The Best Gifts for Unexpected Guests

Keep your gift closet stocked and ready for any unexpected exchange that comes knocking. Shop our top 10 favorite presents to have on hand for gifting on the fly.

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December 07, 2022

‘Tis the season for your next-door neighbor to ring your doorbell and greet you with a beautifully wrapped present. A lovely gesture, right? In theory, yes. However, when reality sets in and you realize you have nothing on hand to gift them in return, things tend to take an unbearably awkward turn.

My advice? Stock your hall closet or entry cabinet with pre-wrapped gifts guaranteed to delight any unexpected guests. The life-saving presents don't need to be fancy or expensive to be effective. Read on to get the scoop on my top 10 gifts to stock up on for surprise visits and last-minute invitations.


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Candles are mainstays in my gift closet because they’re relatively inexpensive and basic-though-they-may-be, they rarely disappoint. That said, invest in candles with a neutral fragrance you can pull out for a birthday in May or grab last minute for your holiday party. The Homesick premium scented candles come with contemporary labels to celebrate any milestone or occasion imaginable. Think about what events your friends and family have on the horizon, then stock up on candles that fit the bill. Or, better still: keep it neutral with the toast-worthy candle pictured above.


A gorgeous glass vase overflowing with fresh blooms will never disappoint. Yes, even if its arrangement is thrown together with flowers you may or may not have grabbed from your grocery store in the eleventh hour leading up to your event. They’ll never know! Go ahead — add this glass vase to your gift closet arsenal and thank me later.

From $18.99

Name one person in your life who wouldn’t enjoy and appreciate a stylish, new travel mug. Impossible! The Simple Modern tumbler comes in three sizes and 31 unique finishes, making it easy to shop for anyone at any price point. Plus, with a five-star rating and more than 9,000 customer reviews, this is a gift you can feel confident passing out at a last-minute exchange.

From $20.90

Gifting someone a tea set is like giving them a hug in a box. Give your neighbor or new friend a warm and cozy token of your affection with this 10-tea sampler set. This brand offers your choice of 14 unique gift bundles, and every option is more beautiful than the next.


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$30 (Set of 3)
Uncommon Goods

These artisanal sugar cubes are stunning. They’re one of those gifts someone probably wouldn’t pick up for themselves but would be delighted to receive. Each box comes with three flavors in separate sleeves with six cubes each. Separate the pack and wrap up one bottle of bubbly with one sleeve of sugar, and voila! A cheers-worthy gift for anyone.

$100 (Pack of 5)

You know you're an adult when you start stockpiling gift cards for a rainy day. Snag this pack with five $20 Starbucks gift cards, and you won't need to worry about last-minute guests knocking on your door or showing up anywhere without a little-something-something.

$34.99 $15
On Sale!

The Folkulture Cotton Tea Towel sets feature lively illustrations and vibrant colors that look lovely on anyone’s kitchen counter. This eye-catching cocktail theme is playful with lemons, aqua stripes and artsy cocktail recipe art. Throw the towels in a gift bag as is or split the set and pair each with a budget-friendly kitchen utensil set or bottle of something spirited for a well-rounded gift.


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Uncommon Goods

Four words: Gourmet. Peanut. Butter. Cups. What could be better than unwrapping a box of gourmet peanut butter cups? The small-batch set includes 15 cups with mouthwatering flavors, including dark sea salt, Oreo, PB&J, hazelnut and pretzel. Scoop up this box for last-minute guests and grab a second for yourself because there's no way you'd leave your gift closet batch untouched.

$28 (Set of 5)
Uncommon Goods

Rise to the occasion and wow your unexpected guest with a relaxing shower steamer gift set. The five-piece set includes four spa-worthy scents (lavender, eucalyptus, mint and lemongrass) to bring indulgence to their everyday routine.


I’m a sucker for a beautiful cookbook or coffee table book, and this charming number is no exception. Stock your gift arsenal with a few budget-friendly books on various interests so that you always have something interesting on hand. What’s for Dessert is my top pick because it appeals to everyone’s sweet tooth and is a failproof gift for birthdays and holidays.

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