Graduation Day gift guide

WASHINGTON — Graduations come and go, but that doesn’t mean a gift to the graduate in your life can’t withstand the test of time.

Whether your little one has just navigated the mazes of middle school or through the trenches of high school, here are some gifts worthy of the finish line.

If you have plans over Labor Day weekend, check out  what services are available before heading out. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Halfpoint)
Travel

Use the summer before college to encourage a graduation trip with family or friends. Once your teen leaves the nest, their vacation days may be consumed by internships, extended courses or trips with friends. The gift of travel might end up broadening your graduate’s horizons in unexpected ways. The summer after an elementary or middle school graduation is also a great time for a trip. A family vacation can create memories that will last a lifetime.

An airline gift card or airline mileage gives the recipient the freedom to plan a solo trip or one with friends. You can purchase airline gift cards from American Airlines, Southwest and Delta, to name a few, or use this comparison chart from credicards.com. Trips don’t have to break the bank. Here are affordable beach destinations across the United States, and day trips you can take around the District.

(Thinkstock)

Travel accessories

If an entire trip is too pricey, broaden your graduate’s world with a scratch map of all the places they can travel to in the future, like this one from Scratchables. Most maps are in the $20 to $30 price range. Cork globes are an alternative idea, though they’re more expensive, around $50 to $100 depending on the size. Find one from Amazon here. If you want to encourage travel in a practical way, get your graduate a carrier set or luggage. See the list of best luggage cases on Amazon here.

(Thinkstock)

Woman hands working with a laptop and a mouse
Electronics

With more online education portals and grading systems, computers or laptops are necessary for staying in the loop. A trusty new laptop, tablet or netbook can be useful for note taking, research, submitting applications and more. A quality electronic device could last your graduate a few years. While “best of” lists change seasonally, some things to keep in mind are: battery life, screen quality, CPU, RAM and touchpad functionality. Laptopmag.com has some tips for what to look for in a student laptop.

(Thinkstock)

Formalwear

As your graduate grows older, he or she will come across more opportunities to dress up: formals, job interviews and networking events. Get your grad suited up to look their best as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

(Thinkstock)

A Watch

Give your graduate the gift of time — or just a watch that tells time — before he or she walks the stage. Punctuality and time management skills become increasingly important the older students become, and with a sturdy watch, they’ll have one less of an excuse for being late. Askmen has a list of their top 10 graduation gift watches, and Heavy has a list of their favorite picks. Here’s The Independent’s list of the best watches for young women and Babble’s 10 cool watches for kids.

(Thinkstock)

**ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, SEPT. 15, AND THEREAFTER** Eric Hultgren, 22, a senior at UMass-Lowell, rides his bicycle on campus in Lowell, Mass. Friday, August 1, 2008. Hultgren can't afford high gasoline prices, so he's ditched his car for a Mongoose 8-speed. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Bicycle

For those who don’t own a car, biking is a great way to get around — and get in some exercise. Wherever your graduate ends up going, your gift will help them get there. Don’t forget these essential bike accessories, courtesy of Bike Barn.

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

FILE - This Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, file photo shows a gift card kiosk at a CVS/Pharmacy, in New York. Gift cards are a popular present at the holidays. The National Retail Federation says more than half of consumers plan to give one in 2016. But they aren’t always wanted, as research organization CEB TowerGroup estimates that $1 billion of the $130 billion spent on gift cards in 2015 went unused. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Gift card

If you foresee your graduate subsisting off instant noodles and cereal once they leave the nest, a restaurant or supermarket gift card could come in handy. Gift cards to nearby gas stations or area retailers

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Walt Disney
Event tickets

From the Tony-award winning musical “Hamilton” coming to the Kennedy Center in 2018, to summer shows at Wolf Trap, the D.C. area is rich with its theater, music, arts and entertainment offerings. Shows can get pricey, especially for quality seats, so graduation season may be a good time to splurge.

