My husband was deployed to Afghanistan with my first pregnancy and to Iraq with my second. It got to be a joke among the 98 Charlies that “If Anne Marie is expecting a baby, we’re going to be deployed soon.” Sending care packages to my husband brought both of us a great deal of joy, and it was a great way to let him that little Joseph and I were thinking of him all the time.
Here are some tips for getting you started if going the do-it-yourself route. First of all, check out the free military care kits from the United States Postal Service. They include boxes, tape, labels and forms.
Next, here’s a list of some of the most popular items I sent over the years.
Most Requested Military Care Package Items:
- Non-perishable food (snack mix, trail mix, dried fruit and nuts, jerky, chips, crackers, popcorn, protein and granola bars, etc.)
- Powdered drink mixes (tea, cappuccino, Kool-Aid, Crystal Lite, etc.)
- Candy, gum and breath mints
- Light reading material (magazines, hometown newspaper, almanac)
- Lists and stats (guys love to read – and share – books with sports stats, top 10 lists, comparisons, etc.)
- Toiletries (if you can, check first and see if they are short on anything)
- Hand and foot warmers (depending on the climate)
- Shoe inserts/insoles
- Home baked goods (only what keeps well and can withstand temperature fluctuations – TIP: pack homemade cookies in empty Pringle cans)
- Seasonings (small bottles of hot sauce, BBQ sauce, Taco Bell packets, etc. – very securely wrapped)
- Photos and family artwork
- Samples of your child’s schoolwork
- CD’s and DVD’s (store bought or ones you’ve burned especially for them)
- Pet momentos
- Home videos on a portable data storage device (like a jump drive)
- Humor (funny stories, comic books)
- Romantic tokens (a handwritten card with a dab of your perfume on it, a small framed picture of the two of you, an engraved gift, etc.)
- Writing materials (paper, envelopes, stamps)
- Visa and Mastercard gift cards
- Phone cards
- Sunscreen and sunglasses
- Posters (to liven up the living quarters)
- Small games (travel size, packs of cards, puzzle books, brain teasers, etc.)
- Disposable or instant camera
- AA, AAA and D (but lithium-ion are prohibited)
- Basic healthcare items (lip balm, pain relief, antacid, etc.)
- Seasonal items (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.)
- Decorations! (throw in some tinsel, confetti, ribbons – anything to make it festive and fun)
5 Important Things to Keep in Mind
- Prepare your package for possible rough handling and long transit times
- Avoid aerosol cans and carbonated beverages.
- It’s super nice to send extra items for soldiers that may not ever get care packages of their own
- Don’t send contraband (prohibited) items. These may be subject to confiscation and get your beloved soldier in hot water! These include drugs (non-OTC), alcohol, weapons, explosives, flammables, /fireworks, and explicit/obscene items. Check with the unit just in case there are items specifically prohibited where they are deployed, for instance in the Middle East.
How to Make Sending a Military Care Package Even Easier
What if time is running short, and you’re fresh out of inspiration?
If it’s not feasible to assemble your own package, I’ve got a great idea for something unique and fun: Universal Yums!
They send boxes of snacks and candies from a different country every month. Packages can be shipped to the US (including military addresses and territories), Canada, Australia, the UK, and Israel. We received the December Holiday Box from Universal Yums and have been busily working our way through snacks from 13 different countries: Spain, France, Germany, Switzerland, Uruguay, Jordan, The Philippines, Italy, Croatia, Austria, Japan, Belgium and Poland.
There’s even a chart to record our votes for favorite foods. Also included are recipes, trivia and games from each country. Prices start at $13.75 per box and you can choose to send just once, or every month.
I think any soldier would be surprised and pleased to receive a Universal Yums box!
Wondering if there might be a Black Friday or Cyber Monday sale at Universal Yums? Glad you asked!
Black Friday (11/29 – 12/1)
Buy any 6 or 12 month gift, get a free Yums sampler pack
Cyber Monday (12/2)
Buy any size gift, and receive a box of equal size for free
Have any questions about Universal Yums, or about sending a military care package?
Leave me a comment below!
This article was previously published in part at TOTS Family
It has been updated and expanded.