The entire year John was deployed, he talked about how much he couldn’t wait to be home– to wear clothes that truly felt clean, to take a shower in his own bathroom… He wanted to get rid of the things he had taken on deployment because they were so worn out. They smelled bad and he felt like they were always dirty, no matter how freshly laundered they were.
He mentioned this to me on more than one occasion while he was deployed. Behind the words, I knew that it wasn’t just about the stuff.
John was ready to be home in his own bed, with his own sheets. He wanted to be able to grab a pair of sneakers and go for a run without thinking about mortar attacks. And he was so excited for a more stable schedule. (Whatever THAT means in the Navy, to be honest.)
It wasn’t just about the stuff. But the stuff was one of the things that I could easily fix for him, the minute he stepped off the plane.
When John came home, I had a little welcome home basket full of the things he needed– toothpaste, razors, socks, underwear. (And yes, there were a few beers in there for good measure, too.)
He hadn’t expected any of it at all, so he was super surprised. And it probably goes without saying that he loved it!
He grabbed a trashcan and chucked a bunch of his worn-out stuff and tore into the new packages of things.
Here’s why I love welcome home baskets
During deployment, I was all about care packages. (If you’re reading my blog, you probably know that already!) For me, care packages are one of those tangible ways of showing love and thought when you’re separated by hundreds (or maybe even thousands) of miles.
After months of being apart, suddenly, homecoming happens and you’re together again. I could say a lot about reintegration… but for right now, I’ll say that it takes time to find your rhythm as a couple. It’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t matter how in sync you are. It’s just part of the process.
Enter a welcome home basket.
A welcome back homecoming basket is a subtle way to make your loved one feel at home again and to provide the little (and maybe big things) that he or she might need or have been craving on deployment. I put John’s welcome home basket on his dresser as a surprise that he could discover on his own without any pressure or fanfare. It was just a fun, little surprise he wasn’t expecting… at all!
And I’ll be very honest, towards the end of the deployment, I needed something to do with my nervous energy. I couldn’t send care packages anymore. Instead, I focused creative energy and–we’re being honest here– some shopping therapy into the welcome home basket.
Let’s welcome them home
The possibilities for the contents and where you place the basket are endless! (And a lot of fun to think about and plan!)
So let’s talk about what can go in your welcome home basket. After all, there are so many things you can do, but that doesn’t mean that your planning should take a lot of time. It’s about the thought– not about the stuff– and you don’t want to spend extra time working on a welcome home basket that it takes you away from other homecoming activities and leaves you stressed out.
Here are my favorite stuffers to pop into a welcome home basket:
The first? Personalized Coca Cola bottles! (You can easily find them at Walmart– in huge bins in the store as well as in the coolers in the checkout aisle.) While John’s name is super common, there are now more than 1,000 different names to choose from! If you’re worried about all of those names, don’t be: Walmart has the largest and most organized selection of personalized Coke bottles, so you should be able to find the name you’re looking for in no time.
The second? Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. As a kid, John thought that people who gave each other Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were truly in love– it was something his mom would bring his dad as a treat on occasion. When John was deployed, I’d try to always pack him a few in each care package as a little code– “I love you.” It only makes sense to add them to this gift basket! Now they also carry messages on their packaging! I chose “My Fave,” but there are a ton to fit whoever you’re giving them to!
If your person isn’t into Reese’s, think about what snacks they do love. What makes them feel special? What’s something they might not have had since they deployed? What’s something that is a treat between the two of you? Whether it’s gum or chips, granola bars, or fresh fruit, include a few items that are a true treat.
This basket includes:
- a personalized Coca Cola bottle and a few other Cokes for good measure
- a few packages of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
- athletic socks
- sandwich cookies
- tortilla chips
- razor blades
- a book or video game they might have missed during deployment
- coupons for your recipient to redeem (make time for the two of you with this gift!)
- a favorite beer or wine (or a note for adults-only cocktails with you)
- dried fruit
- fresh fruit
- their favorite baked goods (chocolate chip cookies, anyone?)
- a freshly-laundered pillowcase
- new pajamas
- favorite snacks
- shaving supplies
- other toiletries
- hair products
- cologne or perfume
- new magazines or newspapers
- drawings or cards from your kids (if you have children)
Printable Welcome Home basket sign
Once you’ve got your goodies for the basket, find a basket that fits all of them. (It might be tough depending on how much stuff you’ve decided to arrange in your welcome home basket.) I found this particular one at Walmart when I was shopping. You can also check out thrift stores, hardware stores, or department stores. (I always head for clearance first.)
Not feeling an actual basket? Get creative with your display. If you want to be more traditional, grab a roll of cellophane from the dollar store (you’ll usually find it by the wrapping paper and party supplies) or a cellophane gift basket bag (which usually comes with a bow included!) and wrap up everything sans basket.
Of course, you can also arrange your welcome home gifts on a dresser or in the bathroom. Maybe you’d like to leave a note with it that starts a scavenger hunt.
You know your partner and what they’ll enjoy, so keep that in mind as you create your welcome home basket.
Tie a cute ribbon and use this free printable to send a little welcome back message to your loved one! Download the free sign and tons of other military life freebies.
Homecoming is a wonderful time, but it can also be a little stressful. A gift basket is a really nice touch to provide items that your loved one needs– and it doesn’t need to be difficult to put together!
Looking For More Care Package Ideas? Try These:
- How to Make a Welcome Home Beer Cake
- 40 Ways to Save Money on Care Packages
- The Gigantic List of Free Care Packages for Deployed Service Members