Recently I stopped carrying gift baskets on my store because they were cost prohibitive to ship. It was a difficult decision and I didn't leave my room for three days because I was so devastated*. Gift baskets remain my favorite gift to give and receive (Mother's Day IS coming, kids). You can so easily create something that is personalized and will be cherished by the recipient. A few tips I've gathered from making and selling gift baskets:
1. Theme: having an overall theme for your gift basket will tie everything together and help tailor it to the recipient. If, for example, you were making me (ahem) a gift basket you might choose any of the following themes: movies, margaritas, books, crafts, etc. Here are a few ideas of themes and items to include in each gift basket.
New baby: onesies, bibs, pacifiers, washcloth, rattle, toys, burp cloths, socks, shampoo, rash cream, etc.
Book lover: books, bookmarks, coffee/tea, portable reading light, Amazon gift card
Chocolate: gourmet chocolate, hot chocolate, coffee, book about coffee
Crafts: colored pencils/pens, beautiful coloring book, pretty paper, nice scissors, craft book, fabric. Could also have a specific craft project basket with instructions and all the necessary supplies.
Game lover: board games, card games, popcorn, snacks
Gardening: flower/vegetable seeds, gardening book specific to interest or location, gift card to nursery, hand tools, wide brim hat
Gourmet food: Skip the basket and use a serving or salad bowl. Add crackers, cheese (must be able to refrigerate), wine, specialty pickles, high quality olive oil and vinegar, fancy olives, cook book, spices, kitchen tools
Lego: Lego set, block candy (yes, it's a thing), Lego book/magazine, storage box, themed products (key chain, watch, pencil case, t shirt)
Movie lover: popcorn, candy, gift card to local theater
Pets: cat/dog treats, toys, pet dish, leash, soap/shampoo
Spa: soap, lotion, lip balm, bath bomb, candles, book or magazine, bath pillow
Sport lover: t-shirt/jersey, ball (soccer, football, etc), shoes/socks, sport specific book or magazine, posters, computer game
You can also make a basket with no theme whatsoever. It's your gift, you can design it however you like. Add an assortment of small things the recipient would like: jewelry, socks, handmade pottery mug, candles, picture frame, gourmet candy, book/magazine, wine, etc. I like to include something handmade (easy in my case but you could include banana bread, cookies, flavored vinegar, etc).
2. Baskets and other containers: It doesn't have to be a basket at all! You could use a pretty tote bag, cutting board, serving bowl, vase, or a planter. If you want a basket, my go-to sources for these are Dollar Tree and Target. Dollar Tree sometimes has wicker baskets which are great since they're only a buck.Target has cute seasonal baskets and tins. Nashville Wraps has a gazillion different kinds of baskets, boxes and bags. I love them and they ship fast.
3. Pick a filling: I usually use crinkle cut paper. Dollar Tree carries lots of colors. Nashville Wraps carries all sorts of basket fill (paper, wood shred, etc). Skip the plastic cellophane fill; everyone hates it and it isn't environmentally friendly at all. The point of fill isn't to "fill" the whole basket. You should place your items first, then fill in the gaps with the filling. You may need to include a cardboard "riser" so that small items don't sink to the bottom and get lost.
4. Product placement: taller items should go in the back. Include a variety of sizes and shapes to make the visual appearance more interesting. Include things in odd numbers (even numbers are too matchy). If possible, try to stick to a color scheme so that everything appears cohesive.
5. Wrap it all up: You don't need to wrap your basket but it can help to contain things if some items might fall out. Dollar Tree carries gift basket bags and shrink wrap. I use shrink wrap if the top of the basket is relatively flat and I don't want the items to move around. Tie with pretty ribbon and a bow and include a handmade card.
I have Pinterest board full of basket suggestions and tips. Just be careful not to get sucked down the vortex...because next thing you know it might be 5 hours later and you still haven't started your project.**
* Not true.
**This has never happened to me.