Before coronavirus, my go-to gifts were typically experiences that I could enjoy together with my friends and family. Unfortunately, concerts, walking tours, and coveted restaurant reservations are all off the table in the time of social distancing.
Which means now is the time to bring back the old-school care package. Remember the thrill of unboxing whatever candy and magazines your parents would send you at summer camp as a kid? Recreate that joy by adapting the basic care package formula for your travel-loving friends and family today with our DIY tips below, plus a few suggestions of where to buy premade care packages online.
What to put in a DIY travel-themed care package
To make your own care package, fill a small box with two to three of the following items (and don’t forget a handwritten note—Etsy has lots of handmade “miss you” cards for this purpose). Either stick to a specific destination theme (France! Mexico! Japan!) or choose items from an eclectic mix of places to create a journey around the world in a box. Think about including:
- Local food and snacks to eat
- Coffee and tea to drink
- Wellness and beauty products for pampering
- Books and other reading material for a screen-time break
- Small travel accessories for future trips
- Printed travel snapshots to remember past adventures
1. Local snacks and candy
AFAR editors love bringing back candy, snacks, and condiments like hot sauce from grocery stores as souvenirs. They’re small, travel well, and don’t break the bank. But did you know that you can find a lot of these goodies online, too? Here are a few of our favorite resources for ordering international and regional U.S. snacks and candy online:
- Amazon.com: Cherry Ripe bars from Australia? Mexican Vero Mango chile pops? Japanese Hi-Chew in every flavor imaginable? If you can think of it, it’s likely Amazon sells it.
- Britishcornershop.co.uk: If you know someone pining for the U.K., you can find all sorts of British condiments, snacks, and candies on this website that ships internationally. It also sells prepackaged “Brit Kits” if you’re short on time or want to ship directly.
- Japancandystore.com: Whether you’re looking for specific Japanese Kit Kat flavors or something called “Japanese Toilet Candy,” this website has it all and offers free shipping to the United States.
- Mouth.com: For domestic treats, Mouth.com organizes the small-batch snacks it sells by state.
- Worldofsnacks.com: World of Snacks organizes its offerings by type (chips, chocolate, candy) and by country of origin to make browsing as simple as possible.
Note: Chocolate can melt in transit, especially during summer months, so it might be better to stick to hard candy.
2. Coffee and tea
Since the USPS prohibits sending alcohol via the mail, pack up a bag of coffee beans or tea leaves from a local café instead and leave the wine and booze to be shipped directly from a licensed retailer. To recreate the full travel experience at home, include a ceramic version of NYC’s iconic Greek coffee cups or a classic Italian Bialetti Moka Express espresso maker. If you’d rather just ship directly, several coffee roasters are putting together their own care packages. For example, Birch Coffee’s quarantine survival kit comes with a bag of coffee, a quart of Oatly oat milk, and roll of toilet paper for laughs.
Note: Keep in mind that alcohol isn’t the only thing you can’t ship—there are also restrictions around mailing hand sanitizer, nail polish, perfume, and lithium batteries. To make sure your package will arrive safely, double-check the rules on usps.com.
3. Wellness and beauty products
Lighting a candle and applying some fancy hand cream won’t fix any major problems, but they can bring a small amount of joy to an otherwise dreary day. Homesick candles are inspired by dozens of states, cities, and countries, as well as specific travel memories (for example, “Summer Camp” has notes of grass, sunscreen, and smoke). Many of our favorite international hand creams can be bought online, too. If you send a candle or something else packaged in glass, be sure to wrap it well so it doesn’t shatter. Double-check to make sure any liquids are sealed tight so they don’t leak.
4. Reading material
We all need a major break from screen time. A novel set in another destination can be transporting, while those who like to plan ahead may appreciate a guidebook to get a headstart on 2021 adventures. Local newspapers and magazines from where you live are also a fun way to keep your loved ones entertained and remind them of the places they’re missing and are lighter to ship. For more literary inspiration, shop AFAR’s reading lists on Bookshop.org.
5. Travel accessories
Just because we can’t travel now doesn’t mean we won’t ever again. Including small items like compression socks, a travel pillow, or a colorful dopp kit in a care package is a nice way to remember that this too shall pass.
6. Printed photos
Revisit past trips with your friends by sending them snapshots from your previous adventures. Artifact Uprising makes quality prints at reasonable prices, and you can even put together a small softcover book of your favorite Instagram photos, for as little as $15.
Where to buy premade care packages for travelers online
If you want to skip the trip to the post office or don’t have time to DIY, the following companies sell premade care packages that they can ship directly to your friends and family.
Buy Now: From $32, shopboxfox.com
Choose from prepackaged gift boxes like the “Breakfast in Bed”—which includes coffee and granola, as well as a candle and a few other small treats—or you can build your own by choosing from dozens of small gifts to include in your custom box.
Buy Now: From $28, etsy.com
Buy Now: From $29, goldbelly.com
For those craving iconic regional treats, Goldbelly is the place to go. You can ship entire New York bagel brunches, Texas barbecue feasts, and Chicago’s deep-dish pizzas directly to your friend’s door in a few clicks.
Buy Now: From $36, milkbarstore.com
Homemade baked goods are tricky to ship—they can crumble and go stale before they arrive at their destination. To leave the baking and the shipping to the professionals, peruse the online shop of NYC’s Milk Bar for cakes, pies, cookies, and more.
Buy Now: From $40, wine.com
It is possible to get wine delivered via licensed companies. Wine.com’s curated wine sets allow you to send several bottles of wine from specific places like Santa Barbara, Australia, and others. More of a cocktail drinker? It also ships prepackaged Manhattan kits.