You may not be able to put happiness into a box, but these care package ideas for anyone isolated, far away, or practicing social distancing come pretty close.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated March 20, 2020
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Everyone loves receiving a box filled with cool stuff in the mail, but actually coming up with care package ideas is easier said than done. Creating the right gift—whether it’s a college care package, a military care package, a camp care package, or a care package for a sick friend—for someone who is physically far away but still near and dear to your heart can take a little time and effort. But once your loved one or friend opens that box, it will all be worth it—particularly during this new age of social distancing, quarantine, and self-isolating,

The key to the perfect care package is striking a balance between reminding recipients of home or happier times and offering items that will make them a little bit happier wherever they are, even if they’re just down the block but self-quarantined. These care package ideas will do just that, and best of all, you can pick and choose what’s most appropriate to send (and within your budget).

Be sure to factor shipping costs (and any duties, for international shipments) into your budgeting—even a very small care package can come with a hefty shipping fee if it’s crossing borders or going overseas. For a quarantine care package, you may even be able to deliver your assortment of gifts in person—just wash your hands before and after handling all items and leave a note to the recipient to let the box or container sit in isolation for a few hours in case there are any lingering germs.

Once you’ve made your selections and gathered your supplies, sending an amazing care package is just a matter of tucking everything inside a box (fill it with playful confetti or colorful tissue paper for bonus points) and sending it on its way. You may not be able to put happiness into a box, but these care package ideas come pretty close.

Care Package Idea #1: A Candle

One can never have enough candles, right? The right candle—like the state-, city-, or country-specific Homesick Candles—can both remind someone of home and improve the aroma of his or her current living space. For college students or the smoke-averse, flameless scents may be a better pick; consider a cozy essential oil diffuser instead.

Care Package Idea #2: A Home-Grown Snack

People can buy potato chips or chocolates anywhere. Make your care package special with a treat from your loved one’s hometown, like a box of cookies from the local bakery or the soda brand you can only find at a few area stores.

Care Package Idea #3: Photo Prints

This care package idea is perfect for members of the military, those with pint-sized living spaces, or those who are currently self-isolating or quarantined because of coronavirus and likely missing family and friends. Printing a few photos, whether they’re old photos of the two of you or new ones of home, pets, or family members, is affordable and compact—great if you’re shipping a care package overseas. For bonus points, include a small way for them to display the photos front and center, like with a pretty stand.

Care Package Idea #4: Gift Cards

Gift cards may be the most generic of gifts, but that doesn’t make them any less functional—especially for sick friends or family members, those with limited mobility, or those suffering negative economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. (Even college students can use these—the right gift card ideas may be the difference between another microwave meal or a more nutritionally sound option.) Consider including gift cards to services such as Uber or Lyft, food delivery companies, cleaning services, and the like. Gift cards are also an easy gift to crowd-source, if a group of friends, coworkers, or family members want to pitch in, and they can be sent digitally to avoid shipping costs (or contamination concerns).

Care Package Idea #5: Self-Care Items

Everyone deserves a little extra love, though few think to buy self-care products for themselves. Send comforting items such as cozy socks, an elegant robe, a warm throw blanket (or even a weighted blanket), and face masks to remind your loved one to do a little pampering.

Care Package Idea #6: Phone Accessories

Phones are in near-constant use—and their pesky accessories (think chargers, headphones, adapters, cases, etc.) always seem to be breaking or disappearing, even if they are dorm room essentials. Replenish your loved one’s supply, and he or she may end up giving you a few extra calls each month. Those in isolation or social distancing will appreciate the opportunity for more calls and video chats, too. For those who can’t seem to keep their phones charged, consider a powerful portable charger.

Care Package Idea #7: A Green Gift

A little bit of greenery can perk up anyone’s living space—and plenty of services ship living potted plants straight to locations around the country. (Try Bloomscape or The Sill for fresh plants in cute pots.) Pick a plant that will suit your loved one’s situation: College students or someone struggling with illness will appreciate something that doesn’t need a ton of TLC (but still brightens up the room), while distant friends might like something that flowers.

Care Package Idea #8: A Good Book

Whether they’re stuck at home and in need of entertainment or you’re hoping to encourage a reading habit in a far-flung friend, including a few good books in your care package is sure to be appreciated. If it’s a coronavirus care package, keep the mood light with upbeat, inspiring books or magazines.

Care Package Idea #9: Some Classic Entertainment

Chances are, your care package recipient has plenty of books (or e-books), streaming options, and movies to keep them occupied—but a little screen-free entertainment never hurt anyone. Puzzles, crossword puzzle books, adult coloring books with markers, board games, word searches, and the like all make great inclusions in a care package, especially if your loved one is feeling a little blue.