The problem: You need care package tips on what to send and how to guarantee your package makes it safely overseas. Keep reading because we asked a care package pro for their advice!
Guest post by Jack Wray
The holiday season is our busiest time at Hero Care Packages, and when everyone is scrambling to get holiday gifts, it is even harder with military members. They’re all over the world, and sometimes it’s hard to know what to get them. I’m here to give you 4 tips—two for DIY care packages, and two for picking the perfect online care package. Because those serving us abroad are worth the trouble this holiday season. (Read until the end to get a free gift, just for the Seasoned Spouse community!)
#1: DIY: Send Small Things
Military members lack space. That’s why our #1 tip is to think small when sending the care package. You don’t want to fill it with too many things. That idea goes for products in the care package, too. Not only do service members have little space once they get a care package, but any items you have inside should be small.
For example, service members of all branches need flashlights to get around at night. (The military will sometimes issue communal ones, but almost everyone buys their own.) Getting a small flashlight that fits in a pocket is a must. Get the tactical kind with a red lens. The red lights let the eyes adjust faster. Flashlights are great because every single service member uses them, and they always break, so we can never have too many.
#2: Online: Pick Something Special
I started Hero Care Packages because, in my time in the Navy, I found that too few of my sailors got care packages, and the ones they did get didn’t have the right things. What really mattered to us were the little things. I grew up in New England and always drank Dunkin Donuts coffee. So when I got some of that coffee in a care package, it was amazing. The rest of the package could have been filled with packing peanuts, and I wouldn’t have cared. That one item made me feel like I was at home, even if just for a few minutes.
When shopping online, find just one thing in a care package that your service member would like. Want a holiday theme? Send a Thanksgiving or Christmas care package (and focus on tip #4 below). Does your Hero love beef jerky? Aim for the Deployment Picnic Box or Meat Lovers package. Have a coffee lover like me? Get the Java Time care package. Focus on one thing that they’d like, and everything else is gravy.
#3: DIY: Avoid Violating Regulations
Military regulations are strict, as are USPS regulations. To get you started, the below list is a list of things that you absolutely cannot send. Keep in mind, the requirements are always changing, and this is just a list of the most common mistakes, so be sure to consult with your post office, USPS country regulations or look up the military regulations before sending! Also ask your military member if there are any particular unit restrictions.
- Carbonated beverages (may burst during transit)
- Drugs or narcotics (even if you were prescribed legally)
- Explosives or fireworks
- Firearms and ammunition
- Flammable items (lighter fluid, for example)
- Pornographic images
- Lithium batteries
- Pork products or byproducts
- Products in aerosol cans (may explode during transit from heat)
- Printed material that would be offensive to different faiths, especially Arabs and/or Muslims
The Seasoned Spouse knows: USPS offers free packaging materials and guidelines for military families. Learn more here.
#4: Online & DIY: Focus On The Card
When I started Hero Care Packages, my #1 requirement was this: absolutely NO limits on the length of the card!! We’ve stuck to that. (Our longest letter had to be printed on 6 different cards!)
Why was I so emphatic about it? Because the card is, far and away, the most important part. We all know that people usually read the card attached to a gift and then tear into the present, forgetting the card ever existed. For military members, it’s the exact opposite. We read the card, then re-read it. We open the care package and eat one of the snacks while re-re-reading the card. It’s hard to explain how important it is to get a physical letter from someone you love, but wow. It’s moving. Most people hang them up in their bunks or have them in a drawer they can look at when times (invariably) get tough. If you can, include pictures. (We allow you to upload a picture to the front of the card when we send one, so you can have the best of both worlds.)
People think that just because they can communicate quickly via email, physical cards aren’t that important. But there is something about a physical card that just cannot be replaced. It embodies more than just a message—the words convey how much you care. Those words in the card mean everything, so focus on that, and it’ll be the best care package they get this holiday season.
As a special gift to the Seasoned Spouse community, you can our guide, the Top 12 Tips for Sending a Military Care Package, absolutely FREE. Just click here to get the guide sent right to your inbox. It’s chock full of more tips to help you send a great care package, and no credit card or payment is required!
Jack Wray is the founder of Hero Care Packages, a company that lets you send care packages to service members around the globe. Check out how you can send a care package to your Hero here.