I have 3 guidelines that I like to use when curating a gift bag:
The Audience - If you're like most people you will be invited to several different types of gatherings - those with friends, those with family and those with acquaintances. How well you know the recipient(s) of the gift bag will really direct the types of gift items you select. I know my family and I know exactly what they want (most of the time). For friends, I can normally find things that I know they love as well as things that are a silly or fun representation of our friendship. For an acquaintance, I like to keep it pretty general and include things that MOST people love to get any time of year (and yes, this does include gift cards...I promise, people DO love them and you do not have to go out of your way to hand-crochet something personal. Just give them the Starbucks gift card and they will love you forever).
The Occasion - Now that we know who we are curating the gift bag for, the occasion will determine the "theme" of your gift bag. For example: I am leaving to go on a girls weekend with close friends this weekend and in their swag bag I have included: monogrammed turkish towels, cute graphic tanks, Corkscicle tumblers, sunnies and my favorite SunBum sunscreen & SunBum lip balm with SPF. I'll throw in some canned wine for good measure ;) . If you're putting together a gift bag for a mom-to-be or new mom, you may want to include things that will make her feel comfortable: a soft robe, nursing tanks, slippers, rubberbands, lip balm, a mug (for ALL THE COFFEE), a subscription to a grocery delivery service, etc. Once you've determined the theme of the bag/basket it's really easy to start thinking of the items that would fit the bill.
The Personal Touch - It's nice to add a little "stamp" or "signature" on your gifts. Whether it be adding a fun item in place of a gift tag (ex: for a baby shower: a rattle/small plush toy; bridal shower: kitchen utensils) or including a monogrammed item, it's a fun way to show you put some thought into the gift. I like to put gifts in reusable containers whether that be a basket, a tote or something similar.
I put together a few "example lists" for different types of gift bags you can put together for your next occasion!
NEW MOM/EXPECTANT MOM
As you can see these are general ideas to fill out your basket and you can mix and match quite a few things for different occasions. Don't forget to add your own unique touch!