Subscription boxes are nothing new, but this year, we think they're more apt gifting options than ever — with a growing number of Americans spending the holidays apart from (at least some of) their loved ones, a monthly or quarterly subscription gift feels like the physical embodiment of the "I'm always thinking of you" sentiment. But that doesn't mean all subscription options are created equal.
We've rounded up some of the best options out there — so whether you treat yourself to one or send them to faraway friends and family members, that seasonal satisfaction is guaranteed to last well into the new year.
For the bon vivant:
Vices boxes are the sort of curated assortments that feel like a real gift from a real person, offering a surprising smattering of goods from design objects to unique liquors to elevated essentials to replace your everyday fare. While the themes rotate and vary widely, you can be sure even your snobbiest recipient will appreciate the high taste level of whatever is included.
Named for the Italian sprezzatura (a delightfully untranslatable word that's somewhere in the realm of effortless, perfectly unfussy yet on-point style), SprezzaBox rounds up accessories and objects for the lovably louche person on your gifting list. Give them an aesthetic upgrade that'll last with this well-priced subscription — because, as they say, true style is in the details.
For the foodie:
2020 is the year that a lot of you got really into olive oils, and it shows. Brightland's Insta-famous bottles are available in a subscription format, making for a thoughtful and luxe year-long gift that's also surprisingly functional (your giftee will never have to settle for an overpriced grocery store bottle of subpar EVOO again). The brand releases unique varietals and one-offs with some regularity, so there will likely be more things to try as we head into 2021.
Coffee subscriptions are ever-present (and usually somewhat uninspired), but Corvus Coffee reinvigorates the genre. The brand divvies its subscriptions up into various series based on geographical locations, lending a sort of "taste your way around the world" aura to the monthly packages. Each bag comes with a little booklet explaining the beans' origin story, and the packaging is insanely chic — a crucial consideration when gifting.
With travel plans mostly cancelled this year, your gift recipient might've had to nix that highly anticipated trip to Chicago or New York — but they can still enjoy the best those places have to offer, in the form of pizza. Goldbelly's pizza subscriptions claim to serve four people per delivery and, when the doorbell rings, you'll be treated to slices from the likes of Gino's East or Prince Street Pizza. Honestly, we're having a hard time thinking of a single person who wouldn't appreciate this gift.
For the enthusiastic imbiber:
Your favorite cocktail bar is closed; you don't know how to make an Aviation; you're having a hard time getting into the celebratory seasonal spirit. MOUTH to the rescue! This monthly subscription delivers mixers, infusions, syrups, and more so you can create top-notch mixes at home (just add booze). We highly suggest sending one to your BFF and one to yourself — it really kicks those Zoom happy hours up a few notches.
Plenty of boozy boxes only offer you taster-sized samples, but true liquor buffs know that that's not enough to slake the thirst. Flaviar ships quarterly, offering a full-sized bottle of an esteemed spirit as well as a taster so you know what to look for next time you're shopping. The membership also comes with advance invites to new releases and IRL events (in the future, when that's a thing again). A solid gift for dads, your kid sibling who just started drinking, or your friend who swears that Wild Turkey is the best and never deviates.
For the outdoorsy type:
This year has seen a revived interest in all things outdoors (and it's not hard to understand why). If your friends have suddenly started posting pics from campsites every weekend or become the kind of folks who are seemingly always on a biking trail, Cairn's outdoor box is a smart bet for holiday gifting. Their regular box includes clever tools for exploring the great outdoors, along with a few practical snacks. Or if you're feeling extra-generous, you can gift your favorite outdoorsy friend the quarterly Obsidian box for $250.
Those who are lucky enough to live along a coastline (or just want to feel like they do) will enjoy receiving a quarterly box from Beachly. The brand offers boxes that cater to all, and the value of the items inside — from indie-brand sunglasses to eco-conscious skincare and even clothes — makes for a pretty significant bang-for-your-buck. Even if your giftee hasn't been able to hit the waves lately, they'll appreciate this box.
For the plant person:
The Sill pretty much instantly established itself as one of the hip gift-shopping spots, with its chic collection of plants and minimal-millennial ceramic pots. Now, with its subscription option, you can one-up even the savviest gift-givers in your crew. The Sill has helpfully split their offerings into different tiers, catering to the green-thumbless and experts alike.
In a time when we've all been staring at our interiors more than usual, a monthly arrival of fresh flowers sounds positively life-affirming. Gift your favorite flower enthusiast with a Bouqs subscription to enliven their home and lift their spirits. (You really can't put a price on that.)
For the scent-obsessed:
True "status candle" stans will appreciate the covetable labels that Scent's high-end subscription box offers, including legendary NY brand JOYA, Maison Balzac, and more. Sure, it's spendy, but it's worth it to always have your coffee table looking on-point.
Shopping with a particular scent in mind? Brooklyn candle studio KEAP lets you select from a variety of candle scents for each delivery (up to 2 candles per month). Plus, they offer an eco-friendly option of returning your empty vessels to them for re-use — a nice feel-good perk.
If you're more about scenting yourself than your surroundings, Scentbird is a pretty excellent way to get your perfume fix. Scentbird's site makes it easy to navigate their 500+ fragrances with a helpful illustrated scent note key, so you can add your new faves to your queue, Netflix-style.
For the homebody:
Seasonal decoristas, you know we couldn't leave you hangin'. Habitation Box offers two subscription tiers — $70 and $120/mo — which allow you to customize your plan based on how many home accessories you really need (or want). Their boxes are markedly season-oriented, so you can expect holiday accents or goodies for welcoming spring, depending on the month, all with a vaguely farmhouse-chic bent — they're all curated with a clear eye for design, so you won't find any tired Halloween wall hangings here.
Fans of Scandinavian design (read: everyone) will love this quarterly box, which brings minimalism, warm wood tones, and the iconic aesthetic of the Nordic countries to your home. Expect to indulge in elegant glassware, artisan leather goods, and more — just in time to get your hygge on.
Emily Bihl is a freelance writer and sometimes-songwriter who can invariably be found rearranging furniture in a domicile somewhere along the Mississippi River. She lives with her black labrador Selkie and a small army of homemade ceramics, and has not willingly closed a browser tab since 2011.