Nothing beats a box of goodies when you’re far away from home! And our active duty military can especially use a boost right now as they’re handling service away from home under COVID-19 lockdowns.
Don’t know an active duty serviceperson? You can still brighten someone’s day (and their families) by sending a package! Dozens of programs are available that will help you send something to a deployed person, their spouse, and even their kids. This is a great family holiday project and the kids will enjoy helping. Just search “Military Care Package Programs” for a list of all your options.
10 Tips for Sending a Military Package.
1. Visit the US Post Office. They offer a free “Military Care Kit” that will have everything you need to properly package your gift, answer common questions about what you can ship overseas, and get it delivered to the right place. You can pick up at most USPS stores but it can also be ordered online.
2. Know the rules. Lots of items are prohibited on base or are just not needed or suitable for someone in a remote, hot/dry or cold/wet area. These are the most typical banned items but double check with your branch of service by location before sending: drugs or alcohol; cigarettes or nicotine products; pork products; lithium batteries; aerosols; carbonated beverages; or flammable or explosive items.
Super Easy Option: Let Good Grocer send it for you! We offer APO/FPO shipping and you can customize the message inside with a note from home. Shop for Gluten-Free, Vegan, Keto, and more here.
3. Homemade works too. If you decide to go homemade, make it as personal as possible with reminders of home -- pictures of family and pets, favorite foods, or specialties you can only find at home. Of course, send a personal note (or notes from multiple family members) but keep it light and encouraging.
4. Think of gift cards! Yes, a lot of bases now have franchise restaurants and stores right on base and many of them offer a program where they will directly deliver a gift card (or just transfer an electronic credit). Again, check with your serviceperson for what’s on their base and what is their favorite.
5. Reading and writing material is always welcome. Books, magazines, puzzle books, even coloring books, are a huge hit on any base. And they’re great for sharing and trading so everyone benefits from this gift. Many times, you can pick up inexpensive paperbacks at thrift stores or libraries so you don’t have to spend a lot of money on this one. They can also use pens, paper, notepads, and envelopes – you might even get a letter back!
6. Consider a digital subscription. Technology is amazing and even the remotest locations have good internet access. And with little else to do during downtime, our servicemen and women are spending a lot of time online. Help them get the most out of it by getting them a hobby-specific digital subscription. The sky really is the limit here – whatever they love, there’s a subscription or add-on for them. From photography to yoga classes to cooking to gaming, just find out what they love to do in their downtime and give them a subscription.
7. Be careful how you pack things. Do not combine food and toiletries in the same box unless you can 100% seal them without concern of breakage or spills. No one wants treats covered in shampoo.
8. Pack non-perishable foods in sturdy packaging. Things like jerky; nuts or nut butter; dried fruit or granola; hard candy that won’t melt; well-cushioned chips, crackers, or cookies; canned tuna or microwaveable packages will travel well. Chocolate, soft cookies, things in flimsy baggies will not survive the rigors of the road. We know your guy or gal really loves Grandma’s homemade chocolate chip cookies but they will not survive a long journey by truck, air, or boat. Opt for prepackaged snacks that can hold up to rough delivery.
9. Include necessities. Again, check with your serviceperson (or their spouse). Most bases carry essentials but the brands and varieties can be hit or miss. Where they’re stationed also determines what they need. If they’re in a dry or hot place, wet wipes, Chapstick, and sunglass cleaner is a favorite. If they’re in a colder place, warm socks, lightweight thermal undershirts, and also Chapstick are usually welcomed. All servicepeople like sunscreen (stick version not lotion); batteries, foot powder, high quality socks, and throat lozenges. Just package all separately in sealed bags in case something breaks open. If they like a certain kind of toothpaste or shampoo, send that but choose small travel size bottles with as little packaging as possible to cut down on weight.
10. Don’t forget their spouse and children! Every military family serves alongside their husband, wife, Mom or Dad. And the time apart becomes especially difficult as the holidays approach. Remember them with a thoughtful gift – something fun for the kids to do, a selfcare package for the spouse, or a gift certificate for the whole family to order pizza and a movie. And if you live nearby, offer to help out with household chores or drop off a meal once in a while.
Together we’ll get through this!