New to the Military: How to Send a Care Package


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.

2014 Update:  According the the USPS press release, “Helping to get packages on their way, the Postal Service offers a $2 per box postage discount on its largest Priority Mail Flat Rate box at $15.45, for mail being sent to APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office and Diplomatic Post Office) destinations worldwide. 
Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes are available at no cost at either local Post Offices, or ordered online at shop.usps.com. Postage, labels and customs forms can be printed online anytime using Click-N-Ship at https://cns.usps.com/go.
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Did you know you can order a “Military Care Kit”?
With Priority Mail supplies as the packaging of choice for families preparing care packages for service members overseas, the Postal Service created a free “Military Care Kit” based on the items most frequently requested by military families.
The kit contains:
  •   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.
To order the kit, call 800-610-8734.

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.

Great care package tips!
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 Ms. MommyHH6, a contributor at Mom-Spot, Military Spouse New Media and Special Happens and has been featured on NextGen MilSpouseHomefront UnitedMilitary OneSource and more. She was named to the Top 25 Military Mom Blogs of 2012 ,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 2013 Fort Lee Military Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine. She resides in Virginia where she is a wife, mom, blogger, writer and advocate. You can reach Raven through FacebookTwitter or email.

53 Comments

  1. I have several boxes of military supplies to send. Where can I send these items? My 4th graders have collected supplies and we don’t know where to send. Please help! Thank you!

    1. NCPacks4Patriots is a small nonprofit that sends care packages to deployed troops. We mail about 120 packages each month. We are starting to collect items for our holiday packages and welcome all donations and donors on our team! Email us for information at np4p@yahoo.com You can also find us on facebook.

  2. I was googling information on sending care packages and found your information. I teach 4th grade in Texas. To prepare for our state testing, my kids became soldiers in a boot camp themed week of training. My idea was to use my camp theme to teach a lesson about giving back. After our state assessment, my class wrote letters to troops and collected items to donate to Afghanistan. One of my students ‘ parents were in the military, so we have a specific APO address to send our 30 boxes to. However, I’ve talked to 3 of my local post offices and received very little help. I’ve packed all 30 boxes in the USPS APO/FPO boxes. I keep getting mixed information, and have actually been told by the post office that I should only bring in a maximum of 4 boxes at a time to send because entering the info in the computer is too time consuming. Crazy to me!! These boxes are still waiting in my classroom. My parent and I are awaiting response from a local base to see if they would ship for us. Unfortunately, my school did not budget enough to ship 30 boxes, so the majority of the cost will fall on me. I want to help, but 500 in shipping cost is posing a problem. Of course, I will do what it takes to get these supplies to our lovely men and women serving, but would love ideas or advice. Thanks so much!

    1. Hello Amanda,
      Thank you so much for keeping our service men and women in your thoughts! What a creative way to get your students ready for their testing. I love it!
      Have you filled out all of the customs forms? Here is a great website with all sorts of information. They will even come pick up the packages. https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-dpo.htm.

      I found this information on Anysoldier.com. “FIRST THING ALWAYS: SEND A SMALL TEST BOX!!!!! This is critical as you will learn a LOT on what is involved.

      Please send no more than about 5 boxes to any single address at one time.
      Most units simply can’t handle a deluge of packages, and it is especially hard on the Soldiers to hand out more than this at a time.
      Remember, they left their car at home.

      If you have a really large effort, spread out shipping over about 5-7 days at a time, about 5 packages to each address.”

      This link also has a ton of great information. http://adoptaplatoon.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/How-To-Send-A-Care-Package.pdf.

      Lastly, I know if our classroom were working on this awesome project, the parents would be happy to send in a few dollars to help cover the costs of the shipping.

      I hope this helps,
      Danya

    2. You can also do this at the beginning of the year and send a few at a time throughout the school year. anysoldier.com is my favorite site because the troops ask for what they need and you will see some pictures of the people you are helping!

    3. NCPacks4Patriots would be happy to receive the items and cards and send to our troops. You can put all items in a large carton instead of individual boxes and send to us via UPS or FedEx. Email us for information : ncp4p@yahoo.com Our troops appreciates your support.

    1. Hello Amber,
      How many are you looking to send? I can hook you up with a couple of organizations that can help if you are looking to send a lot.
      Thanks,
      Danya

      1. I was also looking into this. I would love to send a few out for the holidays. I was just unsure if you had to go through an organization or if i could send it directly. If directly, how do I find addresses?

  3. How long does it take for a package to get to a soldier? I have received a notification from the mail saying it arrived to the destination,but I am wondering how long will it take my her to receive the actual package. she is in Bulgaria.

    thank you,

    Maria N.

    1. Hello Maria,

      That is a great question that I wish I had the answer to. There are so many parameters that go into transport time, one just can’t tell.

