One of the best ways to show your appreciation for service members is by sending care packages while they’re away on deployment. Whether you know a soldier or not, it’s still an incredibly kind and patriotic gesture that really helps to support our troops.
Here are some tips for sending military care packages along with some ideas of what to include.
How to Send Military Care Packages for Free
Many people stop in their tracks when going to send a military care package. They want to do what they can to help our brave soldiers overseas, but shipping – especially when it’s to faraway places abroad – can be incredibly expensive.
The good news is that the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers free Military Care Kits complete with boxes, packing tape, and customs forms. This can greatly offset the cost of sending care packages to deployed troops.
Also, look out for other companies that offer free shipping to APO/FPO addresses (which are military addresses). If you order from Cheryl’s Cookies, for example, you’ll be able to send it as a military care package with free shipping.
You’ll still have to pay for what goes in the package itself, but with the USPS offering free shipping, it’s the best way to send military care packages for free.
Military Care Package Restrictions
Now that you’ve sorted out your shipping materials, it’s time to figure out what the limits are for what can be sent in a military care package to APO, FPO, and DPO addresses.
In general, the USPS prohibits the following items to be sent internationally:
- Alcoholic drinks
- Dry ice
- Fresh fruit and vegetables
- Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
- Nail polish
- Perfumes containing alcohol
- Pork (if being sent to Muslim countries)
For the USPS rules about military care package restrictions specifically, enter the APO/FPO/DPO zip code of the service member you’d like to send things to APO/FPO/DPO destinations get a full list of what’s not allowed.
The military also has restrictions of their own when it comes to care packages. These rules vary from region to region and your service member will be the best person to ask when it comes to what’s permitted.
Universally, the following items are prohibited in the military:
- Political paraphernalia
- Clothing showing curse words
There are also common regional restrictions. For example, in Singapore, gum is illegal and shouldn’t be sent to a service member stationed there. In the middle east, pork is prohibited and for women, clothing that shows the stomach or knees is not allowed.
It’s also important to keep in mind where your package is headed and what time of year it will arrive. If you’re sending a military care package to Guam in the middle of summer, avoid sending chocolates that can melt or cans of soup that won’t be fun to eat in the sweltering sun.
How to Send a Military Care Package
To keep things on track, there are certain steps you should take when it comes to sending a military care package. Add these must-dos to your list and make your life easier when it comes time to head to the post office.
1: Make sure you have your service members APO/FPO/DPO address and that it’s correct.
2: Gather packing materials like boxes, tape, and package stuffers.
3: Get a full understanding of shipping restrictions as well as what’s prohibited by the military.
4: Consider options that save you a trip to the post office like Click-N-Ship by USPS or ordering a full military care package from a third-party organization.
Step 4: Reach out to your family and friends to see if they’d like to donate any items. That way, you can help get your community involved but still save them money and materials for shipping.
5: Properly address the customs form. The easiest customs form to use for military care packages is PS Form 2976 (CN-22) and should be affixed to the left of the address label. (Tip: All military addresses are technically the United States and should be noted as such in the country box on the Customs form.)
6: Ship off your completed military care package and make a soldier very happy.
What to Send in a Care Package
As long as you’re not sending anything that’s prohibited by the military or by the post office, you can really send your soldier anything. The options are endless but there are certain things you’ll want to consider before putting together a military care package.
Before sending a military care package, ask yourself:
- Will this box end up being super heavy and expensive if I send this?
- Does my soldier actually need or want this?
- Will this item melt by the time it arrives?
- Is this information extremely personal?
In general, it’s best to send lightweight items when you can so that you can send more stuff for the same price. So, if you’re sending some books, chose the paperback version versus a hardcover copy.
In a military care package, you’ll want to send fun things sometimes, but it’s better to send things they actually need. Common issues deployed service members face are athlete’s foot and getting sick of MREs. That’s why foot powder and yummy snacks are common care package essentials.
As previously mentioned, chocolates and other melty items aren’t always a great choice. Even if you’re sending it to a colder climate, there’s a chance it’ll be exposed to high temperatures in transit.
