Care Packages 101

I am dedicating this week to the not so fun reality of deployment. And while it had its ups and downs, my absolute favorite part was sending my husband care packages! After sending them for months I got a system down, and my packing skills were impressive. While my hubby’s stop mail date has passed, I’m preparing to send more packages to our friends that are deployed. Here are my tried and true tips:

My last care package. Perfectly fit. Photo by Jessica Hall

1. Themed boxes. This was what my husband said was his favorite. For example I did a Cinco de Mayo box, complete with non-alcoholic sangria, Mexican chocolate, and pinata cookies (thanks Pinterest). I also sent a Halloween box and Dinosaur birthday box. These were really fun to shop for! The lady at Party City thought I was buying dinosaur party things for a child, not my husband. She was surprised when I said it was for my hubby, but hey things like this are a fun surprise.

The dinosaur birthday box! Photo by Jessica Hall

2. Games. I asked my hubby what he loved getting, and he said he liked balls to throw around and the like. I always tried to get fun games in the dollar section. It adds some fun to the constant work.

3. Baked goods! I tried to send cake in jars, which arrived okay. I will say that I’m not really the best canner. I had more success with vacuum sealing cookies. I sent a lot of chocolate chip, but it’s really whatever the person you’re sending to wants/likes. (Asked my hubby what he liked: he adds that anything that supplements the diet is good too, the food can be random, he one day just ate carbs, another there was only sausage for breakfast, a lot of guys want/order protein.)

4. Wet Ones/Baby wipes. Seriously you can’t go wrong with sending these, it’s dusty over there!

5. Letters and cards. There is nothing like a handwritten note. We wrote a lot to each other during the deployment. The letters from my husband are something I will always cherish, they are really sweet. I always tried to include a card in the box. I bought some funny cards to send, and wrote others on regular paper.

I had a lot of luck buying interesting stuff at World Market. I’m totally obsessed with the store, but they have great packaged foods in their gourmet section (I sent olives and hummus). And have a lot of small items so I made a lot of boxes out of tidbits of this and that.

But aside from what to put in the box, there is the sending it. I suggest sending a Flat Rate box from the US Postal Service. They have reduced rates for military packages (to an APO). Besides taping up the box and filling it out as usual, you’ll also need to fill out a customs form, CP 72. It’s the larger of the 2 customs forms, I filled out the wrong one on the first package I sent and had to redo it. The deployment address is basically a US address, so don’t fill out country. It’ll be APO AE (zip). APO is the city and AE is the state. You then need to describe what’s in the box, I use general terms like “cookies” or “crackers” and put a random value. Friends of mine often use the same few things, no matter what they send.

I have found that different postal workers and offices are a bit pickier. One told me I needed to be more specific (shirts instead of clothes), and rudely at that. And be sure to use clear tape, my friend was sent away from a post office when she had used duct tape. Find the friendly post office, mine asks what type of cookies each time, insisting that they must try, but only their favorite types. It makes me smile every time.

So that’s what has worked for me. Since our unit’s stop mail date has passed I’m stocking up on supplies for our friends. Also, check out USPS military mailing guidelines, you can also request mailing kits with boxes, labels, and customs forms. Flat rate boxes, labels, and customs forms are all in the post office lobby, for free.

What have you sent your loved ones? Any tried and true tips?

5 responses to “Care Packages 101

  1. Wow. This is perfect. I like getting handwritten notes. One time someone sent me a card with GLITTER inside. It blew all over. I sparkled in war. Pringles are good too (they do get a bit crumbly). Friends sent me comic books. When I was done with them, I shared with the troops. Thanks for this!

  2. We have a friend who is deployed with the 2-2. He’s a huge Chicago Bears fan so I emailed the organization telling them about him and how it’s been a rough deployment. I asked if the coach could send an autograph that would be awesome for him. The Bears ended up sending a ton of apparel and an autographed football! In a separate package we sent him ESPN magazines, beef jerky, gummy worms and a Bears toothbrush 🙂

  3. Thank you for all the great tips. I’m not a spouse, but a good friend of a soldier that deployed with the 2nd SBCT in April. I want to get a care package to him by Christmas (his birthday is also Dec 25th). Problem is that his unit has been blacked out now for over a month, and I didn’t get details of his APO address before they went silent. I feel like I’m running out of time. Is there an office at the base that could help me find the right address? I live in Kansas and I didn’t see anything obvious in the base directory that I could pull up from here. – Thanks

  4. Love your ideas, I am trevor from miliatry background. i know the value of a care package for military soldiers. Gifts or care packages are always a welcome thing, but perhaps never so much as when they’re received by a soldier on deployment. Having substantial confirmation that home still exists and that there are individuals there who consider him regularly and wish him well can have the all the effect to a man plunged into clash on the most distant side of the world. Thanks For sharing your thoughts & ideas with us.

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