      I am hoping it is in her possession by the time you read this.

      Danya

  4. Hi
    My name is Natalie Kopelman-I am 85 years old and am a Co-President of the Ladies Auxiliary, Post 631 of the
    Jewish War Veterans. Recently we were contacted by the Plantation Police Dept to see if we wanted to
    participate in a Mission to send care packages abroad–like Afganistan, Kuwait, Iraq etc. I immediately said I will chair this project. So far we have sent 47 packages abroad. This has become my life-It gives me something to do and I love receiving e-mails from my boys. I have also received photos which make me feel so good.
    I NEED NAMES AND ADDRESS of servicemen and woman. If you can help me, I would appreciate it very much and the soliers will receive very nice care packages. Thank you.–Natalie Kopelman

    1. Hello Natalie,

      Thank you so much for spending your time to send a little love to our heroes!

      We do not have any lists of names and addresses. May I suggest contacting your local USO. They may be able to help.

      Have a great day,
      DAnya

    2. I can sdo me you several names and addresses if you have an email for me to send the info privately!! Thank you for all your support to our men and women serving!!!

  5. Hello all,

    I am an active duty military member (Go Navy!) and my wife always sets up a recurring order so I get a box every month. Before troopster, I got about 2 boxes a deployment because of the hassle of sending. The MORE BOXES, THE BETTER!!!!

    1. Hey Travis,

      I love this. I just sent my husband’s first care package and he has been gone three months. Pitiful, I know. I am looking into Troopster right now!

      Thank you,
      Danya

  6. I think it’s important to make sure that the right type of mailing container is used. Though it does depend on what you’re planning on sending. It seems like being creative and careful if most important when doing something like this.

  7. Hello Danya,
    I am the Mother of a Marine. He was just sent out on his first deployment. My son and I never spoke about me sending him a care package. I think the reason he never said a word to me is because I am disabled. It wasn’t until he deployed and I started looking up sending a care package to your loved one that I realized just how many things they need. Of course I had planned on sending him a care package for Christmas. I was in shock to see how much they truly need, that are not supplied to them. To be VERY HONEST; IT MADE ME SICK!!! Our men and women put their lives on the line for our FREEDOM, yet go without or are very limited to even Toilet Paper… As soon as I read all the things they need I went shopping and got as many things as I could with the help of his Grandmother. I like a lot of mom’s will go without anything, so that my son has the things he needs. My other problem is the forms I have to fill out. I am far from a stupid person, yet I am overwhelmed to say the least on how to fill these forms out, as well as package them right so that he get’s them. Is their anywhere I can go to get help on doing this right? I also need to find out that everything I am sending. I have a computer, however I don’t have a printer at the moment. Could you please lead me in the right direction to get the help I need? I live in Fall River. Mass. I have also planned on doing some fund raising and going to my local schools to see if they would be willing to write letters and cards for the soldier’s for Christmas and anything they can give to send other’s care packages as well. I think it’s a damn shame that we have to pay a high price to send them. A large box isn’t that large, yet it cost over $18. and change. They will take $2.00 off the large and medium boxes, yet for me that is really still high!!! I think all boxes that we send to our loved one’s overseas should be free of charge! So I will have to also do even more fund raising to help with the price of postage. Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and help me in anyway you can. Sincerely, Patty

    1. Hello Patricia,

      I have been sending my husband packages for over 20 years and I still get confused on the forms. I fill them out the best I can and then bring them to the post office with my package. The kind people there always help me out. I agree postage is high, but if you think about all that package has to go through to get to our loved ones, it seems about right. It’s not cheap to fly planes and float ships all over the world.

      Thank you for your support of our troops! Feel free to email me at danya@militaryoneclick.com with any specific questions. I would be happy to help!

      Danya

  8. I havd never even sent a card through the post office and a friend of mine just left for his first deployment. He left me the address/unit and all that information but I really dont have a clue on how to go about sending him a package. Or how to place that address to print the label. I would really appreciate it if someone could guide me on that, thank you in advance!

    1. Hello Katherine,

      Get your box together and bring your address to the post office. They will guide you through how to properly address and fill out the customs form. That way you know that your package is guaranteed to get there.

      I hope this helps.
      Have a great day,
      Danya

  9. Hello, I have put out a BIG box at work for donations for our men and women in the military overseas for Christmas. My colleagues have opened up their hearts and the box is overflowing. My son is in the miltary overseas and says he knows alot of our guys and girls that could use care packages for Christmas. How do I go about cutting the cost to send these packages so they can have a great christmas?

