The 2nd Best Goodbye Gift You Can Give Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on May 15, 2010

201005150859.jpgLast year one of our most active and committed community members “Taking a Computer Lunch“, casually mentioned something that she does for all of her au pairs shortly before they depart. She gives them the gift of “The Box“.

What is “The Box”?

We give our APs the biggest box their home countries permit, either for their birthdays or as a good-bye present, intending for them to fill it with the belongings that they want, but won’t shed tears if it doesn’t actually get to its destination.

Why is The Box such a great gift?

  • Airlines have luggage weight regulations.
  • Airlines charge horrific amounts for overweight extra luggage.
  • Au Pairs like to buy souvenirs for their families at home.
  • Au Pairs accumulate lots of their own souvenir treasures (like our au pair who made 6 full size scrapbooks while here… and then wondered how to get them home).
  • Au Pairs buy a lot of stuff (shoes, books, clothing, shoes, clothing)
  • Au Pairs often have full suitcases when they first arrive, so they have nowhere to put the new stuff.
  • Host Parents can and will hand down, donate and recycle leftover stuff… but would rather not.

What will The Box cost you?

Says TACL:
It generally costs me $150 or so to send it airmail and insured for the amount of the postage fees, so it’s a generous gift. Most of my APs don’t realize the full value of the gift until a) they pack and b) they see how much the postage cost when they get home.

201005150904.jpgExtra APM Tip? Make The Box “Special”

Depending on whether or not you help your au pair pack the box, and if you take it to the UPS/PostOffice place yourself, you might tuck a little extra ‘something’ inside The Box... maybe some photos, some candy (something light weight) as one more token of your affection.

You can also decorate The Box-– or have your kids do it– so that it is especially cute when it shows up back home.

Now, of course, we love the concept of “The Box” — but it’s the 2nd best Goodbye Gift.

What is the 1st Best Goodbye gift?

Memories of a wonderful year.

Many thanks to “Taking a Computer Lunch” for this great idea and all the many other tips she’s shared with us on AuPairMom!!!

See also:
Saying Goodbye to an Au Pair you Parents really love
Getting her stuff back home: Is there a cheap way to ship things?
Goodbye Gifts

Note:   Despite what these illustrations suggest, I do not recommend that you pack your cat into The Box.
Images: Cat in the box?from mcwetboy Boxed cat from Mothlike


An Au Pair May 15, 2010 at 1:59 pm

As an au pair, I am struggling with how to get all my stuff back home cheaply too. So I think the box is a really nice gift, especially if it’s decorated by the kids.

Hope it’s okay if I ask a related question that I’ve been thinking about for a while here. I am leaving my host family this summer and was wondering what would be a great goodbye present for the family, especially the kids. I’ve already gotten them a Christmas ornament from my home country but was trying to come up with something special for the kids.

Also, I am not sure if my host parents maybe think of me only as an “ok” Au Pair and in that case maybe didn’t get me anything so would that make for an awkward situation when I have a present for them? But I think I will try and do something anyway for the kids sake because I have bonded with them and that’s what it’s really about.

Host Mommy Dearest May 15, 2010 at 10:31 pm

What I have appreciated most are the scrapbooks from our au pairs. Some have done the online scrapbooks with captions and others have done the more traditional glue/scissors/stickers thing. The kids like them as bedtime stories sometimes and it helps them remember past APs and the wonderful times they had while she was here.

Darthastewart May 16, 2010 at 12:52 pm

Ditto on scrapbooks (I’m MORE than happy to pay for all of the materials!) Pictures, things made by the au-pair for the kids.

Other suggestions:
Anything with pictures of the kids: mouse pads, coffee mugs, tote bag, magnets, etc.
Hand prints or foot prints.
Christmas ornaments done at a paint your pot place.
Videos of their year here.

AUPAIR Momma May 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm

No gift necessary. One aupair gave me a hand written letter 5 pages long saying how much she learned and appreciated the year. As she was my 1st au pair this really was so sweet especially since we did have a few disagreements but this letter really helped end the year on a high note (for our relationship). I’m such a stationary girl that if this note was written on super pretty paper that might have been nicer but really that is just a personal preference for myself bc I would save the letter :)

Nicola aupair May 16, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Letters are so nice, I have one from a friend who gave it to me as I got on the plane and it always cheers me up whenever I feel uncertain about things- I think it would be really, really nice for a host family and an au pair to do a “letter exchange” at the end of a year.

But then again I’m a letter kind of girl, I don’t like big scenes of emotion so I write letters to people on a weekly basis, thanking them for things or mentioning an issue! I don’t know if my host family would appreciate a nice long letter as much as I would.

Jan May 17, 2010 at 8:34 am

Most of our au pair’s have given me a nice letter or card with a note in it which I really appreciated and was really touched by. Scrapbooks are great for the kids. One of our au pair’s gave us two coffee cups with pictures of the kids on them, and the kids really LOVE to use these cups and complain when they are in the dishwasher.

I was really hurt when one of our au pair’s left and didn’t give anything to the kids and not even a thank you note to me. I thought she had really become a part of our family.

We usually give our au pair’s a money gift and a piece of jewelry like a necklace or a charm bracelet with some charms on it that will remind her of her year with us.

