Monday, September 20, 2010

Care Packages 101

A friend of mine emailed me this weekend asking me for tips on care packages.  She knows someone who's about to be deployed and wanted practical tips on care packages.  So, here are my tips...

Each deployment location is so different, so the needs of the soldier will be different depending on where they're going.  They may not be able to tell you exactly where they're going before they leave, but they should be able to at least tell you what they would enjoy when they're there.  For example, Joel always requests that people not send him bulky things that he'll just have to carry home or have to pay to get sent back.  Some bulky things just get left there for the next unit coming in.

Here are some things that Joel loves to get:
  • Flushable wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Aleve
  • Gold Bond
  • Pictures/Drawings from home
  • Letters/Cards
  • Magnets for his locker
  • Batteries for his camera
  • Crossword puzzles
  • Magazines
  • Homemade goodies
  • One-serving drink mixes (he loves the KoolAid mixes)
  • Trail Mix
  • Oreos
  • Tea bags
  • Coffee
Keep in mind that most likely, your care package is going to the Middle East.  It's hot there.  Things melt.  There's nothing like being teased with homemade treats that are inedible because they're all melted.  That being said:
  • Don't send chocolate.  Chocolate trail mix, chocolate chip cookies, chocolates bars... they will not survive.
  • Aerosol cans
  • Alcohol - It can be done, but don't risk it.
  • Letters/notes from home about problems at home.  Keep letters fun, encouraging and light.  They have enough on their mind, wherever they are, and they need to keep focused on their mission.  They'll have plenty of time to get caught-up on all the drama they missed when they get home.
  • Your care package will go via USPS.  You will drop it off at a branch and they will ship it to a military base.  From there, it will go on a military plane and fly to your soldier's destination.  Packages can take up to 10 days to get there.  This deployment, packages take 6-7 days.
  • You package will need a Customs Form.  On the form you will need:  your address, your soldier's address, a list of the items in the box including the quantity of each item and the approximate value of all the items in your care package.  (I always bring a list with me of all these things, so I'm not stuck there wondering what I have in the box.)
  • The custom form only has 4 lines to list the items in the box - so if you're sending more than 4 different kinds of items, you may need to fill-out 2 forms.  I've gotten creative with this.  For example, if I'm sending 6 different kinds of snacks, I will list it as "snacks" and write 6 as the quantity.
  • When in doubt, ask.  I've found the Post Office employees to be so helpful!  They are always willing to take the time to answer my questions and they have always been very patient with me. 
  • Pack the box well.  I always keep brown packing paper around to fill in open spaces in the box.  Remember, both the USPS and the military are handling your box.  Just saying.
  • Double and triple tape the seams and edges of the box.
That's all I have.  I'm sure I'm missing some helpful tips, so I'll ask other military and MilSpouses to add any of your thoughts, tips or suggestions.  What have been some of your favorite things to send/get?



Alcohol can and has been done, feels odd to drink out of some of the containers it arrives in, but after a while it really makes no difference. But your probably right, not worth the risk unless your good at what you do.

Also I see no smoking supplies on this list, I heard they are set as far as cigars go (good thing cause I smoked all the ones he had me babysit), but what about cutters, punches, and minder clips?

Jessica @ {Mis}Adventures of an Army Wife said...

It's illegal to send pork products. Sounds odd, but I was at the post office listening to some lady cry about how she couldn't send Vienna Sausages to her soldier. It was all I could do not to LOL...

Beth said...

Another thing is make sure that you don't send porn either. Sounds weird, but a lot of Muslim countries consider the Sports Illustrated Issue and magazines like Maxim off limits. You probably could send it just fine but if your package gets opened it would really suck for it to be confiscated because of a magazine.

D uses chewing tobacco and they didn't have the kind he liked in Iraq, plus it was way cheaper here so (for the sake of our bank account) I would send him a bunch of tins.

When he first got there his Dad sent him a portable DVD player and then I would send him DVDs randomly. Also paperback books (he would leave them in the bathroom for others after he read them). I've heard of some people doing "movie dates" by sending their soldier a DVD and then watching them at the same time and talking about them on Skype. Cake in a jar is a fun thing for special events!

Sorry for writing a novel, but care packages are kind of my thing! ;)

Jill said...

CSPURGEON - He hasn't requested in cigar supplies.. I think someone else has that area covered over there. Glad you enjoyed the "babysitting supply"!

Jessica - Good point on the pork. She cried over that? Good grief!

Beth - Thanks for all the great tips!!! I sent a bunch of DVD's to Joel and then he realized that the DVD player in his trailer is broken...

Natalia said...

Thanks for the ideas! I'm a new reader btw, love your blog!


Allison C said...

I send chocolate chips cookies just fine, m&ms arrive well too, but things like peanut butter cups melt really bad. If in doubt, try it, and enclose it in a plastic baggie. That's what I do with that any any liquids.

I don't send anything that is not allowed because I don't want him to get in trouble or not get his package.