    1. Hello Ava,

      That is such a difficult question. Shipping is so expensive. As far as I know there is no way to cut the costs. I would check with your local USO. They may be able to help you get your gifts distributed. If you are located in a military area, reach out to the base CO or Fleet and Family Support and they may be able to point you in the right direction.

      I hope this helps. Thank you for thinking of our troops!

      Danya

  10. I have 40 boxes ready to send for Christmas. I have already sealed 20 of them, fully taped the entire box. I just found out about the Custom Forms, so yea a lot of filling out to do. But with the 20 boxes already sealed, what/how should I write out the detailed description list, each box is packed with different items?? I would like to not have to open them all up. Help please!!!

    1. Hey April,

      I know when I sent boxes to my husband I was very vague and it was fine. I wrote things like “snacks, magazines, toiletries” etc.

      Thank you for thinking of our troops!

      Have a great weekend,
      Danya

  11. I’m looking to send shoe box size care packages for Christmas. I haven’t a clue where to start with this process… I’ve read so much and have an idea, but I have no affiliation with anyone at the current time overseas. This is my main focus and goal– to send these to the ones that won’t be home for Christmas and aren’t located on a base with family overseas somewhere. I was to reach out to those in particular that are in a rural area overseas.
    I don’t care who gets what, I just want it to reach those that are somewhat off the grid from so much and are not going to be home for Christmas. I cry as I write this bc I lost a dear friend this past yr that served 3 tours, (2 in Afghanistan and 1 in Iraq) to only come home and be shot and killed in cold blood for trying to protect a female. I’ve always done a lot of volunteer work in general locally for my community— but, bc my friend had and expressed so much love for his country & military brothers and sisters— I feel the need and want to reach out to do something special this Christmas for his legacy. I know this would touch home for him, even if he’s no longer here.
    Please someone tell me how I can reach out to those who won’t be home for Christmas. I am so compassionate about paying it forward and expressing my gratitude for the ultimate sacrifices these men and woman do. I want them to know someone cares and that their sacrifice matters!!! We’re put here to make a difference and I want to be that someone’s difference this holiday season. Me & my fiancé decided that this was going to be our Christmas this yr in honor of our friend Johnathon.
    It’s with deep gratitude in advance for the any insight, that I “Thank You!” May you and yours have a blessed thanksgiving & holiday season ahead!

    1. Hello Krystal,

      Were you able to find a way to give back this holiday season?

      I hope this finds you well and thank you for supporting our troops,
      Danya

  12. Hi! I’ve been thinking about getting people together to collect donations for care boxes for the holidays. I have no idea where to start or even where to send the boxes to. I also would like any information on becoming a pen pal for a service member so they have someone to talk to. Any information helps!

    1. Hi Bobbie,

      I love this! Have you had any luck with pulling together donations? I will see what I can find out about pen pals.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

    1. Hey Irene,

      The best think to do is to bring your packages to the post office. They can help you out. It can be overwhelming the first couple of times.

      I hope this helps,
      Danya

  13. Most soldiers would agree that the beds in the barracks are not the most comfortable. Consider sending your soldier a memory foam mattress topper as part of a care package. They are affordable and can really help improve quality of sleep. Your soldier will thank you for it.

    1. Hey Derek,

      I love that idea. My husband took a mattress topper with him and it made a huge difference.

      Have a great day,
      Danya

  14. I am currently a high school student and as a project I would like to get a whole class to make and send out care packages for our troops, not necessarily during the holiday season. Around 15-20 packages will be sent. I am not sure where to send them, as in specific addresses. None of us know any troops. Any ideas?

    1. Hey Leslie,

      I actually like the idea of NOT sending your care packages over the holidays. Everyone tends to focus their time to give back over the holidays. Those spring/summer months can be lonely.

      Do you have a local USO in your town? They could help you with where to send. If not, email me at danya@militaryoneclick.com and let me know where you are. I will see what I can do to help.

      Thank you for thinking of our troops!

      Danya

    1. Hello June,

      I am not clear on what you are asking. I’m sorry. If you are creating care packages to send overseas, I don’t think anyone will care that the packages are male/female or both :).

      Thanks for thinking of our troops,
      Danya

  15. I’m trying to send a package to my husband. However his base is saying that they don’t have a Box # but the post office will not send it without a box # not sure what to do

  16. If i wanna send a care package to someone in the military how do i address it? its not going to a family member or to anybody i know its just going to someone who i don’t know but want to send one to.

  17. Hello!! I’m having a difficult time sending my husband a care package this month! Granted it is in the mix of Christmas/New Years holidays, I understand that. But I’m trying to find the cheapest and easiest organization or company to go through & what exactly I’m required to do in order to get it shipped out. I’m in North Carolina and the only shipping company’s that I’m aware of are UPS and FedEx. My package is BIG and slightly heavy. Any advice or tips?! Help please!!

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