We’ve been through more than a few deployments in my husband’s 15 years in the Army. However, it is ALWAYS important to re-check the best ways to send care packages for each deployment. Instructions, regulations and do/don’t send lists are always changing so make sure you check BEFORE mailing that package!
Also, check with their unit/FRG for the correct mailing address, the way to list the name and when to stop sending packages prior to homecoming.
- Two Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Boxes.
- Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes.
- Priority Mail tape.
- Priority Mail address labels.
- Appropriate customs forms.
Pickup can be easy! USPS allows you to schedule front door pickup of your boxes if you schedule by 2 AM the previous day. We can all use a little help with checking off our to-do list.
Be liberal with the tape! Care packages go through a rough route to delivery. Make sure your boxes stay together by taping all of the seams and using packing tape which is strong enough to withstand all the stops to your loved one.
Keep the decorations on the inside-Do not decorate the outside of the box. Some units do not allow it and you don’t want your box to be returned or never reach your loved one. Keep all of the decorations and love inside. Also, your loved one may be sentimental and corny with you AND love the things inside the box but they may not want to share all that with their buddies. Save them that embarrassment (this from a wife that sent a HUGE Valentine’s card years ago and was quickly asked not to do it again, with a smile of course!)
COMPLETE and accurately fill out the customs form. You can be vague to prevent theft but at least put the category and estimated price. If you include Doritos it is safe to put snacks but I wouldn’t recommend listing anything extremely personal. Photos, DVDs, etc. are good categories to list if you do not want to be specific. It’s up to you and you can always insure you package for a very low fee.
Check, check and re-check the current mailing guidelines for the region your loved one is stationed (even if they been there before.) Some areas prohibit pork products, etc. Pornographic materials of any kind are also not allowed (magazines like Maxim are sometimes considered to be in this category). The guidelines change and are updated so make sure the list you reference is current.
Seal each item! If you send food in the same box as toiletries make sure all items are sealed. Putting them in sealed Ziploc bags is a great way to be extra careful.
As with any shipment involving the military it is always a good idea to inventory the contents. Make yourself a list of what you sent and check with your loved one when they receive the box.
Number your packages AND your letters. Things may not always arrive in the order that you send them. Numbering the box or letter will help with context, etc. It’s also helpful if you make a deployment scrapbook after homecoming to be able to organize letters and cards.
Creativity is key- Be creative and have fun! Themes, holidays and games are great ways to make each box special and something to look forward too. It also helps to have a theme when deciding what to include in the package.
Send self-addressed AND stamped cards, stationary and other writing tools. It is a big help to have those items ready. Time is sometimes short and hours worked long. Being able to write a quick letter and place in the mail is much appreciated and increases the chances of YOU finding those precious letters home in the mailbox. If you have kids it is a great idea to include dated birthday cards, Christmas cards, graduation cards, etc. that can be easily sent back home and help your loved one remember those special dates.
Help families and friends- Send your friends and family a “write to _____” package during deployment. Addressed and stamped envelopes, tips on sending care packages and lists of suggested items are great things to include. ”civilian” family members may not be as up to speed on how to send things are we military spouses are and we sometimes forget that. Helping make it easier for them and also having additional people send care packages is a great morale booster for everyone.
Don’t forget battle buddies- Send extras! There is always a single soldier or someone who is not receiving care packages. Having extra items, especially toiletries and snacks, to hand out to battle buddies will be a plus for your loved one!
Sign your loved one and their unit up for care packages from military friendly organizations. Operation Paperback and Operation Homefront are just two organization that send care packages to military members overseas.
Plan ahead- Address a bunch of boxes as soon as you get an address. Make a list of themed care packages and holiday boxes you want to send and every time you go shopping buy an item or two for a box. This helps with getting overwhelmed or forgetting to send a box.
Send care packages, e-mails AND letters (yes, I mean snail-mail.) Send often, e-mail often, treasure phone calls and Skype dates and always say or write “I love you” before you hang up the phone or seal an envelope. Don’t forget to make a countdown chain and start watching those days pass while you look forward to homecoming!
It is always hard to stay original and come up with new ideas and themes for each box. We’ve been through a few deployments and I still run out of ideas. I like to keep it fun, a little like home, sweet and include necessities too.
TIP: Do NOT send care packages addressed to “Any Soldier”,”A Wounded Warrior”, etc. It is a great thought and done with the best intentions when people send care packages overseas or to places like Walter Reed that are intended for any soldier. However, unless a package is addressed to an actual person and sent to an actual address it will not be delivered for safety reasons. If you want to send packages like that contact a unit, hospital, base, etc. and find out where they need things and what they need as well as an actual address plus a contact person.
Raven is a military spouse and mom of two. She is a freelance writer and advocates for special needs military families. Her oldest is diagnosed with ADHD, SPD, speech & language delays, adjustment disorder and is on the Autism Spectrum. Raven is the author and editor of , a contributor at and Special Happens and has been featured on, , and more. She was named to the ,Top 50 Military Mom Blogs of 2013 by PopSugar, Top 25 Parenting Blogs of 2013 by UKnowKids, Top 25 Military Blogs of 2013 by SkinnyScoop and by Military Spouse Magazine. She resides in Virginia where she is a wife, mom, blogger, writer and advocate. You can reach Raven through, or .