If you’re planning to send personal items like love letters or family photos, make sure you’re ok with other people potentially seeing your items before it gets to your service member. It’s common for military care packages to get triple-checked on route to its final destination. Make sure you’re not sending anything you want to keep totally private.
When thinking about sending military care packages, it can be overwhelming. A fun way to keep things simple is by choosing a theme and sticking to that theme for your package. It helps to narrow things down so that you don’t go overboard.
Some themed ideas to try when sending military care packages include:
- Sports: Athletic clothes, athlete’s foot powder, Madden video games, Cracker Jacks and other sports-related snacks, photos of kids playing sports
- Patriotic: Red Hots candies, blue mouthwash, American flags, Coca-Cola, ketchup, relish, mustard
- Thanksgiving: Pumpkin spice snacks, turkey jerky, potato chips, letters from the community giving thanks for their service, football jersey
- Christmas: Hot cocoa mix, wrapped gifts, beanie
- Coffee: Instant coffee, powdered creamer, a box of sugars, stirrers, coffee mugs
- Beach: Sunscreen, hat, some sand from your favorite beach, Sun Chips
Come up with your own unique themed boxes and send one every month to your special service member on their deployment. Having themes helps to keep the ideas flowing.
What to Put in Military Care Packages
Once you’ve figured out what you shouldn’t send and what’s prohibited, both by the post office and the military, it’s time to make a list of what will go in your military care package.
The name of the game here is keeping things simple. Here’s a list of some of the best items to pack in a military care package:
- Drink mixes: Hot cocoa, instant coffee, tea bags, powdered creamer, lemonade mix, iced tea
- Protein: Energy bars, granola bars, tuna, jerky, summer sausage, Slim Jims, canned chicken, Spam
- Condiments: Ketchup, relish, mustard, Cheez-Whiz, honey, Nutella, peanut butter, jelly
- Snacks: Crackers, cookies, gum (unless sending to Singapore), non-chocolate candy, nuts, trail mix, dried fruit
- Toiletries: Shaving cream, shampoo, body wash, deodorant, razors, baby wipes, eye drops, toothpaste, floss, hand sanitizer, lip balm, sunscreen, toothbrush, cough drops, muscle rub, Vicks
- Entertainment: Books (paperback), magazines, crosswords, newspapers, puzzles, movies, external hard drive loaded with entertainment, games, batteries, small electronics, photos, reminders from home
Military Care Package Ideas for Husband
For military couples, deployment is often just as hard on the spouse at home. Sending a military care package to your husband who is away for months and months at a time can be a wonderful way to take your mind off missing him and doing something you both will enjoy.
When thinking specifically about sending your romantic partner a care package, it’s important to make it personal – but not too personal.
Perhaps you’ll send a Valentine’s Day-themed care package or a care package to commemorate your wedding anniversary. Maybe you’ll include heart-shaped candies and some new pairs of underwear.
When sending a military care package to your husband, make it heartfelt and fun. Let them know you’re missing them but it’s also important to make it clear that you’re doing well and not to worry.
Many military husbands can feel guilty about serving on deployments so make sure you’re doing things for yourself and share what you’ve been up to with your husband. It’ll make him feel better to know that you’re not a mess but that you can’t wait to have him home.
Nude pictures and other risqué material also isn’t going to go over well. So keep it classy with a sweet love letter, some reminders of home, and maybe a calling card so you can spend some time chatting over the phone.
Sending Care Packages – A Recap
So, let’s do a quick recap on how to send the best military care package possible.
First, you’ll get the packing materials from the USPS and figure out your soldier’s military address.
Then, you’ll figure out what you definitely should not include in the care package based on your service members’ specific regulations.
Next, you’ll pick a theme and start gathering items to include in the package.
You’ll put it all together and head to the post office or schedule a Click-N-Ship service and in both cases, you’ll correctly fill out a customs form.
Finally, you patiently wait to get word that your package has arrived at its final destination.
Military care packages are easy ways to show your appreciation for service members while also helping them out with items they truly need. Especially for soldiers who might not have as much support as others, it’s wonderful to donate and contribute to military causes any way you can. Plus, it’s a lot of fun and feels good for everyone involved.