gifts they might actually want

The Best Thank-You Gifts for Hosts, According to People With Vacation Homes

Did you recently score a weekend out in the country, or at the beach, thanks to some generous vacation-home-owning friends of yours? Congratulations! Now it’s time to thank your hosts. Besides a (handwritten) note, flowers, wine, candles, and chocolates are and probably always will be standby tokens of appreciation. But we thought there are surely gifts that can eclipse those in thoughtfulness, so we asked some people who would know best: the hosts themselves.

Ahead, 14 people who own a vacation home or go in on long-term rentals told us about the most memorable, unusual, and surprisingly useful host gifts they’ve ever received from guests. We went out and found similar items and surrogates for each of those gifts, and feel confident that we’ve got you covered for every weekender situation — and that you’ll get invited back again.

Beverage-adjacent gifts

Vinglacé Stainless Steel Wine Cooler
$90, Goop

Instead of — or in addition to — a bottle of wine, an attractive double-walled wine cooler makes for a great and lasting gift. “My wife and I received this Vinglacé wine-bottle chiller from a friend, and we love it because it’s hard to find really effective bottles for chilling rosé by the pool,” says Yann de Rochefort, founder of Boqueria restaurant, whose vacation house is in Elizaville, New York. “This holder is not only effective at keeping a bottle cool, but also protective of it, so it’s really portable and safe.”

Wine Enthusiast Double-Walled Iceless Wine-Bottle Chiller Glass
$20, Bed Bath and Beyond

Here’s a significantly cheaper but still attractive option.

Old Dutch International 11-Gallon Copper-Plated Hammered Beverage Tub
$176, Bed Bath and Beyond

Bigger and more versatile than a wine cooler, a beverage party tub is a good call for frequent entertainers. “A very useful gift for hosting, and wasn’t top on my list to buy myself,” says Michele M., who vacations in Water Mill, New York. And if you’re staying a long time: Go ahead and add some bottles. “It came filled with wine, which made it not only over the top, but that much more thoughtful.”

Nambé Nara Ice Bucket & Scoop
$100, Spring

Or, for an indoor ice bucket, a curvaceous wood option for a warmer, richer feel.

IceMule Classic Coolers Blaze Orange, Small
$50, Amazon

Yet another approach: make sure your hosts always have frosty drinks on the go, with this IceMule cooler backpack. “It’s the best! Essentially, it’s a streamlined, cinched cooler sack that you can throw over your shoulder to keep everything nice and chilled — it makes it a breeze to tote our favorite bottles to the park or the beach for a boozy picnic,” says Annie Bystryn, founder of Cider in Love, who takes vacations in Darien, Connecticut. “Plus, it keeps the bottles hidden well, perfect for when you’re listening to the Philharmonic in the park.”

PACKiT Freezable Can Cooler Backpack in Charcoal
$60, Amazon

Or, for toting around cans of beer in style, there’s this boxier option, with a useful small zippered pocket in front.

Iittala Aarne Cocktail Set
$75, Need Supply Co.

“One clever gift we received were sets of funky margarita glasses with tequila, limes, and mixer,” Lissa H., who vacations in Bridgehampton, New York; another guest brought “colorful cosmopolitan glasses, complete with vodka, and cranberry juice.”

DuraClear High Ball Glasses, Set of 6
$63, Williams Sonoma

Or, get some personalized backyard and and kid-friendly drinkware. “One of the most creative and useful presents I’ve been given is a stack of 100 sturdy frosted plastic cups, printed with a black deco design that my friend created out of my husband’s and my initials,” says Missy Dewing, who vacations in Sag Harbor, New York. “They’re perfect for the pool area and big family picnics.” This monogrammable set doesn’t quite count out at 100, but the colorful plastic reminds us of all the new colored glass we love so much — only the polycarbonate plastic means these will make for more durable poolside drinking.

Gifts for the kitchen pantry

Kolossos Unfiltered Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil Set
$40, Food52

“A great gift once was a very special bottle of olive oil — the kind you’ve always wondered about but would never buy for yourself,” says Helen C., who has a vacation house in East Hampton, New York. She suggests pouring some oil into a shallow plate, seasoning with coarse salt and cracked pepper, and surrounding with an assortment of crusty breads and a few raw vegetables, like fennel.

Michael Aram Molten Olive Oil Dipping Board
$130, Bed Bath and Beyond

And here’s a suitable accessory for all that fancy olive oil, the kind of thing your gracious host will use but probably (read: definitely) not buy for themselves.

Urbani Dried Porcini Mushrooms
$40, Amazon

Posh condiments go over quite well, too. “My mother always brings me decadent little gourmet jars of treats you would never buy for yourself but are so lovely to have in the house, like white truffle cream, dried porcini mushrooms, or lemon curd,” says Bystryn. “Sometimes you can feel so uninspired looking in the pantry — we all get into the habit of buying the same things again and again. But then I lay my eyes on one of these little gems, and suddenly dinner becomes an indulgent treat.”

