Find the ideal gifts for friends and neighbours this summer

Find the ideal gifts for friends and neighbours this summer

There always seems to be a never-ending list of things to do ahead of going on holiday, on top of the usual packing of suitcases and preparing of essential travel documents. 

You're likely to have plants to put in the bath so they don't dry out, boilers to switch off and all manner of tasks to keep you occupied before the taxi arrives to take you to the airport.

However, for many of you, there will also be pets to feed and property to check up on during the duration of the trip - and that's where kindly neighbours or devoted friends usually step in to ensure you can enjoy peace of mind when you take your annual summer break.

There seemed to be a mass exodus of Britain last week as our friends and family took the opportunity to jet off for some much-needed sunshine, which got us to thinking how many people are sure to be hugely grateful upon their return that their goldfish were still alive and their prize-winning hanging baskets were just as pristine as they left them.

It also prompted a discussion at H&W headquarters about etiquette for thanking these generous souls. We decided that a 'thanks very much' offered in passing or a text message expressing gratitude aren't quite going to cut it - but also realised that there are probably different levels of required appreciation when it comes to gift-buying. Here's what we came up with - perhaps it might help you make purchases for your neighbours or friends.

Little gestures of thanks

This is where you might have asked your neighbour or friend to pop round to your home once during a weekend or week-long trip. It will mean they have to do it specially, but it doesn't mean they have to go too far out of their way. Perhaps they might be double-checking that nobody suspicious has been going in the back garden, or moving post so it's not obvious there's nobody in.

These are non-essential yet reassuring jobs and while they don't require overly gushing expressions of gratitude, a token of appreciation is polite.

We'd recommend something like a box of chocolates with your holiday resort on them, a pen or a mug that they can use regularly. Alternatively, if you won't be able to carry things back, you could always buy something before you go ready to present them with upon your return. How about a little gift-wrapped soap or a bag of bath melts? Both are sure to be appreciated without breaking the bank.

A more heartfelt present

Find out what you could present your house sitters with when you return from holiday.

The next step up was deemed to be directed at people who are going to your home specifically to look after pets. They will be making the trip twice a day and have the added responsibility of ensuring Tibbles is tucked up in his bed at night rather than roaming the streets, which is a lot less casual than the first category.

Although things like this aren't exactly difficult, they do take time and it might mean foregoing activities they usually enjoy each day on your behalf.

For this reason, we'd suggest looking for something during your trip that's slightly more personalised (although this should be easy because if you've asked them to pet-sit, the chances are you know them well). If they like gardening, you might choose a pretty terracotta pot for instance, while foodies may enjoy some locally produced honey or olive oil.

Again, stock up before you go if you fear you might not have time during your break; for example, gardeners can soothe their hands with a rich moisturiser and keen cooks can get rid of lingering food odours with a citrus handwash - and both products can reside in your cupboard at home until you need them.

For when you're really grateful

There was a general consensus that some people go above and beyond the call of duty when their friend, family or neighbours go away, with many even moving in to ensure they can keep the home just as it would be when the owners are there.

Granted, they get something out of it - often, the younger cousins or other relatives of those in our unofficial straw poll did this to escape their mum and dad for a fortnight - but it's still a big responsibility. If something did end up going awry (heaven forbid), they'd need to sort it out, so think about this when you're thanking them.

There often aren't too many things that are suitable for thank you gifts on sale at beach resorts, so consider buying them a voucher for a meal at their favourite restaurant, a bouquet of flowers or a cinema token.

Other good ideas include a really nice set of soaps or candles - or how about a reed diffuser that smells like the one you use so they can be reminded of their staycation?

It's always a nice to reward a good deed and as we've shown above, this needn't mean making that holiday to-do list any longer than necessary.