12 Care Package Essentials Every College Student Needs

Receiving a package from home can be a terrific pick-me-up while far from family and friends. From fun to functional, get ideas they'll love.

By Kristen Mosier | Published Sep 13, 2022 1:56 PM

care package ideas

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Even if your college student loves being independent, living far from home can be tough at times. While away at school, they may miss the comforts of home. A care package will let your child know you’re thinking of them, and it may just be the pick-me-up they need to ace their exams or navigate new friendships. Not sure what to include? From snacks to stress relief, we’ve got you covered with some top-notch care package ideas.

1. Snacks

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Poll any college student about what they want to receive in a care package, and they’ll say snacks. Beyond items they love, consider options that are good on the go and provide quick energy, such as granola bars or individually packed nuts. For caregivers with a knack for baking, homemade treats are sure to be a mood lifter. If you want to go the extra mile, include your child’s favorite items from local places near home.

Want to keep it simple? Consider a combo snack care package, like this one from The Snack Bar available on Amazon, for a quick and easy way to cover your bases.

RELATED: The 40 Best Food Gifts for Every Type of Gourmand and Foodie

2. First Aid Items

care package ideas

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You can still help mend your child’s boo-boos while they’re away at college. Keep it fun with this cute Welly first aid set available at Target. It includes an assortment of colorful bandages, gauze pads, anti-itch cream, hand sanitizer, antibiotic ointment, burn-relief cream, and a pain reliever. For when the germs inevitably show up, don’t forget the cough drops and Emergen-C packets, like this two-months supply available on Amazon.

3. Stress Relief 

care package ideas

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While college can be plenty of fun, it can also be stressful. Make long lectures, tricky roommate moments, and late-night study sessions more tolerable with some calming items. Stress balls may seem simplistic, but studies show they can reduce tension and even help concentration. Try a set with motivational sayings, like this one from Candescent available on Amazon.

Other great items for staying focused while relieving nervous energy are therapeutic putty and fidget items like cubes, stretchy bands, and jewelry with rings or beads that can spin, like this affordable style from Alextina on Amazon. For relaxing at home, pop in an adult coloring book with pencils or a lavender essential-oil roller.

4. Something Sentimental

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A proper list of college care package ideas wouldn’t be complete without something to pull at the heartstrings. Consider including a handwritten letter, photo, or special trinket to let your child know you are thinking of them. A copy of your favorite book inscribed with an encouraging note will also do the trick.

5. Decorating Essentials

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Help your college student make their room away from home a bit cozier with small items. Consider including a set of twinkle LED lights, a small succulent plant, or string and clothespins for a photo display, or opt for a ready-made photo hanger like this one by Umbra on Amazon. For those who love to keep photos and art nearby, give them an easy way to hang them without damaging the walls by including a set of Command Strips available on Amazon.

RELATED: 7 Clever Ways for Hooks to Streamline Your Life

6. Gift Cards

care package ideas

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It’s unusual to meet a college student who doesn’t fuel up on caffeine before a study session. Hence your care package wouldn’t be complete without a gift card to a coffee shop. Choose the local campus shop or stock up at one of the chain stores.

Especially for off-campus lodgers, consider a gift card for a car service like Lyft or Uber or one for a local grocery store or gas station. Better yet, let them have the food delivered with a gift card for a delivery service like DoorDash available on Amazon.

7. Hydration Supplies

care package ideas

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Your college student can’t live off coffee, so help them stay hydrated with a few supplies. They will love a reusable water bottle they can tote to class and around campus. Try the eco-friendly Nalgene Tritan water bottle, a favorite in our researched guide to the best reusable water bottles. For extra hydration support, include some electrolyte packs for them to drop in their new bottle before heading out, like these available on Amazon.

8. Something for Fun

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Whether for solo downtime or bonding with new friends, a game is a great care package idea. Opt for a regular deck of cards or a game sure to garner laughs, like Cards Against Humanity available on Amazon or Exploding Kittens available at Target. Consider a handheld game like this Mega Screen Solitaire game available on Amazon for independent play.

9. Personal Care Products

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Communal living and dorm showers leave a lot to be desired when it comes to personal care. Make their daily routine more rejuvenating with self-care items like nice-smelling lotions or shower oil, face masks, or nail polish.

Busy college students also need products that make their care routine quicker, like face and body wipes, dry shampoo, or a fold-up brush, like this one by Wet Brush available on Amazon.

RELATED: 7 Ways to Make Your Dorm Room a Home Away from Home

10. Comforting Items

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Some comforting items can help support a homesick teen in lieu of an in-person hug. When coming up with care package ideas, think about what your child likes to cozy up with at home. Maybe it’s a special mug with hot chocolate, a hot water bottle, a couple of cans of chicken noodle soup, or warm, fuzzy socks like this pair from Toes Home available on Amazon.

11. Study Essentials

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Dorm life or living with roommates can be loud and distracting. If your child needs quiet to focus, consider dropping some earplugs or noise-canceling headphones into your care package. If you want to surprise your college student, Apple AirPods available on Amazon will likely win you major parenting points.

Other care package ideas to help keep your student organized are sticky notes or book tabs, a portable computer charger, index cards, and a few USB flash drives, like this set available on Amazon.

RELATED: A+ Storage Hacks for the Best Dorm Room on Campus

12. Inspirational Books

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When your child needs a pep talk, but you’re not there to give it, an inspirational book with an inscription from you might do the trick. If a book isn’t their style, try a desk calendar or get creative with an inspirational coloring book, like this one by Papeterie Bleu available on Amazon.

For students who are apprehensive and like to feel prepared, a book called “1001 Things Every College Student Needs to Know” available on Amazon is a popular choice.