1. Get Mailing Supplies
Call the post office, visit their website or go there in person and request your mailing supplies. The post office offers flat rate priority boxes for free. No matter how much they weigh, it costs $12.35 to send the medium box and $14.85 to send the large box. You can also pick up priority tape and custom forms at no charge. Or to make it super easy, order a Military Care Kit which will contain all of the supplies. Details here.
2. Arrange for Pick-Up
Always short on time? You can arrange pick-up of your priority boxes from your home as long as you schedule by 2am on the previous day. How great is that? Visit the USPS website for details.
3. Pack It Tight
When you’re packing up the box, you don’t want to leave any pockets of room. Use gifts of clothing or socks to insulate other items and fill every available space. If you still have extra space, start cramming in crumpled up paper or packing peanuts. The goal is not to have the box rattle when you shake it!
4. Tape the Package Well
When you are taping the boxes, there’s no such thing as too much. I sometimes wonder how the soldiers were ever able to get into the ones I sent. Be sure to tape all of the seams and I always run the tape in one continuous stream around the entire box. So far, they have all arrived in tact.
5. Place Stickers Strategically
Some Army wives place stickers underneath the tape across the seams. This makes it easy for the soldier to see if the box has been opened and re-taped. Just be aware that some units do not allow ANY decoration on the outside of the box. In that case, if you are mailing priority, you can use the priority mail stickers.
6. Use the Right Address
This seems it would go without saying but be sure you address the package exactly how the unit instructs. Some units do not allow rank, etc. on their packages. Address them correctly to ensure the delivery is not delayed.
7. Pick the Speediest Delivery
Many Army wives and families wonder about if priority is the best way to send a package as far as speed. Priority only allows it to get to its final destination in the United States quicker. After that, it is in the military’s hands. Most have said that priority packages take about 2 weeks to arrive vs. as much as four weeks for regular parcel post. The best thing about using priority mail is the flat rate boxes so there’s no surprises at the post office. And most of my packages sent priority actually made it within a week!
8. Complete the Customs Form
There is much debate on what to put on a customs form. The official answer is to fill it out completely and accurately. Many people are VERY vague on the form in order to guard against theft (yes, it does happen). I know some who list “snacks” and a value of $10 every time no matter what they send in the box. The choice is up to you.
9. Follow Regional Guidelines
Be sure to check the guidelines for the region your soldier is in. For instance, some areas do not allow pork products. Pornographic materials of any kind are also not allowed. It is permissible to send a bible for personal use but not to send multiple bibles for distribution. Note: This is only a sampling of regulations and not a full list.
10. Separate Food from Other Items
Be very careful combining hygiene products and food in the same package. Some soldiers have reported opening these packages to find all of the food tastes like soap/deodorant even when everything is sealed separately. Sounds appetizing, right?
11. Seal Everything Well Inside
If anything in your package could possibly leak, bust, etc., be sure to put it in a Ziploc bag. You don’t want the entire package ruined because something leaked. If you are sending pictures or anything that could be damaged if the package got wet, it is a good idea to enclose these things in a Ziploc bag as well.
12. Include a List
Many send the soldier a list of things that they included in the box either in the actual box or in a separate letter so the soldier knows everything arrived in tact. Some also include this list in the box so if it happens to come apart in transit, the mail staff knows what was in it.
13. Send Writing Materials
Send your soldier cards or letter writing materials so he can write home or recognize special days for those in his family. Don’t forget that letter mail from overseas to the U.S. is free for the soldier.
14. Have Fun!
Be creative when sending packages. Be sure to check out all of the articles on care packages including themes and other ideas!