What do you do for accommodation when you’re on the road?
Within the US I will book a hotel for a night or two, and when abroad, I look for an affordable hostel. Sometimes however, I’m fortunate enough to stay in someone’s home — with a friend or family member, online acquaintance, or perhaps a stranger (i.e., member of CouchSurfing).
When I stay at someone’s home, I always try to pack a gift to thank them for playing host. Whether they’re providing me with a place to sleep, cooking me meals, showing me around town, or maybe even picking me up from the airport, I want to thank them for their generosity!
In 2011 I packed a hostess gift to give to one of my dear friends in London, and when she came for a visit a few months later, she brought the most thoughtful gift to me. If you’re traveling this year (and I hope you are!), consider adding one of the gift ideas below to your packing list. Your hosts will be grateful. Depending on the item, you may wish to pack it in your checked luggage or your carry-on allowance.
Food + Drink
Chocolate: Who doesn’t love chocolate?! Okay, I know not everyone is a chocoholic like me, but it’s one of the safer gifts to give! Select from a local shop if possible, and opt for simple flavors if you don’t know your host. Go for something a little more unique if you know their preferences! My friend brought my family some beautiful truffles from a UK chocolate company.
Candy: I always bring US candy for my London friends when they host me. A few in particular LOVE when I bring peanut butter M&Ms as they are not available in England.
Wine: This one will have to go in your checked luggage! I’m fortunate to live in wine producing state, and my home town is surrounded by wineries. If you don’t have a local wines to select from, choose your favorite or if you know your host well, pack theirs. Wrap wine bottles well with clothing or purchase a bubble wrap bag that’s large enough for the bottle. Tip: Be sure that your host drinks alcohol, whether it’s a cultural, religious, or personal decision, before selecting this gift.
An item unique to your country (or difficult to find): Aussies might share Vegemite. I bring Oreos to my London friends as they are more expensive in England.
Keeping it local
State pride: I often visit the “Virginia Shop” in town before going on a trip for clothing, food, or souvenirs from my state. One of the book stores in town has an entire section dedicated to my state’s history, culture, cuisine, etc. Select from cookbooks with local recipes or small photography books.
Items to wear: If you live in a college town, consider a t-shirt with the university’s seal, name, or sports logo. If you’re a sports fan, look for shirts, hoodies, scarves or baseball caps with your team’s name, logo, and mascot.
Simple: Postcards, key chains, or pens featuring local landmarks are easy to pack and a great option if you’re packing gifts for multiple hosts.
More fun gifts
Items for the house: Soaps, candles, small jewelry or decorative boxes, tea towels, and coffee mugs are all thoughtful gifts for your host or hostess.
Stuffed animals: When possible, choose ones that represent animals not found in your host’s home country. One of my sisters brought back 3-4inch koalas to give to her co-workers after her trip to Australia.
Cultural items: Are there items that represent your local or national culture? Whether it’s an item that can be worn, displayed, or consumed, your host will appreciate a unique gift.
The gift ideas above are not for hosts alone!
The people that offer you a ride to and from the airport, give you extra spending money for the trip, or cover some of your responsibilities at work will all be thankful that you thought of them during your travels.
What are your favorite hostess items to give or receive? Which gifts do you plan to pack this year?