Crowdsourcing the ULTIMATE College Care Package

With the scholars settling in after a couple months away at school, we offer these ideas for the best care package ever. Even though we have been through it three times, we still got by with a little help from our friends.

The Ultimate College Care Package!Our youngest, The Boy, was our third kid going through the away-at-school process and I was running low on the groovy care package ideas.

I needed help!

I think most of us with multiple children have encountered the problem of keeping the momentum alive when it comes
to the youngest.

My daughters, The Piglet and Decibel, have reaped many benefits from being older – not that they would ever agree that there were any benefits.

They believe that we have always favored “The Prince” — as they call him — and that from his first breath he was
all that we paid attention to.

In reality, The Piglet’s baby book is impeccable. Ultrasounds, baby shower cards, locks of hair, countless photographs, even hospital records from the time she shoved a whole serving of peas up her nose — it’s all in

The Spawn -
One of many stage shows – weren’t they the CUTEST?

And when Decibel came along, we had discovered the camcorder. The video footage of her exploits — from her first steps to butt-scooting around with a broken leg in a cast are lovingly documented.

Big homemade productions that she directed and starred in were never missed. She created grand performances costumed in feather boas, dozens of necklaces adorning wild dresses and giant shoes. All of this was captured on
miles of video tape.

I’m not even sure The Boy has a baby book. If he does, it’s probably more like a baby pamphlet. Nor can I think of a single photo or video of him as a youngster that doesn’t include one or both of his sisters.

Hardly the chronicles we would have kept for the favorite.

Our Readers to my Rescue!

When the time came for The Boy’s first care package, I realized that I had once again lost my edge with him. The excitement I had felt while creating fun packages for The Piglet and Decibel was gone. I really needed some help. I decided that I should hand it over to the experts. Our wise readers.

I figured they could help me create a care package so amazing that it would make up for the fact that The Boy’s baby book is a mere leaflet and that he never achieved more than supporting actor status in our family videos.

The #1 Suggested Item – Homemade Baked Goods

Jan, a reader from our Facebook Page suggested: “How about brownies and ch.chip cookies – NOT out of a box! Nobody gets homemade any more it seems.”

Jane, also from Facebook added: “Homemade caramel fudge brownies…”

I am SO not a baker. And brownies? Don’t get me started. My only attempts have turned out runny goo or a black brick-like substance.

Jane had inadvertently suggested the impossible. But since we have the smartest and most clever readers, I dove right in.

Because we are purposefully homeless, I borrowed a kitchen (don’t ask) and started with Jan’s cookies.

Easy, really anyone can do cookies. I didn’t burn the bottom of a single one! The trick is to actually allow the oven to preheat.

For packing, I put four to a baggy, for busy college student grab-n-go ease.

That’s not cheese in the picture.

Believe it or not, the brownies were perfect! Well, until the caramel topping part.

I really thought I had followed the directions to the letter, but as usual, things went terribly awry.

The caramel wouldn’t spread without decimating the brownies underneath and then it cooled into a rock-hard mess. Cutting them into squares (squares being a very flexible term) took a Herculean effort that required sculpting tools.

I sent them on anyway with the hope The Boy doesn’t yank a filling out.

Things I couldn’t mess up by cooking them

Wendy from Twitter said: Anything local that they can’t buy where they are now. My kid is from Hawaii, live in NYC, so Crack Seed Shop care pkg is (love.)”

I really related to Wendy (after googling what crack seed was — it’s safe!); our kids all graduated high school
on a small tropical island. The conch shell horn is family tradition, The Piglet drove her dorm-mates crazy with her incessant blowing.

The Boy went to a college with a rich sports tradition, so the horn came in handy at football games.

Laurie from Facebook: Rolls of quarters for the laundromat were always a hit!”

Mary Anne exclaimed, Money!”

LOVE the rolls of quarters. Especially since we expected our kids to work for daily basics while in college, it’s a good way to give them a little money without ACTUALLY giving them money.

