Care packages bring the comforts of home to our troops, even when they are thousands of miles away. The military provides them with the basics to live, but our troops have to buy all their personal items and any special treats for themselves. By sending a care package to the troops during the holidays (or anytime), you can make their lives a little more enjoyable while they are protecting our freedom.
Best items for military care packages
- Baby wipes
- Body wash
- Body powder
- Eye drops
- Foot powder
- Icy Hot patches
- Lip balm
- Toothbrushes and toothpaste
- Ziploc bags
- Canned food
- Cereal bars
- Chex Mix
- Chewing gum
- Cookies and brownies (individually wrapped)
- Granola bars
- Hard candy
- Hot cocoa mix
- Hot sauce
- Juice boxes
- Macaroni and cheese
- Microwave popcorn
- Powdered drink mix
- Ramen noodles
- Soup mix
- Sunflower seeds
- Board games
- Hacky Sack
- Phone cards
- Playing cards
- Puzzle books
- Video games
Other comforts such as beanie caps, boot socks, ear plugs, inflatable pillows and shoe insoles would also be much appreciated.
Food tips for care packages
When sending food, pack items with a long shelf life. Avoid homemade baked goods unless you know the recipient. (Otherwise, they’ll be thrown away.) Place cookies and other baked foods in an airtight container that is cushioned. Add some extra packing tape around the lid to keep it as fresh as possible. Keep food and non-food items in separate care packages. Remember that the packages will be traveling long distances, often in hot weather, so avoid any foods and snacks that might melt.
Sending your care package
Before you rush out to the store for packing tape and boxes, you should know that the U.S. Postal Service offers free supplies to families preparing care packages for service members overseas. Their “Mili-kit” includes:
- Two Priority Mail APO/FPO/DPO flat-rate boxes
- Two Priority Mail medium flat-rate boxes
- Priority Mail tape
- Priority Mail address labels
- Appropriate customs forms
The flat-rate boxes also make postage very affordable. To get the kit, call the USPS Expedited Package Supply Center at 1-800-610-8734 (option 1 for Priority Mail supplies).
Your box should be full enough, but not too full. You don’t want the items to move around that much. If they do, add some more bubble wrap to reduce damage. Don’t overpack your box to the point it might break.
When addressing your care package, be sure that you include the service member’s full name, unit and APO/FPO/DPO, as well as the nine-digit zip code (if assigned). Place an extra mailing label inside the box, as well as the one on the outside. If the package becomes damaged or unreadable in transit, it still has a chance to get where it’s going if there’s an address label inside. Try to mail care packages as early as possible before the holidays.
Things you can’t send
- Obscene material, including artwork, cards, films, videotapes, etc.
- Anything depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials
- Bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith (items for personal use for the addressee are fine)
- Any pork or pork by-products
Care packages for “Any Soldier”
You can’t just send a care package addressed to “Any Soldier” or “Any Service Member” anymore. However, if you don’t know anyone in the military, you can still help.
Many organizations allow you to sponsor a service member or make a donation to fund care packages for our troops. Check out Operation Gratitude, Operation USO Care Package and other charitable organizations that help send gifts, cards and care packages to our military members.
You can also find a list of military members who are looking for care packages at AnySoldier.com. These men and women have volunteered to handle packages and mail for other military members; they receive the care packages and then distribute them to their fellow servicemen who aren’t getting any mail. The Any Soldier website offers a lot of other information on how to pack, address and send your care packages.
Take a little time this holiday season to put together a care package for someone in the military. If you don’t have the time, consider a small donation that will contribute to care packages, cards and gifts for our troops. Many servicemen and servicewomen don’t receive any mail. A card, letter or care package could make a difference in their lives overseas.