How I pack care packages…

I never really thought about how I do it until at an FRG meeting several spouses had questions. So I decided it was time to do a step by step blog post about care packages.

Step 1 shopping:

  • Keep weather in mind (does that soldier really want hot chocolate in 110 degree heat)
  • Chocolate is out in lots of locations, exceptions: Nutella, M&M’s, chocolate chip cookies (I’ll explain how to pack this stuff later)
  • If it won’t fit in a gallon ziplock bag it’s too big. (You husbands forgotten running shoes are an exception)
  • I often take a large flat rate with me to the store if I’m doing a theme box.

Step 2 Packing Supplies

  • The wonderful USPS will give you flat rate boxes for free, they’ll even bring them to your door.
  • I also keep the clear customs form holders on hand for free from the USPS
  • Tape lots of packing tape (You’ll be amazed how much you will use.)

Step 3 Packing the box

  • DO NOT mix toiletries and food in one box!!!
    • The strong scents of soap, deodorant etc can and often does bleed over into the food items.
    • You can throw in a chapstick or toothbrush but if it doesn’t go in or on your mouth don’t put it with food
  •  Ziplock bags are everyones friend, anything liquid or gooey goes in one. You bag that lotion, that mouthwash and that shelf stable milk. When in short bag it, it saves trouble later.
  • Those Gorillas at the zoo, yeah you’ve seen them. Plan on them handling your package at some point.
    • Glass is always a tough thing to send, I avoid it at almost all costs.
  • Don’t put an heirloom in the box, trust me that’s the box that will get lost.
  • If it won’t fit in a large flat rate does the soldier really need it?
    • This isn’t to say only use those boxes just if an individual item won’t fit in a large flat rate box think twice.
      • I do know of an exception where a small pool was sent to soldiers as part of a pool party, but exceptions are rare.
  • I have everything in my box and it’s not full
    • Switch to a smaller box, a medium packed full is better than a large one that is  not full with items getting damaged.

A box of snacks and things to eat.

  • What 3 things do you really want to get in the box?
    • Those go in first. (That bag of chips for chips and salsa may not arrive in the same condition if you put the salsa in the box with it. Remember the Gorilla?)
    • Let’s start our box with beef Jerky, nope it doesn’t need a ziplock
    • Then we add in some small packages of sunflower seeds
    • ohh he wanted a book of crosswords
    • some granola bars
    • Okay now I add in some pouches of tuna
      • That tuna needs some mayonnaise, don’t just grab a jar, get packets.
      • Yes, packets of condiments are great to add to care packages.
        • Of course they go in a ziplock bag! (Mr or Mrs Gorilla doesn’t need it)
    • Okay once you have everything in the box close it up, don’t tape it closed just close it and shake it.
      • Yes, shake that box, if you hear stuff moving I now add in candy or other small items to stop the rattling.
      • Once you have enough stuff in there so it no longer rattles you can tape it closed.
    • No not the ones that are already sealed but the ones that are there for you to tape closed, cover them in at least one if not more of strong packing tape.
      • Soldiers have sharp objects they’ll get into it don’t worry about that.

A box of toiletries and other items

  • Get out the gallon ziplock before you start.
    • Remember if it won’t fit in the gallon ziplock I think it’s too big to ship.
  • Almost everything in this box will be in a ziplock
  • The shampoo
  • Body wash (Bar soap gets sand embedded in it. Who wants to wash with sandy soap?)
    • Most soldiers prefer the body wash
  • Aerosols can be tricky I skip them unless I must send deodorant (It gets bagged and taped closed)
  • They do sell shave gel in tubes, they’re smaller and travel better.
  • For female soldiers feminine supplies are amazing things, there’s often a small selection if any available.
  • Chapstick, even if they don’t use it at home send it. The wind will dry out their lips trust me they’ll be looking for it at some point.
  • Lotion, again even if they don’t use it at home if they are in an arid location they will appreciate it.
  • Baby wipes, yes I said baby wipes. Even soldiers who are not in a field location like them. They still get sweaty and grimy, if they are on a 24 hour shift a few wipes can help them freshen up part way through their day. I send smaller packages but more of them (about 70 wipes per pack so they don’t dry out in the arid weather).
  • Razors, my husband likes the gillette proglide, you can send any decent twin or more blade razor.
  • Women’s razors, a rare find on a deployment especially the good ones.
  • Q-tips tons of uses for these
  • Socks, feet get sweaty in those boots, the sand found at some locations wears things out faster so  don’t count on the ones he took with him when he deployed to last the year

Okay enough of that again don’t forget the gorilla and the shake test, if everything liquid is bagged and there’s no glass you should be fine.

Other things to make them smile…

  • Air fresheners –  I use ones made for cars (not vent clips the kind that sit there in a can)
  • Candles I don’t send these, fire hazard
  • Dryer sheets, they can add them to their drawer, duffle ruck or closet. I always suggest they tuck one in their pillow case.
  • Books, paperbacks preferred here (they fit better in cargo pockets and are lighter in general)
  • Magazines (NO PORN) grab the latest issue of a car magazine, or something. I tend to send pencil puzzles and crossword books.
  • Water guns and water balloons, they are a huge hit in arid hot climates
  • Games and small toys, think travel sized that will fit in a cargo pocket or card games like uno.

I hate the line at the post office (USPS can be good)

  • I have a USPS.COM account, it’s free to setup
  • I pay online, you also get a discount for doing that.
  • It walks me through the customs form
  • I print it all out
  • I schedule a pickup, yes USPS will pickup the packages at your house for free.
  • Don’t forget to order your care package supplies while you are there.
    • I keep the following on hand
      • Small Flat rate boxes (Currently $5.25 to send if paid online)
      • Medium Flat rate boxes (Currently $11.30 paid online)
      • Large Flat rate boxes (Currently $13.80 paid online)
      • Customs forms holders, yep free from USPS
      • Priority mail address labels

This is not an all inclusive guide but should give you a good start. As long as you keep sending stuff and keep the strong scents away from the food it should all work out.

I’ll cover shipping baked goods and other items in a another post. This means if you follow my blog you won’t miss out on it.


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