College is ridiculously expensive and we feel strongly that to appreciate it, they must pitch in. Though, like
Mary Anne, we sneak them checks for their birthdays and such.

Another no-money cheat is gift cards for groceries, restaurants, clothes, etc.

The Ultimate College Care Package

Another Twitter pal: “Lots of storage solutions if there is a dorm involved!”

Absolutely wonderful idea.

Dorms are tight spaces and anything you can find to create space would be most welcome.

The Boy received a laundry basket for this suggestion, as he was post-dorm.

No one is better at cracking an inappropriate, yet wickedly hysterical joke than The Boy’s “Uncle” Rich:

“How about a stack of nudey magazines and a 5 pack of Red Stripe?”

While The Boy may well enjoy those things, I found a magazine that I hoped he would find equally stimulating: Entrepreneur.
The lead story?

Young Millionaires, How They Did It.”

Also see: 9 Things We Wish We’d Known BEFORE We Sent Our Kid to College

Family friend, Devin, was equally as scary: Technology.
Some cool gadget he doesn’t have yet… but for entertainment, not education. (ipod, psp,video watch…) Or, the funny option: Magnums.”

Holy crap! Devin’s kids get video watches?

We got The Boy a movie (movies are technology, right?), he’s a pilot, so Airplane! is a cult classic among his friends.

I’m ignoring the condom suggestion. The Boy would kill me for blogging about his condom situation.

Another note on movies. We sent both The Piglet and Decibel “best of” video DVDs in their first care package. They included funny clips of them, family antics, theatrical productions, band & choir recitals,
etc. They LOVED it! Of course we have no footage of The Boy, so he didn’t get one.

Thank you notes. Make sure you include stamps. Get the most masculine ones you can find if your spawn is a male.

Doesn’t mean that they will actually be sent, but it ups the odds. I’m happier to get a thank you phone call myself, seems much more personal (and fun!) but am satisfied with an e-mail.

But, the older crowd considers those means of communication rude – my mother-in-law included. So my kids send real live old fashioned thank you notes (I think).

Microwave mac ‘n cheese / soup / ramen noodles. These just-add-water comfort foods are great for care packages, and college students put these way up on their favorites list.

They also work as a nice packing buffer for breakable things!

Other nice packing materials:

— local newspaper sections (homesick babies read these)
— small bags of chips (the ones with lots of air in them)
— and sanitary products (sounds strange, but these are EXPENSIVE and are appreciated).

More GREAT ideas from our brilliant readers:

Favorite snack foods

Lynn @MamaSays, says (from the comments below): A cookbook aimed at new cooks, some essential spices

Melissa suggests (from the comments below): Kites (for spring) and the little guns that shoot nerf-type balls. Stress relievers!

TSogge says (from the comments below): Couple pairs of new underwear!

More ideas from Your GypsyNesters:

The Boy uses his conch shell horn at a football game!

Toiletries: Shampoo, creams and potions, deodorant, contact lens solution, special soap, acne lotion, perfume — that kind of stuff. The Boy got toilet paper this time. He and his roommates can’t seem to keep it in stock. We sent it as a joke, but I’m sure it will be put to use.

Things for their computer: Print cartridges, computer paper, etc.

Pics from Home: Stick ’em in a frame if you are feeling fancy. Or not. They’ll love ’em either way.

Make sure you send enough food to share: College kids are ravenous wolves. No better way to make a new friend than to share a cookie or two.


More: 9 Things We Wish We’d Known BEFORE We Sent Our Kid to College

YOUR TURN: Any ideas to share? Let’s brainstorm and come up with ideas for our newly “empty” nested friends!

Did you enjoy what you just read? Then you'll LOVE our book!
Going Gypsy: One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All Going Gypsy One Couple's Adventure from Empty Nest to No Nest at All 

- See how it all began!
ORDER NOW - Wherever Books Are Sold!
Amazon - Barnes & Noble - IndieBound - Books-a-Million
Also available as an audiobook from

30 thoughts on “Crowdsourcing the ULTIMATE College Care Package”

  1. I was very pleased to find this web-site.I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read!! I definitely enjoying every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you blog post.