Cap Beauty The Pink Mountain Salt
$22, Nordstrom

The label on this jar of rosy-hued Himalayan salt is so cool (that typography!), it’ll earn some prime countertop real estate instead of being relegated to the depths of the pantry.

Roe Caviar Gift Set
$100, Neiman Marcus

Or go all out with a gorgeously packaged caviar set, tricked out with its own mother-of-pearl spoon and logo-ed opener key.

Louis Sherry Miles Redd Cubist 12-Piece Chocolate Truffle Tin
$40, Nordstrom

If you do bring something sweet, make sure it’s ultraluxurious: “Friends came to visit my home and brought this extraordinary, small box of extra-special homemade chocolate truffles,” recalls Amy K., who vacations in Southampton, New York.

Gifts for the kitchen

Hawkins New York Simple Walnut Serving Set
$70, Need Supply Co.

Consider waiting until after your visit, and then snag a really lovely version of a cooking or serving item that your host could really use. “My friend Sabrina does it best: She does not come with a gift, but during her stay, she sees what we need or are missing, and last time she came, we were serving salad and I had no serving spoons,” recounts Debra I., who spends most weekends in Carmel, New York. “So she went out and bought her favorite ones for us.”

Vietri Fuoco 2-Piece Salad Serving Set
$120, Nordstrom

Yet another handsome option.

Anthropologie Catbird 2-Piece Serving Set
$34, Nordstrom

Something a bit funkier: These have some unusual wood inlays on the handles.

Rita Konig for The Lacquer Company Small Belle Rives Tray
$190, Rita Konig

For a versatile gift that can be used in basically any room in the house, these mod lacquer trays are an excellent option that Vanessa von Bismarck, partner and co-founder of BPCM, received from a house guest that visited her abode in Marbella, Spain. “I love them because the colors are so beautiful, one can always use a tray, and it’s something I will have forever,” she raves.

Hay Design Enamel Tray in Brown
$25, Need Supply Co.

And here’s a substantially cheaper, nude, muted option.

Pottery Barn Joshua Serve Bowl in Navy
$29, Pottery Barn

“Our lake house is tribal — a holiday destination for many too many relatives (and friends of relatives) of all shapes and sizes at Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, etc,” says Chris C. of family’s vacation home in Carmel, New York. One of the best, most useful gifts over the years: a big pasta bowl from Pottery Barn. “It’s nothing fancy, but handy for hordes at the table,” she says of the massive carb vessel that’s perfect for feeding a sprawling group of guests.

Le Creuset Stoneware Serving Bowl
$55, Nordstrom

A bold lipstick-red version to coordinate with the rest of their Le Creuset collection.

Xenia Taler Set of 4 Dinner Plates in Marseille
$50, Nordstrom

You can never have enough plates for noshing on, especially when there’s a steady stream of summertime guests. “One of my favorite gifts was a set of eight pottery fish plates handcrafted by an artisan for our beach house,” says Donna R., whose vacation abode is in San Destin, Florida. If you don’t want to go the custom route, here are a few worthy options.

Home décor gifts

Thos. Baker Hamptons/Long Island Sound Laser-Cut Birchwood Map
$298, Thos. Baker

Take some cues from the location of the vacation pad when brainstorming a gift: “We once received a beautiful old nautical map of our area, showing the coastline and the water,” says Bystryn. “I love old maps and prints, so I naturally adored it, but what made it special was getting to see the history of our special little place in the world.”

LUMIO Desk Light
$113, Neiman Marcus

“My friends who are very into contemporary art gave me a lamp that looks like a book and when you open it, the pages light up,” says Bismarck. “It’s a lovely idea, and it makes me think of them every time I use it; it’s also wireless, so you can have it anywhere in the house.” (Editor’s note: we recently posted about this excellent on-sale item — it’s gone down a few more dollars since.)

ATILIM Wooden Folding Book Light
$34, Amazon

And a significantly cheaper dupe.

West Elm Sea Glass Candleholder, Large
$20, West Elm

Or, some candle holders that jibe with the setting of the pad you’re crashing at. Kim B. loved these six sea-glass-esque votive holders. “The first time a good friend of mine visited me in Florida, she got me sea-glass votives; the color was so ideal for my large outdoor dining table, I could not believe it. Not only was this gift unusual, but it was so useful and something I am still using several years later.”

