Lifestyle & Seasonal

Send off your student with a trunk party on the patio

Skipped a grad party or took a gap year? A trunk party can be the perfect send-off for your student.

Back in the day, luggage was a traditional gift for the high school graduate. Bags of one’s own were deemed necessary for a young person’s life ahead. Now we pack up the minivan with storage bins and tote it all to the kids’ dorms. That doesn’t mean our students have all the goods and well-wishes they need to send them off right. A “trunk party” is a version of the traditional bon voyage, but with a college theme. It’s the perfect boost for a kid who skipped a graduation party or for a student going to school after a gap year. Here are a few tips and tricks for using your patio to host a fun trunk party for your student.


A college theme is easy to pull together. Pennants, buntings or banners with the school’s logo or colors can be hung from the lifted hatch door of the SUV or minivan. Making handmade signs with “College or Bust” can be a way to get the younger kids involved. Megaphones and streamers add to the 1950’s-college-pep-rally atmosphere.

Gift station

Set up the back of the car to receive gifts. Clear out the trunk and lower the back seats if possible. Vacuum the floor. Place a box for cards in there. Hang a school flag and streamers from the hatch door. A new laundry basket with a bow will show guests where to leave their gifts. Some gift ideas: gift cards, Ramen noodles, snacks, school supplies.


Grilling out is the way to go. Spruce up the outdoor kitchen and get the grill going early so guests can eat right away. If you are lucky enough to have an outdoor pizza oven, set up the toppings bar and invite guests to go crazy. Pineapple and ham don’t have to be your craziest pizza topping choices. Try fruits, varied cheeses, and white sauces. If the school is in a specific area, try adding ingredients popular in that area, e.g., Mexican spices or cheesesteaks.


Perhaps set up a card table with board games for guests who are looking for something to do. Some cornhole or other skinny-space lawn games may be fun, but finding entertainment for college-age kids isn’t necessary. A sentimental and much-appreciated touch would be a photo booth equipped with an instant-print photo printer. Kids love to decorate their dorm walls with actual photos (Instagram isn’t everything!), and a photo booth with a printer will give them a piece of home to take with them, and give the guests a souvenir.

Clean up 

Regular clean-up during the party will help your guests and your student have a good time. Assign the duties to a family member or hire catering help. A table covered with red solo cups may be a common scene in college, but your lovely trunk party doesn’t have to be that authentic. A sweep every 30 minutes should be sufficient. Keep markers handy if guests would like to re-use their cups. (Better yet, have them bring their own water bottles.) Have the clean-up crew regularly check the printer for the photo booth to make sure it is running smoothly.

Send your student off right with a trunk party. A chance to say a proper good-bye to hometown friends and relatives in precious, and give your loved ones an opportunity to encourage your student in his or her new adventures.



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