April 26, 2016 by Carrie Blair
Hi friends! This post is for anyone who may need a little help with care packages to deployed soldiers. Since this is our (my husband and I’s) first deployment, we’ve been slowly figuring this whole thing out. Because I sent care packages to him during Ranger School last year I had a little bit of an idea for what to send during the deployment. If this is your first time sending a care package at all, bless your heart – I’m here to help!!
To start off with, every soldier’s situation is unique and may be completely different than my husband’s situation currently. Take everything as a suggestion and ask any questions you may have!
1. Get your soldier’s address: He/she should know this and if they don’t, have them ask a friend that has a spouse. It will be an APO address and will look a little unusual because the street address will be their company/unit. Make sure to use his/her formal name and rank in the address so they can find your soldier during mail call.
2. Pick up (or order) Priority Mail Boxes: This one’s important!! The first care package I sent was just a normal box and I was charged triple what a priority mail box costs. Don’t make that mistake. You can order free (!!) mailing supplies at the USPS website so you don’t have to drive all over town looking for the right box. I once drove 45 miles to find the Medium boxes – I ordered 25 boxes when I got home that night. I recommend using the Medium Priority Mail Boxes because it’s around $14 to ship whatever fits in the box and is a reasonable size for my monthly packages. There are other sizes, though, if you want something bigger or smaller. You can also order the labels (again, for free!) for writing the address neatly here – I highly recommend adding this to your order!
3. Packing Supplies: This is where it gets fun! In my husband’s case, he lives on a base that has a PX (like a Walmart) with a majority of the essentials that he likes (generic snacks, toiletries, etc). Because he can get all of those “not-so-fun” items himself, I am constantly on the hunt for unique items to send him. Some of the best food items that I’ve found are: Dark Chocolate covered Pretzels, Dark Chocolate Raspberry bites, Sriracha Potato Chips, Organic Ethiopian Coffee, Birthday Cake Flavored Protein Powder, and an Arnold Palmer (Sweet Tea/Lemonade) flavored water enhancement. All of these are my husband’s favorite flavors and he doesn’t have anything like these at his PX. You don’t have to just send food, though. There are a TON of great gifts that can fit in the boxes. A few of my favorite include: magazines, new movies that come out while they are away, hand-held massage tool, unique soaps, nice toothbrush, fake flowers & vase, framed family pictures, handmade cards by kids and/or nephews/nieces, favorite sports team’s flag for their room, religious devotional, and many many more. [I included links to the items in the pictures in case something strikes your fancy!] My husband’s friend got a DVD of Week 1 of the NFL Playoffs, and it was (apparently) the best gift ever. I’m not quite sure how they did that, but if you have the means, I guarantee your spouse will love getting a dvd of his/her favorite tv show – especially if it’s football related!!
4. Customs Forms: I’ve had bad experiences with customs forms every time I’ve used them. The problem is that I’ve been traveling and mailing the boxes from a different USPS store each time, and no one store treats them the same way. Some stores let you fill them out prior to coming in the store, and some require you to weigh the package before they will even let you fill out the customs form. My rule of thumb is to go in the post office with everything filled out and if they need more info I’ll do that, but at least I’m there prepared. You can order these online too, do this when you order your boxes! LINK HERE. Below is an example of a filled out Customs Form in case you need help filling it out!
From my experience and what I’ve been told, the government doesn’t care what you put on your description of contents as long as it is remotely correct. Also, they don’t like you sending liquid items, so just don’t put those on your “contents” section. Your soldier also may not have a Company Nickname, so just leave that line blank if there isn’t one to include. When you are filling this out you’ll notice that the third page is taking a “carbon copy” of your writing, this is for USPS’s copy once it’s sent. Once you give this to USPS they will give you back the right hand part of the below image (third page) in order to track the customs form (but you shouldn’t have to do this – I keep it until he gets the package and then throw it away).
My soldier is giddy when he gets my care packages, and it’s really cute when I get the “thank you text” knowing that his mouth is full and belly is happy. Find those items that make your soldier’s heart happy and fill that package up. Your package doesn’t need to be perfect, because I guarantee even if you just send him/her a letter that says how much you’re thinking about them it will brighten their day – and isn’t that what it’s all about? [insert soft smile and sigh]
From one military wife trying to figure it all out to another – I’m here to help!