Sending care packages to loved ones who are deployed or on extended exercises is a great way to send a little bit of "home" to those who might be far away.
As anyone in the military will tell you, it can be tough during the holiday season to be away from friends and family. That means sending holiday cheer is all the more important! Here are some holiday-themed care package ideas and our most trusted tips and tricks to get your package to its destination safely and on time.
Holiday Military Care Package Ideas
Spread a bit of holiday cheer when assembling your military care package. The holidays are all about traditions, spending time with family, and having a break from day-to-day life. Obviously, those three are difficult to achieve when deployed, so send reminders of those activities in your package. For example, if you have a family tradition of matching holiday pajamas, send a photo of your family wearing the outfits while sending your loved one their own matching set. Sending entertainment items also helps your loved one decompress and relax in their free time.
Holiday gifts include:
- Audio recorder with messages from family - Personalized playlists
- Books and magazines - Photos from home
- Games (cards, video games, puzzles, etc.) - Small holiday items (ornaments, tree, etc.)
- Handwritten letters - Stocking holding small items
- Movies and TV shows - Universal outlet adapter
Daily Staples & Self-Care Items
Our troops have access to many items in the supply stores on base, but there usually isn't much variety. Send some of their favorite name-brand items to add that extra level of comfort and a reminder of home this holiday season. Stock up their pantries with flavor enhancers like non-perishable condiments, drink powders, gum, and protein powders they don't have access to when on base. You would also be surprised just how great new socks are, too! Sometimes getting socks for the holidays isn't quite a bad thing.
Daily staples and self-care items include:
- Batteries - Icy Hot
- Condiments (hot sauce, peanut butter, etc.) - Jerky
- Cough drops - Mild air fresheners
- Deodorant and body wash - Protein powders
- Drink powders - Socks
- Eye drops - Specialty snack foods
- Gum - Sunscreen
- Hard candy - Toothpaste and toothbrush
Nothing says the holiday season like a batch of homemade goods. Sending a batch of family-recipe holiday cookies sends back a taste of home and helps maintain the holiday tradition. A sweet treat is also a nice break from the food military members have been eating on base. Shipping military care packages can take weeks before getting to the base, so avoid packing any homemade goods that may spoil, such as those with fresh fruit or items that can melt, such as chocolate. Wrap each item carefully to avoid spills or crumbs ending up over other items, and mark anything containing nuts.
Homemade goods include:
- Biscotti - Peanut brittle
- Gingerbread - Shortbread
- Graham Crackers - Trail mix
How to Send Military Care Packages
Due to security restrictions, the USPS is the only carrier that can deliver mail and packages to APO/FPO/DPO locations. Both FedEx and UPS can deliver within countries with military stations. USPS is the only carrier with access to direct delivery to military bases. A customs form is required to ship to any military address, including addresses for non-deployed locations. If you need any help completing the customs forms, post office employees can help you navigate the process.
Just like when sending mail and packages domestically, military addresses follow a specific format to ensure proper delivery. Making sure your military care package is accurately labeled is extremely important, especially when shipping internationally. A mislabeled package can prolong the shipping process or cause the package to go missing in transit. The military base address must include:
The full name of the addressee.
The unit or Post Office box number.
A three-letter code associated with the type of location. APO is used for Army and Air Force installations, FPO is used for ships and Navy installations, and DPO is associated with U.S. embassies overseas.
The "state" of the addressee. Instead of an actual state or foreign province, military "states" include:
A.A. for Armed Forces Americas
A.E. for Armed Forces Europe, Armed Forces Middle East, and Armed Forces Africa
AP for Armed Forces Pacific
The 5-digit zip code for the military unit. All military zip codes will start with a 0 or 9.
CPT John Doe
Unit 45013 Box 2666
APO AP 96338
Be aware that the earlier you send out the package, the better, especially when taking the holiday rush into consideration. USPS holiday shipping deadlines for military packages are usually longer than mailing within the U.S. Check with your local post office for more information.
Sending a holiday military care package to troops is a wonderful way to spread the holiday cheer and send a bit of home to those who are missing it this time of year. Include sentimental items, delicious homemade goodies, and daily comfort items to create the ultimate care package that will bring a smile to your military member's face. Be sure to follow the proper addressing and packing rules and pay attention to shipping dates to ensure your military care package successfully arrives on the base in time for the holidays.
FPO, DPO, and APO Shipping Restrictions
To keep command rules, shipping hazards, and weather considerations in mind, do not pack alcohol, explicit or inappropriate material, perishable items, chocolate, or anything breakable like ceramic or glass in your holiday military care package. Keep in mind, too, that large packages can slow down the shipping process and can result in higher shipping fees. Put together a holiday military care package that is modestly-sized and contains all the important items that will make your military member's holiday memorable.
Putting together a care package takes a little time and effort, but the results are so well worth it. Not only do you get the chance to bridge the gap between "there" and "here," but you also have the chance to create a lasting memory with your service member.