Care packages are the best way for loved ones, friends, well wishers and colleagues to send a little piece of home to deployed service members. They’re also a fun way for families to stay connected while apart. Military Spouse Olivia Michelle loves sending her husband packages while he’s deployed, “sending my husband care packages is one of my favorite parts about deployment, and quite possibly the only thing I like about deployments. Care packages give me something to do, allow me to be creative, and help me to look forward to seeing him receive them.”
When creating your packages, get friends, family, neighbors, work colleagues and anyone you can involved. Have them include a handwritten card, or have children draw or color photos to include. Michelle says that having children create art for the packages is “also a great way to get the kids involved and an opportunity to talk them about what being deployed means. And, it gets them involved and helps put a positive spin on the deployment by putting the children in a supportive role.”
Supplies you’ll need to send military care packages
First thing to know when putting your packages together is what boxes to use. Go to your local post office and grab the Flat Rate USPS boxes, that are free of charge. You can also order a shipping kit from
USPS.com for free and have them mailed to your house instead if you are unable to get to a physical post office. Flat Rate boxes are the most cost effective way to send stuff to your overseas deployed service member. Flat rate means that it is one flat cost regardless of weight. Michelle says when considering mailing her packages “there are several sizes of flat rate boxes to choose from, I usually use the medium ($15.50) or large ($21.75). You will also need to fill out customs forms with each box.”
Get creative putting your package together. Decorate anything you can, making the box more personal, “Other supplies I typically use when putting my packages together are glue sticks, a hot glue gun, decorative paper, and my printer. I usually grab paper from Hobby Lobby, which is half off every other week (29-99 cents per sheet). If I’m adding some small objects to make the box 3D, I’ll head to the Dollar Tree” says Michelle.
Items to send in military care packages
“First and foremost, ask your Military member if they are close to running out of anything they’ll need when considering what to ship. And, if they are running out of an item, consider sending them multiples of the item so they don’t need to restock again, or can give an extra to a buddy” suggests Michelle. Keep in mind that depending on their location, care packages can take weeks to more than a month to receive after mailing.
“Sometimes my husband needs me to mail him more deodorant or toothpaste, etc. My usual rule of thumb is to only send consumables and items that can be left behind. Your service member is going to have a lot of gear to bring home, they usually do not have space for an extra 5 boxes worth of stuff you mailed them also. I often send snacks, my husband would share them with everyone there and put them in the community room. I will also send items like board games and books, which are items that can be used and then left behind for others to enjoy” suggests Michelle.
You don’t have to break the bank putting together care packages. Even sending them stationary, pens, paper, and stamps so they can write home to their loved ones is helpful. Print and send encouraging and motivational quotes.
Many of the items you will buy can be easily found at affordable stores like the Dollar Tree.
Affordable box stuffers troops really want that you can find at most retail outlets
- 3M easy stick wall hooks
- Anything they can eat by adding hot water to that are not MRE’s: oatmeal, kodiak cake cups, etc…
- Batteries- All Sizes
- Battery operated holiday lights
- Beanie babies
- Beard oil and brush (if in a unit that is allowed to do this)
- Books & magazines
- Bug Swatters
- Cheap or disposable flip flops for communal showers
- Chewing gum, mints, non melting candy
- Cotton balls, q-tips (can be used for personal hygiene or weapon cleaning)
- Disposable plates, dixie cups or cutlery if your deployed members confirms they would be helpful at their location.
- Dry shampoo
- Energy Drink Powders – all kinds including 5 hour energy drink & Min squirt bottles
- Eyeglass repair kits & cleaning cloths
- Flavored water packets (a major favorite as the water doesn’t always taste great depending on location)
- Food seasonings, hott sauces (another favorite from service members)
- Footballs, baseballs, etc.
- For female soldiers, hair ties & extra brand name feminine products of all kinds
- Games, playing cards, poker chips, etc.
- Hand crafted hats and scarves
- Hand sanitizer, masks, Clorox wipes and any other pandemic related PPE items
- Hand warmers, or instant cool packs
- Mini portable rechargeable fans
- Pens, markers, Sharpies, etc.