  2. This design is steller! You obviously know how to keep a reader amused.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job.
    I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how
    you presented it. Too cool!

  3. Thank you, I love these! I’m looking for ideas for our babysitter who just went away to college, and these are great. I don’t know enough about her to know her favorite things, so I need to go a little generic.

  4. I can’t believe my son asked me for a care package. I was really flabbergasted, never having received one myself. Your website will save me and if I come up with anything new to add to the package, I’ll share. Thank you!

  5. My second daughter started getting care packages when she went to Japan to teach. The most expensive included winter boots because Japanese ladies don’t have large feet and underwearr (same reason)and they were packed in bags of All Dressed Chips as Japanese treats tend to involve tiny dried fish and wasabi peas. Cost about as much as a plane ticket to mail.

  6. I love the suggestions in this post! Like the first commenter, I’m not very handy, so I decided to go with a pre-made option. I sent a box full of bacon snacks and sweets to my son from Broquet (like a “bouquet” for men). My son really liked it, and the company even hand-wrote my gift note on a card which gave it a more personal touch! Here is their college care package gift shop:

  7. love these as I am a college care package fanatic.. just shared one of my favorite ideas for making monthly care packages using the letters of every month and putting a seasonal spin where applicable.. our 4 kids loved these and laughed so hard at some of my creativity.. for example for December, one of the ingredients was Door Decorations for the holidays.. I sent a candy wreath.. they could decorate and munch off it at the same time! Here is the link to the ideas with a free printable of monthly suggestions:

  8. Pardon the re-post. I mistakenly posted this comment as a “reply” to another commenter–a total non-sequitur.
    Both our sons have graduated from college. I was such a bad mother. I never sent care packages. I don’t even think our sons knew where to get snail mail when they were at college. I am severely challenged in the baking department. The first time one of our son’s teacher requested that I bake cookies for a class event, I was stymied. My mother-in-law then taught me a valuable life lesson. When asked if you can bake cookies, reply that you can “provide” cookies.

  9. This is so timely for us, as we will bringing our older child to college in a week, first year. Thanks for the great suggestions!!

  10. Excellent ideas! As we pack for our daughter’s first year of college, I’m already starting to think about care packages. I’m an inveterate knitter, so I’ll probably be including at least one hand knit item in the packages we send…

    1. Both our sons have graduated from college. I was such a bad mother. I never sent care packages. I don’t even think our sons knew where to get snail mail when they were at college. I am severely challenged in the baking department. The first time one of our son’s teacher requested that I bake cookies for a class event, I was stymied. My mother-in-law then taught me a valuable life lesson. When asked if you can bake cookies, reply that you can “provide” cookies.

  11. Just after college my boyfriend and I traveled around Europe at Christmas time. His mother sent a gift with each of us (to open on Christmas) and in it she included a couple pairs of new underwear! It was funny, practical and much needed! 🙂 Including a package of new underwear in a care package is both a good filler and will probably mean they can skip laundry for a few more days!

  12. When I left for college, I had been dating the same guy for two years (married him two years later), and I was enough a part of the family that his mom would send me care packages too. Which was great because she’s like Betty Crocker and my darling mom is more of the “buy lots of Oreos” type. So I had the best of both worlds.

    Anyway… so one of the best things my future MIL sent me was a St Patricks Day care package in which she sent Mint Chocolate Rice Krispie shamrocks. I’m not even kidding.

    She made green Rice Krispie treats…. cut them out in shapes of shamrocks… and then dipped them in mint chocolate.

    It’s entirely possible that I married him just to get this sort of treatment for the rest of our lives. 🙂

  13. I used to help make “finals kits” for our Aggie Moms club – two of the favorite items we put in were kites (for spring) and the little guns that shoot nerf-type balls. Stress relievers!

  14. Great ideas for a college care package. Now that my creative thoughts are flowing I’m thinking about a laundry basket,cookbook aimed at new cooks, some essential spices, a roll of quarters, popcorn and a homemade treat.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.