I know this is such a super weird time, with schools around the nation being canceled for some, graduations looking completely different. But I also know many of you have kids (or grandkids, nieces, nephews) heading off to college in the fall.
Leaving home for the first time can be such a strange mixture of excitement, independence, anxiety and a little bit of fear for the unknown. Being away from home for the first time, meeting new people, being fully responsible for your studies and being “in charge” of your own place is a lot to take on for a young adult.
As parents back here at home, we worry about that anxiety and fear. Are they making new friends? Are they homesick? Are they eating a vegetable?
Sending care packages can be the perfect solution for the parent AND the child. It makes the parent feel as if they can still take care of their baby just a bit, even from afar. And for the college student? Finding a gift card for gas, a packet of beef jerky and a bottle of the face lotion you can no longer afford is like winning the lottery.
Care packages are also an AMAZING idea to give a high school graduate who is heading off to college or moving into their first apartment. They may not realize right out of the gate that toothpaste actually costs money, but will eventually come around to appreciate the practicality of the gift.
These ideas are tried, tested and loved by parents and students alike! We polled the people that would know: actual college students and their parents. Go figure.
Care package ideas for college students
These are ALWAYS a winner.
- Local pizza joint or favorite restaurant (if they don’t have a website, call and ask them to mail you a certificate)
- Fast food (because college students are generally broke, Amazon has TONS of options)
- Local grocery store (Amazon has Safeway, Albertson’s, Whole Foods and more!)
- GAS CARDS if they drive to school every day
- Uber Eats gift card if their area has it available (this covers food AND delivery costs!) — Can also do DoorDash or GrubHub
- Instant coffee packets or tea
- Quality water bottle like Hydroflask, Contigo or S’well (check Costco for various options)
- Coffee mug (Starbucks has some wonderful location-specific mugs to remind them of home)
- Coffee tumbler (RTIC or Yeti are great options or find a Tervis tumbler with their school logo)
Living in a dorm can make food preparation VERY challenging, so easy to prepare or grab and go snacks and meals are key! Even living off campus and having access to a kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean they have TIME to prepare food for every meal.
- KIND bars or protein bars
- Ramen or cup of soup
- Gum or mints
- Beef jerky
- Granola or their favorite cereal
- Microwave popcorn
- Microwave mac & cheese cups
- Cookies (homemade or their favorite brand)
- Microwave oatmeal
The 5-Ingredient College Cookbook gets great reviews and teaches young adults how to make “delicious meals on the tightest of budgets in the smallest of spaces”.
If they are living off campus and you either live nearby or they are coming home for the holidays, freezer meals would be so wonderful to give! Use some inexpensive aluminum trays for casseroles, freeze soups flat in Ziploc bags, freeze muffins or even waffles.
You could even look into a boxed meal prep service like Blue Apron or Hello Fresh.
BATH AND BEAUTY
- Razors or blade refills
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body wash or soap
- Makeup removal wipes
- Their favorite makeup or gift card to buy their favorite brand
- Face wash or lotion
- Nail polish in their school’s colors
- Hair ties or bobby pins (because you can NEVER have enough)
LAUNDRY AND CLEANING
- Lysol or Clorox wipes (because cleaning with a wipe is one thousand percent better than not cleaning at all)
- Rolls of quarters for laundry (double check their machine takes coins!)
- Laundry tabs like Tide PODs
- Fabric softener sheets
Whenever you are reading this post, check out our monthly Costco home mailer coupon deals post. Every month, there are TONS of deals on vitamins, pain relievers, cough drops, allergy medicine. Buy in bulk and send off with your college student!
- Blister guards
- Solemates Blister Blocker balm
- Pain relievers like aspirin or Tylenol
- Cough drops
- Fun sticky notes or their favorite pens/markers
- Ear plugs (for noisy roommates or dorm rooms!)
- Essential oil diffuser with auto shut-off + oils for relaxation, sleep or to help with procrastination (it’s a thing)
- Air freshener
- Stationary + stamps (for writing home?)
- Portable phone charger
- String lights to decorate their dorm room or apartment
- Fun seasonal items (mini Christmas tree, string of heart lights, Halloween decorations)
- 13-in-1 ratchet screwdriver – you NEVER realize how important these are until you don’t have one!
- Starter tool kit for less than $20 – this is something that will be useful for a LONG time
The book Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her gets AMAZING reviews and in so many of the comments, reviewers say they still have and reference this book, even years out of college. Tips for laundry, grocery shopping, car maintenance, what to do when you have a medical situation, even how to take care of your bike.
One Mom let us know that she put together a binder similar to the book above with her own tips on medical emergencies, laundry instructions, basic cooking tips and more. How fun to have a handmade reference book from Mom, with maybe a few simple recipes thrown in?
Do you have a favorite care package add-in or gift idea for a college student?
Looking for more fun gift ideas?
Find more Gift Guides here.
Fantastic range of boards from best recipes and tips for frugal living to gardening and budgeting help.
This post may contain affiliate links. See the disclosure policy for more information.