- Pocket sized notebooks
- Pop Tarts
- Portable battery packs
- Puzzles, Sodoku books & crossword puzzles
- Quality Socks & foot powder
- Shaker bottles, protein mixes, greens mixes, etc.
- Shampoo, body wash, conditioner
- Shaving cream & razors
- Small snacks like beef jerky, salsa, trail mix, ramen noodles, energy bars, jars of peanut butter than can be eaten by the spoonful (send the sugary non healthy kind!)
- Small toys for children (depending on the deployment your service member may be able to give them to children in need in their area)
- Small, cheap sewing kits
- Small portable, single use hott sauces. We hear Chick-Fil-Et sauce is a huge hit
- Stress balls, fidget spinners
- Sunscreen & lip balm
- Throat lozenges, basic medical remedies
- Toothpaste & toothbrushes
- Vics Vapor Rub for sore muscles
- Vitamin C powder packets or Airborne
- Wall, pocket and / or tear off calendars.
- Water bottles of all sizes and shapes
Unusual and creative items to include
- Pictures of you in a R.E.D. Friday t-shirt
- Artwork created by children
- Prints of motivational quotes.
- Items from Veteran owned companies like Strike Force Energy or Black Rifle Coffee
- iPod or thumb drive loaded with movies, music and / or pictures
- Anything “Americana” themed, think fun 4th of July type merchandise
Items to avoid sending your service member on deployment
- Chocolate- it can melt in transit that could take months. If you INSIST on sending chocolate, pack it separately in several zip lock bags to avoid it leaking into the rest of your package.
- Alcohol- many countries have different laws, rules and regulations surrounding alcohol. And certain deployments might also not allow it fora variety of reasons.
- USPS also has its own list of prohibited items you cannot mail no matter where it’s going. Check out that list here.
Creating a theme for your care package
Choosing a theme and decorating the box is a ton of fun and a great way to personalize a package. Michelle says “I love to decorate the boxes. The holidays are an easy one to create if they will be gone during one. This is when I like to head to the Dollar Tree and grab the cheap decorations. For a Christmas box one year I mailed a tiny christmas tree with ornaments and tinsel to decorate it with!” And you can get creative easily, “For Thanksgiving I sent canned ingredients to make his favorite dish and wrote on leaves what we were thankful for”.
Other theme ideas are endless and include Disney themes, travel, sports, etc. “We love Disney movies so I have frequently done Disney themed boxes with creative sayings. When my husband was halfway through a deployment I made a Finding Nemo themed box that said “Just Keep Swimming, we are halfway done”. You could also do a state themed box, with items inside that are local to that state. For example, a Washington box with dried salmon, huckleberry jam, and photos of Bigfoot sightings in the woods. There are so many ideas to choose from, get creative.”
It’s the thought that counts
No matter what you send, your service member will be grateful you thought of them! And, if you happen to send an item they don’t need or like, you can bet that they’ll share their goodies with a new friend or buddy in need. After asking around we hear the following items are an all time premium and are the MOST favorites: bug swatters, portable fans, phone charges, back up batteries, beanie babies, hand crafted items, dry shampoo, energy drink packets / squirt bottles, and work out supplements.
Putting these care packages together are a fun way to make the time pass and great for the whole family to help out with. However, If you don’t have the time to put one together you can also order one prepackaged from My Hero Crate. My Hero Crate will proudly ship overseas to our military brothers and sisters stationed or deployed at APO, FPO, and DPO addresses. There are also a wide variety of companies that send free items to deployed soldiers, check out this blog or perform a simple google search to find them.
If you are a spouse of a deployed service member, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Consider ordering a Brave Crate, for a special delivery for YOU while your service member is deployed.
Let team VA the Fairway send your Service Member a care package
Here are VA the Fairway, we love to support our military clients, friends and colleagues. Contact one of our team members today, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly put together something for your Service Member. Please include their name, correct mailing address, and any requests for items they might have.