Subscription boxes used to confuse me. I just didn’t understand why anyone would spend money and not know exactly what they’d get.
“It’s a surprise,” my friend Liz said, probably resisting the urge to roll her eyes. “That’s the point.”
Then the coronavirus pandemic happened. After days of social distancing, I was craving a little novelty and surprise. I spent a few minutes researching subscription boxes for the Social Distancing Staycation episode of Travel Tomorrow and that was all it took.
I was hooked. I signed up for not one but three subscription boxes! (One is for my niece and nephews though, so that makes it seem like I’m not totally obsessed right? Right?!)
Just so you know, this post includes a few affiliate links. That means that if you sign up for a subscription box by clicking through from my site, I may receive a small commission…which I will probably use to sign up for one more subscription box, if I’m being totally honest.
I’ve been working hard to stay focused during social distancing. And I’ve been doing pretty well. But here’s a strange travel-shaped hole in my life and my imagination right now and getting interesting mail has helped to fill it. And I think I know why.
Travel is immersive. It appeals to our senses, our sense of adventures and introduces us to things we don’t know. It asks us to accept a little risk and try something new. These subscription boxes do the exact same thing, bringing us books, food, drinks, crafts, handmade goods and activities from around the world. They let us travel without leaving home. Here are some of my favorites.
Subscription boxes for foodies:
Universal Yums is my new obsession. They ship you a box filled with snacks from a different country or region every month (our first box featured Scandinavia), which includes trivia, games and info about both the food and why people like it. Ranking these snacks has become our new after dinner pastime and I’m not complaining. (The cookie dough pralines are in the lead…so far.)
Try The World
The Countries Box from Try the World sends you seven or eight gourmet items from around the world each month. Boxes can include snacks, tea, condiments, and ingredients to cook with. It’s a great way to elevate a meal and learn more about a new place.
Explore Local box features nibbles, ingredients and a souvenir item like stationary, coaster or a candle from a different U.S. city every month. Past boxes have included wild huckleberry jam from Bozeman, Montana, green chili powder from Albuquerque, New Mexico and saltwater taffy from Brooklyn, New York.
Spice Madam offers spice packets from around the globe (enough for four to six servings), recipes to use them in, an international music playlist and cultural facts to read through as you cook.
Heat Hot Sauce Club
My husband eats hot sauce on pretty much everything, so the Heat Hot Sauce Club might have to be our next investment. You can choose your level of heat, the number of bottles you’d like to receive and if you want to get a box monthly or quarterly.
A little something to drink
Wine of the Month Club
This is basically the OG of subscription boxes, established way back in 1972. But Wine Club of the Month is obviously a customer favorite, or it wouldn’t have enjoyed such longevity. You can order by wine variety, region (think Bordeaux or Napa) or try a mystery box to be totally surprised.
Atlas Coffee Club
Travel to the coffee producing regions of the world with Atlas Coffee Club. You’ll score 12 ounces of curated, micro-lot coffee from a different country every month, tasting notes and a postcard from the coffee’s country of origin.
Fill out a free tea profile and Sips By will send you four customized options every month. Your shipment will make at least 15 cups. It’s a great way to try a wide range of teas (from loose leaf to bagged options) without making a big financial commitment.
Shop local without leaving home
Causebox brings together sustainable, ethically sourced products made by female artisans all over the globe. The boxes contain items like jewelry from Columbia, reusable produce bags from makers in India, and accessories like summer weight scarves and tote bags.
Each GlobeIn Artisan Box showcases upscale home decor and self-care items from artisans all over the world. Each box is centered around a theme, so “Hydrate” includes coconut oil, lip balm and other goodies tucked inside a beautifully woven basket from Mexico, “Snug” contains painted mugs from the Palestinan territories, a cozy beanie from Peru and more.
Created by a flight attendant, each Jet Setter Chic subscription box is packed with TSA compliant skin and body products. Look for body lotions, facial masks, lip balms and other self-care items to help you feel refreshed, whether you’re traveling or not.
Subscription boxes for the kiddos
The World Edition, which features games, crafts and activities centered around a different country each month, was the first subscription box on my radar, largely because my child asked for it for his birthday. But the USA Edition looks like fun too.
The KiwiCo Atlas Box was the one I elected to send my nephews and nice for a couple different reasons. (You can get 50% off your first box here.) First, it teaches about different countries through maps, an atlas and hands-on projects (like the globe in my sister’s photo above) that mirror the engineering, art and tinkering projects in some of the company’s other crates. And the age range is a bit broader than some of the comparable products, so a group of siblings can all work together.
The activities in each Womple Studios subscription box also focus on a different region of the world each month, but they take a slightly different approach. Each box includes an illustrated early-reader chapter book, cultural craft activities, maps and country guides with facts, activities and recipes.
Little ones will love hearing fairy tales from all over the world, all told by a magical little girl named Louise. Through Louise’s colorful letters, Charm Post introduces kids to fairies in England, Chinese dragons, and fierce trolls in Iceland. It’s not technically a box, but it’s an adventure.
Books, letters, stationary and other quiet pursuits
One of my favorite ways to travel to a new place is through the written word. And I do the majority of my reading at night or in the bath, so I had to try Introverts Retreat. Each box is centered around a book by a female author (you choose the genre — fiction, thriller/mystery or romance). Then you can add bath products and a candle or all of the listed items and a snack, coffee, cocoa or tea. I loved the book and the bath salts and candle both smelled fantastic. It turns out that having nice things actually does encourage me to slow down and relax.
The Wordy Traveler
For titles with an international reach, try The Wordy Traveler. It ships quarterly and includes books from travel writers as well as ethically-sourced tea, gifts, and limited edition art prints from the regions featured. Choose from one to three books a quarter.
Japan takes cuteness and novelty to the next level, so anyone with an appreciation from Japanese design, cool stationary and kawaii (cuteness) should snap up Inku Crate asap. It includes six to eight adorable stationary items each month, including planners, pens and markers.
Letters From Afar
If you prefer beautiful letters over subscription boxes, this service is for you. Letters from Afar features colorfully illustrated letters from a different country each month. It’s the perfect cure for wanderlust, for the super affordable rate of $6 a month. A portion of the proceeds help build schools in developing nations.
What about you?
Which subscription boxes do you like?
Which ones on this list intrigue you the most?
What products do you want delivered to your door?
What travel experiences can a subscription box duplicate?
Which experiences don’t quite translate and why?
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