Baker hands preparing khachapuri on kitchen table. Top view on cook making traditional georgian treat with raw dough and egg. Culinary, cooking, recipe concept
Cooking lessons

Can your graduate boil water? Can he or she fry an egg? Help your recipient graduate from using the microwave to the stove top in the kitchen. Cooking is a skill that’s handy for life, and prepping your graduate now may lend you an extra set of hands in the kitchen. Cookology in Sterling, Virginia, offers courses on everything from knife skills to how to make Beef WellingtonsCreative Kids Kitchen, started by an Arlington, Virginia, mom out of her kitchen, has options for the younger set. For learners serious about taking the cake, CulinAerie in Northwest D.C. has 12 week courses for cooks of all levels.

(Thinkstock)

A stack of cookbooks is seen at the Le Creuset company store in a mall in Grove City, Pa., Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. Due to rising fuel and food costs, more people are cooking meals at home rather than eating out, a growing trend that has helped boost sales of cookbooks, according to recent surveys. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Cookbooks

If cooking lessons are too expensive, consider a less expensive cookbook as a gift. Healthy recipes are possible even for those on a low budget. Vegans can whip up delicious dishes as well. For those who solely shop at Trader Joe’s, this college cookbook can turn groceries into gourmet. And if scrounging for ingredients is the main problem, this five-ingredient cookbook can help even those with little time, money or experience.

(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

A margin account could be the answer to your cash crunch when it comes to funding a business venture or purchasing a second home. But there are also risks to consider. (Thinkstock)
Cash

While cash may seem impersonal, every dollar can help save toward college. Consider an education savings plan, also known as a 529 Plan, to set aside funds for future college costs.  Savingforcollege.com has more information on the top plans, 529 plans for grandparents and your state’s policies on the plan. You could also open up a savings account, and teach your graduate all about budgeting. Here is NerdWallet’s list of the best savings accounts of 2017.

(Thinkstock)

Flash Drive

Fill a flash drive with photos, notes, documents or links that the graduate will find memorable. Students who go away for college may appreciate having a collection of pictures they can take with them, and there will be a time when the flash drive itself is useful.

(Thinkstock)

Quality notebook

It’s time your graduate levels up from spiral-bound notebooks and college ruled paper. And cheap ballpoint pens that spit goop? Time for your graduate to own a set of supplies that won’t give out when needed most. Moleskine notebooks are a popular pick, and Pen Addict has a guide to the best pens. (Thinkstock)

“I need…” cards

If your graduate is moving away after graduation, get them a set of stamped and addressed cards so they can call on you in times of need. Students who need toiletries or other supplies can jot down a quick note to send. Once you receive the card, you can send the things they’re requesting. This could also be a great way for you to keep in touch.

(Thinkstock)

(1/14)
If you have plans over Labor Day weekend, check out  what services are available before heading out. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Halfpoint)
Woman hands working with a laptop and a mouse
**ADVANCE FOR MONDAY, SEPT. 15, AND THEREAFTER** Eric Hultgren, 22, a senior at UMass-Lowell, rides his bicycle on campus in Lowell, Mass. Friday, August 1, 2008. Hultgren can't afford high gasoline prices, so he's ditched his car for a Mongoose 8-speed. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
FILE - This Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009, file photo shows a gift card kiosk at a CVS/Pharmacy, in New York. Gift cards are a popular present at the holidays. The National Retail Federation says more than half of consumers plan to give one in 2016. But they aren’t always wanted, as research organization CEB TowerGroup estimates that $1 billion of the $130 billion spent on gift cards in 2015 went unused. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Walt Disney
Baker hands preparing khachapuri on kitchen table. Top view on cook making traditional georgian treat with raw dough and egg. Culinary, cooking, recipe concept
A stack of cookbooks is seen at the Le Creuset company store in a mall in Grove City, Pa., Friday, Sept. 5, 2008. Due to rising fuel and food costs, more people are cooking meals at home rather than eating out, a growing trend that has helped boost sales of cookbooks, according to recent surveys. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
A margin account could be the answer to your cash crunch when it comes to funding a business venture or purchasing a second home. But there are also risks to consider. (Thinkstock)

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up