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Gifts to Pack for Your Host or Hostess

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?

Written by Heather

Heather Rudd Palmer is a 30-something with a love for travel, food, and healthy living. After short trips to Europe in her 20s, Heather left her job at 30 to live, work, and travel in Australia for a year. She visited every state and territory, embarked on two road trips, worked at an organic food store, and ate her way through Sydney. She's now a career counselor for university students. You can find Heather at There's No Place Like Oz and Healthy Life Heather.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Christine says

    I like taking Jelly Bellies as a gift–not only are they a super American candy, but the factory is near my hometown! French people are always really amused at doing the Jelly Belly “recipes”–like combining different ones to make raspberry cheesecake, and so forth. Great for vocabulary building too, with all the different flavors!

    • Megan E. says

      What a great idea! I love JB so that would be fun to do (and for me to eat some on the way 😉 ). Make sure to bring a bag with the recipes of course!

      When I traveled to India, then France, I picked up some bracelets in India to give to my hostess and her family in France and also showed them pictures and told stories, which they really enjoyed.

  2. Nethwen says

    I seldom know what would be unique to my country (USA) before visiting someplace else. I mean, how do you find out that Jelly Bellies, Oreos, or M&Ms are uncommon or expensive in another country? It seems like something one has to pick up after the fact, only to be useful on a return trip. I think bandanas are a uniquely American item, but not having extensive foreign travel experience, I could be wrong.

    • Heather says

      You don’t always know what is unique until you have traveled to various spots and hear what people would like or find interesting about your home culture. Some of the other items on the list may be better ideas to pack the first few times 🙂

    • MelD says

      That is so funny because there is a very typical Swiss bandana type from the canton of Glarus and that would be a great hostess gift from Switzerland LOL – in fact, I just found out that my husband’s Swiss ancestors had the first bandana/handkerchief factory in the 18th century… now would that impress a US host?! 😉

  3. Flora says

    Great ideas! I’m living with a host family for 5 months in Ecuador next year so must put my thinking cap on for what they might like.. Candles, English tea, shortbread and anything London themed all spring to mind!

  4. Margaret Ann says

    Thanks for all of the great ideas! My husband and I and two daughters (in their twenties) are going on a Caribbean cruise in a few weeks. I read online that it is helpful to give a small gift to your room steward to thank them for their special attention and perhaps get even better service. Since we are from Canada, I bought a Roots cap assuming that our Steward will be male! Our daughters might have a different steward and they could be female or male. should I get a unisex gift just in case or wait until we can get something on one of the islands?

  5. Libby says

    Next month I’m leaving for France, Germany and the Netherlands for a month. I’ll be with 6 different host family’s as I am touring with an exchange band. Any ideas for gifts?

  6. Becca says

    I’m traveling to Chile from Washington DC, so I bought The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown in Spanish and a photo guide book about DC so she can see all the landmarks the book mentions(it takes place in DC)! I know she’s an avid reader so I tried to tailor it to her.


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