Must-haves for every military holiday care package

Nov 25, 2013 at 12:00 p.m. ET

The holidays will be here before you know it. And if you thought you had plenty of time to get everything just right for your Christmas care packages, you had better think again.

Send a little holiday cheer overseas
Military holiday care package

This year's holiday mailing deadlines for APO/FPO packages have been set and Dec. 3 is the first of a few cutoff dates.

Express your creativity and put together a holiday care package for your spouse or others in the military. During deployments, I enjoyed trying to put Christmas in a box for my husband.

These eight care package must-haves will make it feel like the holidays wherever your loved one is in the world.

The box

Most people get into the routine of just sending your usual plain white priority box to ship care packages. For the holidays, get funky with it and decorate those boxes! Would you want to just open a plain old box on Christmas? Decorate the box with neat Christmas stickers and colorful wrapping paper. Pinterest is a great source for ideas for decorating holiday packages.

Tabletop trees

Mini trees are the perfect size for fitting inside a box. They are typically less than $5 at your local dollar store and allow the service member to set up a Christmas tree without taking up much space. If you splurge a little extra you can purchase the tree with lights already on it.

Lights and decorations

I am frugal... no, actually I’m cheap. And once again the dollar store is my best friend — and can be yours too — for decorating your care package tree. Many of the decorations sold at the dollar store are perfectly sized and boxed for easy packaging and shipping. You can get enough there to make a great looking tree without breaking the bank.

Handmade ornament

I believe in lots of ornaments on a tree but I also believe in a few special ones. Creating handmade ornaments is a great way to not only get the kids involved, but also send Mommy or Daddy a keepsake that they'll treasure. Check out these mini wreaths and other homemade ornaments kids can make.

Christmas CD

This may seem a little corny but come on, who doesn’t love the sounds of Christmas? Make a CD with a few classic Christmas songs and some modern favorites. The holidays wouldn’t be the same without Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song” or a subliminal message via Mariah Carey’s "All I Want For Christmas Is You."

Holiday cards

Christmas "ain't" Christmas without the traditional cheesy card. Everyone loves getting a card whether they admit it or not. Make your military spouse the star of the show by also including a box of cards in his package for him to give the guys and gals in his unit.

Christmas eats

Since your spouse won't be home to enjoy a Christmas meal with the family, help soften the blow and send items that somehow mimic the theme of a holiday dinner. If you like ham, send a small canned ham or spam. For sides, select microwavable macaroni and cheese cups and canned veggies. Instagram user @CreativeCarePackages suggests using leftover Pringles containers to ship cookies in. She suggests wrapping the canisters in decorative paper and then adding cookies that are wrapped in plastic wrap. Other sweet treats that make perfect additions are pound cakes and brownies. You can always add a sealed container of icing on the side.


What would a Christmas care package be without a few presents? I am all about meaningful gifts when your loved ones are away. Meaningful in that it creates a memory or it will keep them highly entertained. A picture of you (or the entire family) doing something your spouse enjoys or that you normally do together is a wonderful gift. Frame it and bubble wrap it for extra protection against breakage. If your loved one is a reader, consider sending a fully-loaded Kindle. When my husband was away, getting a Kindle with several books loaded onto it was like gold because Wi-Fi isn’t exactly the best over there. Other great presents include wrapping boxes of his favorite candies or sending him a season of a show on DVD that you recently have discovered that you think he will like.

Tell us

We want to know — what are your favorite items to put in holiday care packages?

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