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Top 5 College CARE Packages

Updated on December 30, 2009

Those wonderful post-high school graduation push-pull years of college! When 18- to 21-year-olds, independent of their parents, look daily in their mailbox for some form of contact from the parental nest, nothing is more comforting than a great big CARE package from home. We all want and need the assurance that we are loved, cared for and missed even if we are loving our independence... and that runs true for kids and parents alike. For students, the routine of studies, schedule of classes and academic pressures, are compounded by roommates, love interests and having to do their own laundry.

Most parents may not be exhibiting great signs of empty nest syndrome, but it sure is fun putting together a special gift for the child that has been loved and nurtured since conception. Clever is key here. Create these college CARE packages with creativity and love, and be sure to include some edibles. Here are some ideas:

1) Birthday Bash
Sweet treats: a huge decorated tin (covered with family photos), filled with all kinds of individually wrapped birthday treats (and covered in confetti). Include homemade festively decorated cookies, individually wrapped cupcakes (birthday candles included), jelly beans (school colors only), a huge birthday card signed from friends and family, a homemade jigsaw puzzle made from a baby picture blown up (use a photo from an early birthday party), and a birthday dinner out on the town gift certificate (for at least two). Don't forget the phone call with a chorus of "Happy Birthday"!

2) Midterm Break
Line a brand new duffel bag with shredded comics. Pack with downtime stuff like: new CDs or DVDs; games for handheld toys; crossword puzzle books (or some brain teasers); a selection of tabloid reading material; an empty journal; and some "interest" related magazines... no required school reading material! Throw in some munchies for break time: pound cake with a choice of toppings (lemon curd, orange curd, raspberry curd or chocolate peanut butter), cans of soda (especially those loaded with caffeine) and mineral water, a can of sweet English biscuits, a tin of fancy tea, and some instant coffee. We all need a little break in between all that studying!

3) Happy Halloween
Find a used but clean wooden crate (one from fruit would be perfect), line it with natural raffia and load with an assortment of candy bars, cellophane-wrapped popcorn balls, caramel- and chocolate-coated pretzels, homemade cookies, crisp seasonal apples, chai beverage packets, juice box treats, individual snack bags of potato chips and pretzels, candy-coated apples, Halloween decorations, a fabric or ceramic jack-o'-lantern, glow sticks, a selection of face masks, and some black and orange streamers. If a crate is not available pack a box with a filled pillow case as the case can later be used for a pillow cover or as a bag for trick-or-treating (never too old for that!)

4) Dorm Survival Basket
Use a new wicker laundry basket as the container. Line the basket with a fresh new bath sheet (or huge towel). Include a hot pot kettle (for heating water), and packets of hot chocolate, coffee, instant soup, tea, instant oatmeal, non-dairy creamer, sugar and artificial sweetener. Purchase and pack some fresh new plastic containers (with airtight lids), fill them with bite-size crackers, trail mix and some favorite candies. Add a plastic jar of peanut butter and some small variety boxes of cereal. Tuck in a rolled-up coordinated washcloth, hand towel and dish towel. Include at least one place setting of reusable plastic ware: dish, cup and bowl, along with a set of utensils and a couple of extra spoons. Enclose a new address book with local campus pizza and ethnic takeaway food phone numbers written in red. Add a sewing kit (along with some duct tape for unstitched pant hems) and a portable clothes steamer (forget the iron as most college kids don't even know what they are).

5) Happy Trails to You
The backpacking package. Use a see-through brand-new backpack and fill generously with brand-new sweat socks, a new pair of hiking boots, a hiking journal, books on birds and trees, a quality compass, disposable cameras (panoramic and regular), sunscreen, insect repellent, some sturdy rope, bandages (for blisters), a bottle of gel hand sanitizer, and a multitool pocket knife. Include some munchies to take along: juice boxes, airtight packaged homemade trail mix, savory herb-flavored bread sticks, summer sausage, dried fruit packs, beef jerky, honey-filled straws, and a selection of cheese and cracker combination snacks. Include an emergency card with contact information and health insurance info, just in case!


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      Anya  8 years ago

      What a great article with ideas! Students love care packages and it is awesome when parents have the time to put one together. Another great resource is It's an online service that lets anyone send care packages. Check it out for ideas of items to place in your own care package or to order one quick and without a hassle.