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Best care package for college students

Which care packages for college students are best?

Whether you’re a first-time empty nester or your kids are in their last years of college, curating the optimum care package is a worthwhile way to send your love from afar. You may not be there to take care of your child, but you can make sure they’re taking care of themselves with a package that makes self-care easy.

Beyond that, putting together the perfect items for your Gen Z student will encourage them to call you — their cool, hip parent — more frequently.

Online shopping has made this task easy, as you can add everything to your cart and have it sent straight to their dorm with minimal shopping time and no extra shipping costs. We talked to college students to find out what they would want most in a care package and put together this list of items to appeal to different interests and hit various price points. So you can surprise them, while still getting them what they want.

Make a small but meaningful gesture

Sending an exceptional care package isn’t all about price tag. If you’re looking to send a few smaller, simpler items just to let your student know you’re thinking of them, here are some options to consider.

Coffee beans: Caffeine is a must for college survival, and every well-equipped student should have at least one bag of coffee beans on hand at all times. Coffee is the way to wake up for those 8 a.m. classes or to power through a late-night study session, and this AmazonFresh Colombian Ground Coffee is a balanced medium roast that will suit any palate.

Matcha tea powder: If your child is a tea drinker, send them a bag of matcha green tea powder instead of coffee. This option from Matcha Wellness is organic and similar in quality to ceremonial-grade tea, yet it’s reasonably priced. Matcha is a trendy, effective, and healthy way to get a gentle energy boost without the caffeine jitters.

Reusable straws: If they’re an iced coffee (or iced anything) drinker, they probably use a lot of straws. Help them reduce their plastic waste and get them this set of eight stainless steel straws from YIHONG, which is sure to inspire their friends and also help them avoid those flimsy paper straws.

Low-sugar candy: For kids with a sweet tooth, you might want to make sure they aren’t overdoing it. Consider adding some low-sugar candy options to their care package. SmartSweets makes gummies with lower sugar, lower carbs, lower calories, and no artificial flavors. This variety pack should curb your child’s cravings without sending their blood sugar into overdrive.

Adult coloring book: Studying is important, but so are study breaks. For the more artistic college student, an adult coloring book can provide a wonderful respite from textbooks. The Disney Book Group made a coloring book full of nostalgia-inducing images from Disney films that will help distract from school stress — at least for a little while. Added bonus: It will give their eyes something to focus on that isn’t a screen.

Long charging cable: This is a practical gift that your student might not know they need until they have it. An extra-long charging cable can be useful when outlets are inconveniently out of reach, perfect for plugging in during a study group or for use with a raised dorm bed. AmazonBasics makes a 10-foot cable that should provide the reach for any scenario when your kid needs to charge their phone.

Reusable water bottle: The best way to make sure your child stays hydrated is to send them a water bottle they’ll want to use. This vacuum insulated stainless steel bottle by Simple Modern has a sleek, attractive appearance, plus it comes in a variety of color options so you can pick one to suit your kid’s aesthetic.

Travel mug: A travel mug is an especially great gift for students who don’t wake up in time to drink their morning coffee before class, and the HydroFlask Coffee Flask is a popular, heavy-duty mug that’s both in style and effective. This one is available through REI, meaning it won’t ship with the rest of your Amazon order, but it’s definitely worth it.

Skincare set: If you want to go one step beyond the coffee scrub, consider sending a whole skincare set. Usually, buying a skincare set is more cost-effective than purchasing products one by one, but your college kid may not want to make the up-front investment. Send them this six-piece set by Origins, sold at Macy’s, if you’re looking for an all-in-one care package option.

Blue-light blocking glasses: Modern college students spend a whole lot of time looking at screens, but this can strain their eyes as well as adversely affect their sleep quality. Blue-light blocking glasses are a great way to prevent eye fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, and sleep disturbances. This two-pack from FEIYOLD includes one black pair and one clear pair, letting your child make their own style choice depending on how they’re feeling that day.

Step up your care package with these additions

If you want to add some slightly higher-cost items to your child’s care package, consider adding one or two of these alongside some of the suggestions above. While your child is on a college budget, they’ll be thrilled for you to send them the things on their wishlist that they can’t quite afford.

Essential oils: An assortment of essential oils is a great care package item for its versatility. Essential oils can be used in a self-care routine, a skincare regimen, or as an aroma in dorms where candles are forbidden. This set of 18 therapeutic grade essential oils from Natrogix has every scent your child could want.

Electric toothbrush: Encourage dental hygiene from afar by sending a toothbrush your child will actually enjoy using. Quip’s electric brush is conveniently compact and lightweight, plus it has a built-in two-minute timer to ensure sufficient brushing.

Protein powder: If your child will be using the on-campus gym or if they’re on a sports team, they’ll need to make sure they’re getting proper nutrition for muscle recovery. Protein powder is a costly investment, so you can support your college student’s physical well-being by sending this vegan protein powder by Vega.

Fluffy blanket: This isn’t your typical care-package item, but it sure is a great way to maximize dorm room comfort. We love Berkshire’s Extra-Fluffy Throw for its unbelievably cozy feel, and it’s available at Macy’s in a few different color options.

Day pack: When your child isn’t carrying bulky laptops and textbooks, they’ll probably want something smaller than their typical backpack. The Fjallraven Kanken Classic Backpack is incredibly popular right now among students, and it’s a fashionable choice for a day bag.

Portable speaker: A portable speaker comes in handy in many contexts — in study rooms, around the dorm, and at social events. We love JBL’s portable speaker because it’s wireless, Bluetooth-enabled, and features an integrated carabiner that makes transport extremely easy.

Totally over-the-top care package centerpieces

If you really want to wow your college student, you can add one of these incredibly hip big-ticket items to your box. While these may not be found in your typical care package, you’ll pretty much guarantee that your child will be blown away by how cool you are.

Airpods: These wireless, sleek earbuds by Apple are an essential for any iPhone owner, as they not only look cool, but they also prevent the annoying tangling of cords when taking a backpack on and off. Although Airpods on basically every Gen Z’s wishlist, they’re beyond most college students’ budgets, making them a perfect care-package surprise.

Xbox: If your student is a gamer and you want to make sure they’re the coolest resident on their dorm’s hall, adding this Xbox One will create the most insanely awesome care package of all time. Being the parent who sent their kid an Xbox is sure to make you popular with your child and all their friends.


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Sarah Pitts writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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