Need Gift Ideas for Our Commuter College Students?

If your college kid, like mine, will be essentially living out of their car during the school day as a commuter student, there are so many awesome gadgets that can really make their car feel like a second home, and also add some safety features to give parents peace of mind.

So, when you ask your kid what they want for their birthday or holidays and they shrug their shoulders, here’s what is on my list (shhh, don’t tell my daughter!). I’ve seen many lists that recommend gas gift cards, driving gloves, flashlights and granola bars, which are important. I also wanted to find some things that were more off-the-beaten path for her. (These are all good for any gender, even though I use her/daughter here.)

I hope you find this list helpful – I’ve included affiliate links in case you want to check them out (Disclaimer – I get a small referral fee if you make a purchase). Most items can be bought on line, so you don’t have to brave the long lines in stores this holiday season – but you can if you want to! You might even pick up other car items like air fresheners and beef jerky while you wait for the cashier, like I did.

#1. If you don’t want to argue with your kid about tracking them with an app (been there, done that – it’s unpleasant) you can discreetly install a device in their car like HUM+ from Verizon. It costs $10/month and plugs into most cars. Then, you download the free app and it will give you the exact location of the car as well as track speed, distance and things like battery life, but I didn’t share that info with my kid. The only part I told my daughter about is that it comes with a visor clip for her to use that has a blue button for roadside assistance and a red button for calling 911 in an emergency. If you want to be above board about it, your kid can also download the app so they can locate their car if they don’t remember where they parked it, and also get alerts about necessary car upkeep.

#2. My daughter likes to fill her trunk with stuff. She’s the kind whose room is a nightmare, clothes everywhere, but still she can always find what she needs somehow. I wanted to find a gift that will help her round up items in her car so she can continue to find what she needs for class. I found a great, black fold-able car organizer called a Rubbermaid Double Cargo Organizer with a bunch of compartments and mesh pockets that can hold books, a change of clothes, a blanket, a first aid kit, and really anything else so that everything doesn’t just flop around back there. It’s about $25 and will help keep at least some things organized!

#3. Planning ahead isn’t always on the agenda and often my daughter needs to plug things in last minute…a hair straightener, a dead laptop…you get the picture. I found a $20  Duracell Powerstrip Inverter that plugs in to the cigarette lighter and has two AC outlets for plugs with prongs that can power a technology like a tv and video games, and also 2 USB ports for cell phones, tablets, and things like GPS devices. I think I want one for my car, too.

#4. My daughter will certainly never be accused of being a neat freak, which works for her, but the mom in me can’t stand to see her car a mess. So, more for my sake than for hers, she’s getting a Rubbermaid headrest hook. It’s $6 and she can hang a garbage bag, clothes, or whatever floats her boat behind her seat, keeping a bunch of things off the floor. And, it matches the trunk organizer, also black.

#5. Since she doesn’t have a dorm, and there can be a lot of time between classes, there is an inflatable car air mattress that fits on the backseat that is perfect for power naps. They run about $25 and inflate in 2-3 minutes. It’s also good for camping and long road trips, as well as any pets that join you on car rides.

#6. We live where it snows, not a ton but enough to close schools, so she’s getting a car shovel, $15, whether she likes it or not. And one of those ice scrapers that has a cute mitt attached to keep her hand warm while she de-ices the windshield. It’s better than her calling me and saying she’s stuck – this way she can start shoveling herself out in an emergency! She already has a container of ice melt that she reluctantly agreed to keep in her trunk, so that’s a start.

#7. A car seat heater is the more luxurious item on the list. They cost anywhere from about $20-$40, and seem super cozy. The pad straps on to the driver’s seat, and plugs in to the AC adapter. This will help on those really cold mornings when she doesn’t want to go outside – at least her seat will be warm as she goes through the Starbucks drive-through! Her car is on the old side, so we didn’t splurge to get a car starter installed that costs close to $500. If you live somewhere that’s hot, they make a car seat cooler instead!

#8. Last, but not least, is an Amazon Audible Membership. It’s $15/month and she can download audio books to listen to on the way to and from school. There’s a 30-day free trial, which is always a good option, too. If she likes it, she can continue her subscription if she later commutes to work, travels or just needs to unwind with a good book on-the-go.

College kids can be tough to buy holiday presents for, beyond gift cards. Cash is always good, but products that make their commute happier last a whole lot longer. Here’s to my daughter having a warmer, more organized year ahead (and at least I’ll know if her car battery is low)!




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