Creative Ideas for Care Packages

When you are sending care packages on a regular basis (especially during deployments), it can be difficult to constantly come up with new themes or ideas. Let our site visitors come to the rescue to help!

Creative Comfort Items

as submitted by Maggie
I’ve found that sending a piece of home has been a good motivator for him, but I’ve also found some items that have definitely made him feel loved and cared for… his roommates tease them a bit about it but they got to admit, they tell me they wish their loved ones would do the same.

I sent him personalized bathing soaps and an afghan with our picture woven into it. I felt it to be a comforting thought to know that I still am around, keeping him warm and thinking of him.

Also, a couple of other items have been the typical guy things…like external hard drives, the new guitar hero for X-box, and a portrait of his family eating dinner with a seat left open and a “cut out” of him pasted over it. This made him enjoy his Thanksgiving.

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A Jar of Inspiration & a Timely Reservation

as submitted by Melanie
Fill a plastic jar full of inspirational messages to keep your soldier’s hopes up. Put exactly the same amount of messages as the days that he will be gone.

On the front, put a message that says, “Prescribed: Take one dose of inspiration each day.”

A Date far away: Send a reservation card for a date for you and your soldier. Put the date, time, and location. The location should say something like, “Look up at the sky. I will be thinking about you.”

Send the card in advance so he can change the date or time that will be convenient for him. Knowing you are both doing the same thing and thinking about each other will provide comfort.  You’ll be with each other without physically being together.

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Triple Cards & Custom Movies

As submitted by Jessica
I’m an Army girlfriend. His birthday was last Sunday. Before his birthday, he kept saying, “I’m only gonna get one card and it’s gonna be from you.”

So I picked out 3 cards (one I signed by myself, one signed by his family and myself, and one signed by my friends and myself) then I said, “See, you got more than one card.”

Here is another idea. I sent him a DVD of a slideshow I made. You could also send the file via email or even upload it to YouTube (but make sure you make it private!).

I asked him for pictures, which I do anyways, and he never suspected I would use them the way I did.

I added music to it (you can even have a song fade out and insert another one). You can do this as many times as you want, so you can add little snippets.

I added text and pictures of us. It takes some time, but it’s better than pictures because it has your own narrative and he can watch it as much as he wants.

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Three Main Requests

as submitted by Kasey
We have done Bosnia two times and Iraq three times in 5 years, so we have a bit of experience with care packages. The three constants he has always asked for are:

  1. The mini-water balloons you can get in bulk at Dollar Tree.
  2. The tuna fish snack packs (tuna with mayo and crackers packaged together on top)
  3. We figured out that a double bed air mattress fits just right over a twin bed. If you tightly inflate it and put a blanket under it, it won’t squeak. So after he gets there and we know his space limitations, I will send it over.

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Fabrics & Smells

as submitted by Danielle:
I sent him a micro-fleece blanket with my perfume on it. It is sort of like the pillowcase idea, but then he has something to wrap around him.

So it’s like we’re holding each other. Plus, the blankets are really cheap at Walmart. I thought you might think it was a cute idea.

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A Twist on Other Ideas

as submitted by Ellen:
My husband is an Air Force Reservist who is currently deployed to Afghanistan. We are blessed that the Army Base he is on has full access to the internet, a webcam, and a phone.

We were married last June 16 and he was activated in January. We only had 30 days of notice to arrange our lives and then he was gone.

I found your website and took some ideas from it, then did something a little different.

One thing I did that he loved (and I did too) was I found two small cardboard boxes in the shape of a heart. On the top of the box, I used scrapbooking stickers and placed a nice saying about love on it.

I cut little slips of paper (1/2” x 2”) out of pink and red scrapbooking paper. I split the slips of paper into two piles. One blank pile went into one of the heart boxes. On the remaining slips of paper, I wrote something I loved about my husband. I put those papers into the other box.

I took two dried roses that were from the last bouquet of roses that he personally went out and purchased for me and placed one in each box on top of the papers. When he got the boxes, he was able to read all the things that I love about him. Then he wrote what he loved about me on the blank slips of paper and returned that box to me. So we each have our own boxes.

I absolutely dreaded spending our first anniversary apart. Since we had some sort of regular communication schedule already established,  I decided to make an anniversary box so that we could do things “together.”

I first wrote down our schedule variation, given the time difference. I wrote up a schedule of meals that we could “share.” In that schedule, I built in times that I would have other presents or cards or envelopes for him to open.

I found some nice plastic plates and bowls. I bought placemats and silverware. I purchased food that could be shipped over to him. The food consisted of dinners and vegetables that you can get off the supermarket shelf and microwave, oatmeal, dried fruit, fruit juice, cupcakes, and muffins.

I purchased the exact same food items and a place setting for me. Each meal and present was boxed and wrapped separately. Each item was numbered. And since it was our first anniversary and that is the paper (traditional) anniversary, all the presents had something to do with paper.

All wrapped items were placed in a larger box and shipped to him. He had the box about a week before our special date but was told he could not open it until our anniversary.  (He said it was killing him wondering what was in the box!!!)

We were able to webcam and IM. When he woke up, the first box he opened was Box #1. It contained a placemat, a bowl, a spoon, oatmeal, dried fruit, fruit juice, and a muffin. Then over the next 24 hours, he opened a box or a present or a card as instructed by me. Everything was spread out over time, so although it looks like it moved fast – it did not.

