Everything You Need to Know About Military Care Packages
Are you thinking about sending a care package to your military spouse, child or sibling on deployment? Whether it’s to make their holiday season merrier, to commemorate a notable event or just because it’s a nice thing to do, military care packages are beloved by troops all around the world. Regardless of where they’re stationed — across the country or overseas — sending care packages provides the military members you love with the treats, knick-knacks and other goodies that make them feel cared for. Even if they’re half a world away, military care packages can help recipients feel a whole lot closer to home — so much so they can taste it. (Especially when care packages include homemade cookies!)
While you probably can imagine what a care package includes, this may be the first time you’ve put together one that’s specifically for the military and those on deployment. What do military packages generally feature in them? Where can you send them? Are there restrictions on the items, foods or products that are allowable or do you have free rein? What weight restrictions exist — if any?
Don’t start baking, packing and shipping until you read this. It will save you time, hassle and frustration in the event you add items that are deemed contraband. It may also supply you with a care package idea that you hadn’t thought of before!
What typically goes into a military care package?
In addition to love, military care packages can include just about anything you want them to. Since they’re customized to the supplies, products and foods that your service member enjoys, they should ideally contain the items that remind them of home or that they don’t have ready access to at their deployment location.
What should you prepare for packaging? As recommended by Military.com, you may want to consider breaking down the contents of your package into categories, such as necessities, baked goods and non-perishable foods.
Have trouble coming up with things to add? Here are a few examples of what could go into each grouping that should be easy to find and inexpensive:
- Waterproof sunblock (30 SPF or higher is recommended)
- Lip balm
- Toiletries (e.g. toothpaste, toilet paper, tooth brush, baby powder, etc.)
- Moist towelettes
- Hand sanitizer
- Non-prescription pain medication
- Single-size water flavoring mix
- Granola bars
- Trail mix
- Snack cakes
Of course, you’re the one who knows your military member best. These are just ideas to get you started and to help serve as inspiration. If you do decide to add cookies or other baked goods that need to remain soft, you may want to consider adding a slice of bread to the container you’re using to hold them. As Military.com points out, bread gives off moisture that the cookies absorb, which will help to maintain a chewy texture.
Other miscellaneous items that may come in handy for troops include AA or AAA batteries, writing utensils like pens, pencils and notepads, reusable water bottles and a deck of cards or other portable game. For the most part, there are few restrictions on what is OK to send.
What should you keep out of military care packages?
At the same time, though, that doesn’t mean that anything goes. Here are a few that are best to keep out of the package:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Fresh or frozen meats
- Adult entertainment
- Aerosols (e.g. whipped cream, shaving cream, air-powered dusters, etc.)
- Carbonated beverages
- Lithium batteries
You may find some of these exclusions obvious. For example, for aerosols, they can easily explode if they’re subjected to intense heat, making it a safety hazard. In the case of vegetables and meats, they may spoil prematurely depending upon how they’re packaged and where they’re going. In some instances, they may be illegal, as is the case with pork if troops are stationed in the Middle East as well as certain Asian and European countries. Pork by-products (e.g. certain soaps, chalk, rubber, etc.) are also considered contraband. Something else that may be best to leave out is gum. Chewing gum is illegal in Singapore and has been for a number of years now.
If you have any questions or concerns about what is allowable and what isn’t, you can visit the United States Postal Service’s website. This page is maintained and will provide you with the very latest on what is prohibited both domestically and internationally. In some instances, you may be able to send certain items so long as they’re packaged and sealed appropriately and in line with USPS standards.
Another thing to be careful about is overfilling. You undoubtedly want to get as much in as you can, but putting in too much risks breakage or ripping when it’s shipped. Rule of thumb: If the box is bulging, there is too much inside. Either get a larger and more sturdy box or take out what makes sense to remove.
How big can military care packages be?
If you go with a larger box, that raises the question of dimensions and whether what you’re sending is within a permissible size limit. Generally speaking, care packages and the like can be no bigger than 108 inches in circumference (total width all the way around plus total length all the way around), according to Military.com. This measurement is calculated by measuring the width and length of the package, adding those two numbers together and multiplying by two. It’s possible that the size limit may be more generous than this, but to err on the side of caution, your best move may be to ask your service member his or herself. If they don’t know the answer, they may know where to go or who to ask on their base to find out.
How do you fill out a military shipping label?
If you’re new to customs declaration and dispatch notes, they may remind you of those documents you had to fill out when taking a standardized test: a whole bunch of tiny boxes, where you fill one for each letter. Simply write in each box with the appropriate letter of your service member’s address, starting with the last name and first name, their address and country location. If they have an APO Zip code — they will if they’re in the Army or Air Force — then you’ll need a PS Form 2976-R and will ship through the USPS. This document is also required for FPO and MPO Zip codes, meaning those in the Navy or Marines Corp. This rule went into effect in August 2020. You should be able to get one at your local post office or by downloading one online.
How much does it cost to send a package to a military base?
This one is tough to say with any precision. The cost of shipping and handling depends primarily on weight and where it’s going. The farther and heavier it is, the more you can expect to spend.
If you’re looking for military package ideas or maybe need some extra spending money to make that package extra special, Omni Financial can help. We provide installment military loans to service members and their spouses for use whenever, however and wherever those funds are required. Contact us today to learn more.
The information provided in this blog post is for informational purposes only.