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.
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.”
Here’s a significantly cheaper but still attractive option.
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.”
Or, for an indoor ice bucket, a curvaceous wood option for a warmer, richer feel.
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.”
Or, for toting around cans of beer in style, there’s this boxier option, with a useful small zippered pocket in front.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
Or go all out with a gorgeously packaged caviar set, tricked out with its own mother-of-pearl spoon and logo-ed opener key.
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.