Kate Spade New York Oak Street Mezuzah
$40, Bed Bath and Beyond

When visiting Jewish friends or family, consider giving a mezuzah. “I received a mezuzah from a dear family friend, and it’s always a personal and thoughtful gift,” says Michele M.. This sophisticated, subtle version is a nice alternative to the sometimes-tacky, ‘80s-ish, hard-core Judaica versions that appear to dominate the mezuzah market.

Studio Armadillo Origami Mezuzah in Pink
$76, Modern Tribe

A mod, angular Pepto-Bismol pink choice, handmade in Israel.

West Elm Radius Planter, Medium
$69, West Elm

For hosts with outdoor space and a penchant for gardening, a great pot or planter is a solid choice, like the “oversized pottery planter with personality from Mexico” that Chris C. received. “We filled it every summer with trailing blue flowers and sweet potato vines until it took a dive from the deck last year, and we’ve been looking for a replacement.” These simple ceramic versions are a nice, subtle option.

Gifts for the bathroom

The Big Sleep Lush Jelly Bomb
$9, Lush

Another great gifting strategy: Give something that encourages your host to chill out. Alice J. of Westhampton, New York, appreciated a gift of bath bombs, to make full use of the oversized claw-foot tub, which is “perfect for a quiet summer afternoon soak, and a bath bomb’s bubbles and delightful aroma make it that much more luxurious.” This frothy, vivid blue-green Lush cult favorite is the very one that inspired John Mayer to make up a song.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey Large Bath Fizzy
$6, Ulta

Another popular pick: This creamy version that smells like cookies.

Babouche Slides in Cream
$62, Need Supply Co.

Or, opt for slippers for padding around a vacation house and patio — something equal parts useful and luxurious. “A guest had worn an adorable pair of embellished summer slides to our home, which I mentioned I liked, and she sent me a pair shortly after her visit,” says Donna R. For the more minimalist hostess, there’s this buttery cream-hued pair.

Creatures of Comfort Lucca Slide in Lilac
$277, Need Supply Co.

This pretty purple pair with a Mary Jane–like strap and slightly squared toe shape is a bit more suited for running errands, not just vegging around the house. (Editor’s note: We like these so much, we also listed these in our Friday sales post.)

Carshoe Slippers
$176, Yoox

Or, a more all-out glam satin style, adorned with rhinestones and fringe.

Paul Smith Artist Stripe Beach Towel
$95, Matches Fashion

Something that’s in perpetual demand at a summer crib, year after year, are big towels. “It was so satisfying to receive something so practical,” says Alice J. “One can never have too many beach pool towels to go around.” This one almost looks like it belongs on a wall, not a lounge chair.

Stella McCartney Animal-Print Cotton Beach Towel
$107, Matches Fashion

For the feistier, more outré host or hostess, here’s a designer animal-print option — and it’s on sale.

Book gifts

Paper Pools
From $151, Amazon

“A friend brought very special coffee-table books about the Hamptons and about art, that I wouldn’t normally purchase for myself, and had them signed by the author, [addressed] to me,” recalls Amy K. You might not be able to get David Hockney to actually sign this, but his swimming-pool paintings go with any kind of getaway home.

Nancy Drew Starter Set — Books 1-5
$24, Amazon

Or, skip the oversized, coffee-table-worthy route and consider gifting a stack of your favorite fiction. “Someone gave us a large collection of novels to add to our Hamptons book collection,” recalls Lissa H.

Graphic Image Personalized Leather-Bound Guest Book
$103, Saks Fifth Avenue

Another approach: Give something that’ll be useful for future house guests. Kim B. received a robin-egg-blue-hued leather-bound guest book from friends that visited her Florida home after it was renovated. “It’s a gift that keeps on giving, as we have guests sign it just before they leave our house, towards the end of their visit with us. I will always will cherish the signatures and notes inside of the book.”

Graphic Image Guest Book
$66, Saks Fifth Avenue

And here’s another peachy-pastel version.

Games-as-gifts

Light-Up Beach Ball with Color-Changing LED Lights
$15, Amazon

“A fun holiday present given to me by my mother-in-law for our house was a glow-in-the-dark beach ball,” says Dewing. “It’s worth a lot of laughs and gulps of water when we play pool volleyball late at night.” This one has color-changing LED lights inside.

Party City Glow-in-the-Dark Beach Ball
$3, Party City

Or, a cheaper, non-LED version.

SET: The Family Game of Visual Perception
$11, Amazon

Opt for a throwback card game, for a reprieve from countless rounds of Cards Against Humanity. “We received SET, a card game with no setup that’s good for impromptu play for two — or many, with chimers-in — and is challenging and fun,” says Chris C. of a particularly entertaining (and affordable) houseguest gift she received.

Fredericks & Mae Playing Cards
$7, Madewell

We’re also big fans of everything Fredericks & Mae makes, in particular these rainbow-hue playing cards.

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The Best Thank-You Gifts for Hosts