By Martha C. White
October 2, 2019

Moving into a dorm is a big event, especially for college kids living on their own for the first time. After the excitement of move-in day has worn off and students are settling into their academic routines, though, homesickness can sneak up on them.

Sending a care package can be a great way to let your college student know that you’re thinking about them. They’ll be excited to get some of the comforts of home during that long stretch between orientation and Thanksgiving break.

We hit up Reddit to gather great care package ideas. What gifts and everyday items do people recommend that parents (or other loved ones!) buy to make the best care packages for college students? As it turns out, tons of people have fond memories of the best care package goodies they ever got. Here are their best firsthand recommendations for care packages, from the sweet to the practical — to the totally unexpected.

Cute Pens

Even in an era when we all communicate digitally, we were surprised at how many people reminisced about how excited they were to open a care package and find cute, colorful pens inside. “They are great for the adult coloring book craze too,” one user points out, giving a shout-out to this brightly-hued 12-pack.

Courtesy of Amazon

Seasonal Decorations and Snacks

One Redditor remembered how much more fun it was getting into the holiday spirit with a themed package, saying, “Honestly the coolest thing is when you get a ‘care package’ kinda thing for a holiday season. Candy or hot coco or whatever that holiday season usually entails.”

At this time of year, you could send them a “Halloween in a box” kit: Think Funko Pop dolls from spooky shows like Stranger Things, haunted-house wall decor, Pennywise string lights, classic ghost stories.

Courtesy of Spirit

And, of course, you’ve got to send a candy haul big enough to share with everybody on the hallway.

Courtesy of Jet.com

Flowers or Succulents

“I actually started looking at flower subscription services. I remember how gloomy dorm rooms can be!” one person wrote. Others chimed in to recommend succulents or air plants (we’re partial to this one in an adorable sloth planter) because they’re ultra low-maintenance.

Courtesy of ProFlowers

Christmas Lights

“Yes they’re cliché but they really do brighten up a dorm room. I got copper wire string lights from Etsy and I LOVED them!” one Redditor enthused.

Courtesy of Hayneedle

If string lights are banned at their college (check online for dorm rules), another option is a salt lamp, which emits a soothing pinkish glow and may even help them get a better night’s sleep.

 

Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker

“My college has community bathrooms and girls always bring in their speakers to the bathroom to get ready for the day,” one user says — adding that getting a waterproof speaker is a smart idea so it doesn’t die if it gets splashed.

Courtesy of bando.com

Snail Mail Supplies

We can basically guarantee your digitally-oriented college student won’t think to buy stamps and envelopes — until they find that they suddenly need them. “You have to mail various things and having them handy instead of having to buy them at the bookstore/mailroom is nice,” one Reddit user says.

Courtesy of Amazon

Another Redditor put in a plug for packing tape, saying, “It’s easy to find empty boxes on campus, but I distinctly remember not having anything to close them with.”

Inflatable Beverage Holders

“The summer before I moved into the dorms, I received a couple of inflatable flamingo drink holders as a gag gift. These dollar store flamingoes were intended to help your drink float in a pool, but I found them exceptionally useful in keeping beverages upright when I sat them on my bed,” one Reddit user recalls, adding, “Then they could deflate so I could shove them in a drawer until the next time I remembered I had them.”

Courtesy of Amazon

 

Cold and Flu Medicine

More than one Redditor recommended this — especially because Day-Quil and the like will probably be marked up like crazy at the on-campus (i.e. most convenient and therefore most likely to be visited by a sick kid) store. As one user wrote, “I remember going broke after spending $20 on Vicks and cold medicine. Of all the damn things I packed, I didn’t bring meds!”

Courtesy of Amazon

 

Cleaning and Laundry Supplies

There were simply too many voices chiming in to recommend antibacterial cleaning wipes to single out just one. Lots of folks suggested laundry supplies, too: Detergent pods, fabric softener sheets, a stain stick or spray and so on. (Pro tip: Toss in a roll of quarters if their dorm has coin-operated machines to really make their day!)

Courtesy of Amazon

 

Lip Balm

Lip balm is a good gift at any time, but it’s sure to be especially welcome as the air gets colder and drier. “I also loved getting Chapstick in my care packages! I always lost mine before I finished it,” one Reddit user remembers.

Courtesy of Sephora

 

Essential Oil Diffuser

“An essential oil diffuser can be calming and the scent can replace candles (so no fire hazard!)” one Reddit user writes. If your kid or their roommate is sensitive to smells, others chimed into suggest getting them a “moso bag” filled with activated charcoal to keep stinky odors at bay.

Courtesy of Urban Outfitters

Delicious Desserts

“Homemade baked goods – nothing beats getting a box of mom’s cookies or biscuits,” one Redditor says, and we honestly lost count of how many users chimed in to share memories of being happily surprised with a tin of cookies, brownies or other treats. (If you’re not a big baker, don’t sweat it — it’s the thought that counts!)

Courtesy of The Container Store

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