TX Mom May 17, 2010 at 10:10 am

A card can be both very personal and just polite, so definately give the parents a card.

If an AP wants to give the children a gift, I recommend something that the kids will have forever, because the kids will likely forget the AP but know when they see the item it was from someone very special. We save cards, pictures and letters for the kids’ scrapbook (which is actually a scrap box. :) ) One AP made beautiful quilts for the kids. (Like the pillowcase idea below.) A CD scrapbook is also great for the kids.

'sota gal May 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

Scrapbooks are nice, but as someone who is not into scrapbooking AT ALL, I realize that not every one is into it. Our first au pair made us a photo collage with pictures of the kids, her with the kids and pictures she had taken of us with the kids through out her year. It is so special to all of us and we see it every day because it hangs on the fridge next to the kids artwork.

She also wrote a nice letter to us about her year here, her love for our family, opening our home to her and all that she learned about herself and had grown. She also wrote a letter to each of our kids; it talks about memories of things that they each shared together and what she loves about each of them. I write letters to each of my kids for their birthdays and other big events in their lives (the biggest we’ve had thus far is starting kindergarten) and I’ve created a book for each of them with all of their letters. Our au pairs heartfelt letter is right in there with all of their birthday letters.

I’m so glad to hear that you really bonded with your host kids and I’m sure you’ll think of something special to remind them of you.

Calif Mom May 24, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I am soooo stealing this letter idea and smacking myself for not thinking of it earlier, being an epistolary type myself. Thanks for sharing!

(Also NOT a scrapbooker. at. all. )

I honestly don’t expect a goodbye gift FROM our au pair, and I would be upset if she spent a lot of money on anything for us at the end of her year(s). But it’s very sweet.

AUPAIR Momma May 16, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Great idea! I was going to give ours some $ to ship things but the box seems more like a gift. Love to hear more on options /size of the box.

Taking a computer lunch May 16, 2010 at 10:33 pm

The Camel gets some serious medical supplies every month, so we usually re-use one of her boxes. Whatever you do – get a plain box – nothing free from the liquor store with printing all over it (I’m not sure how well a decorated box would do – although it sounds sweet). Do go to the post office and get the maximum measurements allowed (they will be in centimeters but if the post office is quiet they will give it to you in inches – or you can use a measuring tape / online converter and figure it out quite easily). The post office, Staples, and Office Depot all sell boxes flat – I’m sure other places do too.

Do insure the box for the cost of shipping – that way if your AP doesn’t get her goods, she can at least be compensated (or you can be compensated) – I find that insuring the box means that all concerned with its shipping take it more seriously. Have your AP give you a destination address where the recepient is going to pick it up. Even by airmail it takes some time to get there.

anonmom May 17, 2010 at 9:35 am

A great au pair gift given to the children by one of our au pairs were pillow cases- one for each child with a picture of the child and the au pair! It was really a neat gift that they all loved.
I love the box idea!! That is huge!! The expense is burdensome for the au pair, especially now that the airline has now limited their luggage to just one suitcase and one carry on.

Darthastewart May 17, 2010 at 9:47 am

One thing I’ve traditionally done is not the box, but the duffel bag. And then pay for the extra bag shipping charges.

Mom23 May 17, 2010 at 10:35 am

I like that. Extra bags are usually about $50. The bag would be reusuable and the kids could decorate it.

Darthastewart May 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm

I think that the extra shipping cost is close to $100 depending on airline now, BUT the AP can put up to 50 lbs in it.

Czech Aupair May 22, 2010 at 10:18 pm

Hey, I´ve been living with a family for almost 2 years now and I´m going back to my home country soon. My host family and I had our ups and downs. So they “forgot” my birthday this year. The little kids reminded them which is kinda sad. They said they gonna buy me Tickets for this event but they forgot and I seriously don´t care about that event. Im just very disappointed. Maybe they “forgot” as I didn´t buy the parents a gift for Christmas last year as I was mad that they left me alone.
I don´t know if and what I should get as I good bye gift… I´m not even sure if they like me. Sometimes they are the nicest persons ever and then they just ignore me.

Host Mommy Dearest May 23, 2010 at 12:17 am

Maybe they just are too comfortable with you now and what seems like ignoring is just familiarity. Anyway, even if that is not the case, if I were you I would try to leave things on a high note and try to focus on the positive from your 2 years. If you do the right thing and take the high road you will have no regrets. If you have time to put together a photo album or frame a special photo or two, those are thoughtful gifts that, when given with a nice card, can show how much you appreciate your 2 years spent with the family.

Czech Aupair May 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

thank you! You´re words really helped me.

Calif Mom May 24, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Also possible that they are in denial about you leaving! I have not brought up the subject with our au pair because I get teary when I think about it. Maybe it’s the case that they have other stressors right now, because of the economy, but they have not told you about them. Or maybe they are clueless and disorganized, and not very empathetic toward those around them.

No matter the cause, I agree with HMD that you should think of a small, meaningful token of affection for the kids, something very personal, and a simple card or letter for the parents. Take the “high road” in all things and you will give yourself the gift of being able to look back on pride at your own choices in handling a difficult situation. Your au pair year is supposed to be an opportunity for growth, right? Show yourself what you have achieved. And no matter what, the kids will miss you, especially since you were here 2 years. I promise.

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