If you have weathered a deployment before, you are probably an old pro at sending care packages. This guide is intended for military spouses, parents, siblings, and friends who have little or no experience mailing packages to loved ones in combat zones.
Here are some of the most popular items that we have had success with sending. It is worth noting that single-serve, individually wrapped things are ideal. They are easier to split up and carry around.
Hard candies (lifesavers, jolly ranchers)
Cheese & Crackers
M&M’s (shouldn’t melt)
Tuna in pouches
Canned soup (pop-top)
Hot chocolate packets
Powdered drink mixes (Gatorade, etc.)
Holiday and seasonal items
Toiletries (all travel size)
Shaving cream in tubes (no cans)
Gel shoe inserts
Disposable hand warmers
Plain socks, underwear, and T-shirts *This depends on the rules of the unit. Ask first!
Entertainment & Other
Magazines—keep it PG
Batteries—AA, AAA, C & 9 Volt are popular
Nintendo DS / PSP
iTunes gift cards
Puzzle books (crossword, sudoku, word search)
Religious booklets, small bibles, inspirational readings
DVDs and video games
Cards and letters
Electronic handheld games
Solar charger for devices
Beanie babies to hand out to children
Blank card to send home
- The usefulness of many of the items suggested is dependent on the service member’s unit and their mission. If they are out on patrol most of the time, you would not send them DVDs and video games. Your loved one will probably tell you what they need most.
- If you are a friend of the family and do not have any contact with the service member, you cannot go wrong sending a few books, some snacks, and a card of appreciation.
- Be careful with homemade baked goods. More often than not, they will spoil by the time they get there.
- Don’t send food and scented products together. A few weeks in transit at 120°F+ temperatures will produce deodorant-flavored cookies.
- Ziploc bags are your friends. If you are sending anything that may open up and make a mess, put it in a separate bag—or two!
- Consider what the package will go through before it reaches your loved one. It may get tossed around, and if it’s at the bottom of a pallet it will have to bear a lot of weight.
Read the follow up to this article in Part II: How to Send Military Care Packages.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. It is just a combination of things that we have sent to our loved ones and found that they worked out well.