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Care Packages, Part 1: What to Send

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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.


Beef Jerky

Trail mix

Dried fruit

Sunflower seeds

Hard candies (lifesavers, jolly ranchers)

Granola bars


Cheese & Crackers



M&M’s (shouldn’t melt)

Protein bars

Tuna in pouches

Instant oatmeal

Canned soup (pop-top)

Peanut butter


Chewing Gum

Hot chocolate packets

Tea bags

Instant coffee

Powdered drink mixes (Gatorade, etc.)

Holiday and seasonal items


Toiletries (all travel size)

Baby wipes



Hand sanitizer

Mouth wash


Cough drops

Shaving cream in tubes (no cans)

Disposable razors



Sun block

Aloe Vera



Ziploc bags

Gel shoe inserts

Foot powder

Disposable hand warmers

Portable shower

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

iPod, pre-loaded


iTunes gift cards

Playing cards



Puzzle books (crossword, sudoku, word search)

Hackey sacks

Religious booklets, small bibles, inspirational readings

DVDs and video games

Cards and letters

Electronic handheld games

Solar charger for devices

Dog treats

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.


  1. Nicole

    December 1, 2011

    Just another tip to help people out. I am on my second tour over here and I have seen many things go to waist because there is not a need for a lot of things that are being sent. I would say a general rule of thumb is that if you would not want to use it we probably don’t either. Something we get a lot of is Hotel shampoo and conditioner. I know it is sent with good heart but many times it just gets thrown out because the soldier will use the worst of shampoos from the PX/BX before they will use collected hotel shampoo’s. I would also say check with your military member and find out what they have access to and what they need doing the mission they are doing. I know that we have received a lot of toys in our care packages and with the mission we have we do not interact with the children or the country. The best advice i can give you though is ask questions about what is needed and remember we always love TREATS

  2. Military Family

    December 1, 2011

    Great advice, Nichole. Thank you. And of course, thank you for serving. We all wish you the very best.

  3. Cristina

    December 1, 2011

    This is a great article!! I took several suggestions for my boyfriend’s Christmas package. Thank you!!! 😀

  4. johndor

    December 2, 2011

    Thanks for this advice, I am preparing care packages to mail,excellent advice.

  5. Military Family

    December 3, 2011

    You’re very welcome, everyone. Thanks for reading and glad we could help.

  6. Lorri

    November 22, 2012

    I couldn’t find the Part 2. It says page not found. I was wondering if there was someone I could get a hold of to see about sending a care package to someone that needs one and isn’t getting/receiving one for what ever reason. I would like to help by sending a care package, but don’t have anyone to send one to. I would be willing to be a pen pal too, if needed. Thanks!!

  1. Care Packages, Part 2: How to Send Them12-14-11