too, as they are all styled in a pretty print with a jewel on the front. You can buy them directly from drydivas.com here, but some are on sale right now at Neiman Marcus here.

Mother and  Polly were really good at finding little knick-knacks, and they were always on the lookout for things when they were out. I try to tailor the knick-knacks to the recipient, just as they did. When I was in college, my mother sent me big boxes all the time. Often they contained nonperishable snacks, a t-shirt, some socks, cough drops, pens, candy, pencils, erasers, magazines, books…anything she thought I might use. Most of the time, she added some silly things to make me laugh…silly sleep shirts or crazy socks. I loved coming in from class and finding a big box from her, because I knew it would be full of fun!

kira-auf-der-heide-330895.jpg We all have those friends and family members who are difficult to categorize. Here are some themes to consider: college teams, professional teams, favorite sports, favorite foods, hobbies (golf, tennis, travel, reading, knitting, etc), occupation…the possibilities are endless. Maybe there is a holiday or pseudo-holiday coming up…even if it’s just Groundhog Day, you can come up with something. Once, when I knew a friend had a big European vacation coming up, I made of box of travel-related items (sewing kit, compass, travel size toiletries, sleep mask, ear plugs, etc), and I since I had some map wrapping paper, I wrapped each gift individually.

Whatever you do, stuff it full of goodies. It’s what Mother and Polly used to do. It was always fun to dig through the boxes. The more you can stuff in there, the more fun it is for the recipient.

Most of all, I love this tradition, because it brings JOY to the person on the receiving end. I feel sure most people are flattered someone assembled a crazy gift box for them.

If you decide to send a big gift box, you will get as much joy as the recipient. As always,  please share your ideas with me. I’m always looking for unique things to add to gift boxes.

After all, what’s more fun than receiving a gigantic box full of gifts?!

Sending one.

XOXO,

Kelly

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