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Sending a care package to someone who’s deployed can give them a much-needed boost. It’s also a great way for you to stay connected to your friend or loved one. Whether for a birthday, a holiday or just to say “I’m thinking about you,” care packages are a little piece of home for servicemembers.

Putting together a package that’s meaningful and useful can take some thought and planning. Here are some useful tips.

Things to Consider

Make sure the timing is right. The average delivery time for Priority Mail is 10 to 14 days, but it could take longer for your package to arrive depending on where the servicemember is deployed. In some cases, it could take a month or more for the servicemember to receive mail if deployed on a ship or a remote foreign operating base. If you’re sending a holiday gift, check out the recommended mail dates to ensure your gift gets there on time.

Packages must pass inspection. Make sure your package meets all weight and size restrictions. Some units have different restrictions, so to be safe, use a shoebox as a size guide. You can get a free “Military Care Kit” from the U.S. Postal Service by calling 800-610-8734. It includes:

  • 2 Priority Mail APO/FPO/DPO Flat-Rate boxes
  • 2 Priority Mail Medium Flat-Rate boxes
  • Priority Mail tape and address labels
  • Customs forms

Check here for instructions on how to pack, label and ship items. Make sure to place items that can leak in resealable plastic storage bags.

What to Send

When putting together your care package, consider your loved one’s likes and hobbies. Keep it thoughtful, but within your budget. Little gestures go a long way. Think about where they’re stationed, too. The weather en route and at your destination can affect items, especially perishables and electronics.

  • Personal care items. These are ideal since their favorite brand may not be available at their location. Go for travel-size tissues, soap, body wash, shave cream, shampoo, toothpaste and deodorant. Maybe they could use sunscreen, insect repellant, baby wipes, lip balm, disposable hand warmers or foot powder. No aerosol cans or glass, please.
  • Downtime items. Playing cards, puzzle books, magazines and paperbacks are inexpensive and travel well. For outdoor fun, think Frisbees, hacky sacks and soft footballs or soccer balls. Check out your exchange for deals on earbuds, video games and DVDs.
  • Meal mix-ins. Items such as ramen noodles, mustard, ketchup or hot sauce packets add flavor to Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). Turn water into an instant hit with hot cocoa and powdered drink mixes.
  • Favorite snacks. Choose well-packaged nonperishables like jerky, trail mix, pretzels, sunflower seeds, chips, energy bars, tuna fish, dried fruit, hard candy and chewing gum. It’s easy to send baked goods; Cheryl’s Cookies® offers free shipping to APO/FPO addresses.
  • Reminders of home. Letters and pictures, either as photographs or saved on a flash drive, are a welcome sight and provide an extra boost of confidence while away. Include your children’s favorite artwork and other small family mementos. A DVD of a family event or a CD with favorite tunes offer comfort. Sending stationery, pens and stamps encourages your loved one to keep in touch.
  • Free care packages. Some companies offer free care packages, like Operation Gratitude®. And, remember to ask your favorite stores if they offer military discounts.

Off-Limit Items

Some items, such as alcoholic beverages, are restricted. Learn more about restricted items from your Key Volunteer or Ombudsman.

It’s not always easy knowing how to support a loved one who’s deployed. At Navy Federal, we’re committed to serving those who serve. Check out our resources for more tips about deployment and living overseas.

This article is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.