The schedule looked like this:

His morning/my evening/night:
Box 1 – breakfast foods with bowl, spoon, and placemat (we then ate breakfast “together”)
Card 1
Envelope 1 – a poem written about him and meeting and our first year of marriage
(We talked and I went to bed)

My morning/his afternoon into his evening:
Box 2 – a small homemade scrapbook of pictures of him and I
Card 2
Envelope 2 – copies of the letters that we wrote to each other on our wedding day and a copy of the wedding announcement
Box 3 – Lunch/dinner foods with large plate & fork (we then ate dinner “together”) complete with Little Debbie cupcakes that represented our wedding cake
Box 4 – a disc of wedding and honeymoon pictures set to our wedding songs and other songs
(We spent time talking then he went to bed.)
Box 5 – plastic frames with photos of our wedding day

My evening/His morning:
Card 3
Box 6 – a box of snack-like breakfast foods (muffins, dried fruit, juice)
Card 4
Box 7 – a small stuffed animal holding a favorite picture of us

Although it sounds complicated, it was not and it was so much fun making the boxes and thinking of presents for him. It kept me semi-occupied in the month before our anniversary and I only spent a total of $40 (including shipping) on the whole thing.

He said he was amazed and astounded at how wonderful everything was and well planned out. Although the canned food was not the food we would have chosen if he was with me – it was still the idea that we were eating the exact same meal at the exact same time (over webcam) that made it special.

We plan on saving the place settings and using them for each anniversary from now on in some way, shape, or form. We joke that at our wedding, we served chicken BBQ with paper Chinette plates, then our 1st anniversary was plastic plates. Next year it can be glass, then eventually fine china!!

I wanted him to have presents to open on his birthday but I also wanted to get him some Levi jeans and new shirts.  Since he could not have that sort of clothing over there, I bought him the clothes, took pictures of them, and wrapped the pictures. That way, he could have presents (that he can use when he gets back from there) and see what they look like. I also sent that microwavable cake by Betty Crocker to represent his birthday cake.

Thanks for letting me share!!

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Chocolate Kisses

as submitted by Lisa

An idea that we had was to send him Hershey’s kisses, both regular and hugs. I added a little note with them that said hugs and kisses while we are apart! It was cute and something that he really appreciated. Just thought I would give you the idea.

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Tips for Shipping Overseas

as submitted by Stephanie

I am an army fiance and mother to a soldier’s child. 🙂 We are currently going through a tour in Iraq. Here are some things I have found helpful:

Invest in a vacuum sealer like a Food Saver. They are worth every penny. I bake cookies, and then after they cool, I seal them in sets of 3-6, depending on the size and how many I’m sending overall. This saves them for weeks.

I will try to mail them within two days of baking. Buy the bags in the rolls so you can cut them to fit. The Walmart brand generic rolls are generally big enough and work just fine.

I also seal any items that might break (like picture frames). The vacuum seal helps protect the glass. (I’ve sent many MANY frames and none have broken yet…even frames made entirely of glass). I’ve gotten wood frames from Dollar Tree and painted them with acrylic paints from Walmart.

Vacuum sealing also works with items that could spill or things that may smell. I have mailed Axe body spray and cookies together, but they didn’t smell of the other when the box arrived.

I got a chipboard box from Walmart, painted it, put scrapbooking stickers on it, and then sprayed it to seal it. That gave him a safe place to keep all the prints I sent him and helped keep dust off them.

Buy a rechargeable phone card. Send your soldier the phone number and pin but keep the card. Then you can recharge it instead of buying new cards.

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Family Calendar

as submitted by Christie
I was reading over your ideas for creative ideas for packages, which are very good, by the way.

I just wanted to say that I tear off each month of our family calendar and send it to my husband. I have three boys and we live by our calendar. So, my husband gets to see every time we had sports practices or games, what the bills were and when they were due, etc. It’s just a cool way of keeping in touch.

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Calendar with Pictures

as submitted by Megan
It’s just an add-on from the calendar idea: if you upload pics to Walmart (for example), you can make a photo calendar of things the family did in those seasons together, months with birthdays, Christmas, anniversaries, etc. I’m sure you get the idea. I know my husband enjoyed it.

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Missing the Everyday Things

as submitted by Brandi
I was talking to a friend, and he said that what he missed most about being away was the news. Not like, hard-hitting news, but celebrities and things. It might seem kinda lame, but he said he would have loved to be sent magazines and such.

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Vouchers and Crafts

as submitted by Sarah
I have a few care package ideas that I’ve sent to my husband during this deployment…some are silly, but they’re fun to send and fun to make!!! Here they are:

-Vouchers for his birthday. I printed them out saying, “This voucher is good for:” Leave blank space to write what you want.

At the top of it, I typed: “Expiration date: never,” and on the bottom of it, I typed “For use only by {his name here} to be redeemed only by {your name here}.”

I printed them out and cut them apart, and after filling them all in, I put them in a Ziploc baggie and taped it to the side of the box.

Also, I sent my husband “Healthy Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies” (use the recipe from the Quaker Oats box, but replace the melted butter with 7/8c (just a little less than 1 cup—I think it was 3/4c + 2 Tbsp) of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Since my husband doesn’t like raisins, I left them out and they got there just as soft as the day I made them! Guys love their cookies!

Also, if anyone has kids, have them make a “World’s Best Dad” plaque. You can pick up a small wooden plaque at most craft stores, plus some acrylic paint and a few small paintbrushes all for under $15. Then have your kid(s) paint the plaque and have them paint the words on it. My husband just loves the one he got from our daughter that says “World’s Best Dad.” I hope that this helps!

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Football Time

as submitted by Danielle
I also just wanted to give an extra idea for your Thanksgiving packages. I’m centering my hubby’s around football and Thanksgiving with turkey-shaped cookies, football-shaped hacky sacks, Nerf footballs, IcyHot, and Gatorade mix-ins. I just figured he spends most of the holiday watching football, so I might as well work that in.

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Thanksgiving in a Box

as submitted by Whitney
Dinty Moore makes a Turkey & Potatoes/Gravy shelf-stable meal, which is small .. and nothing like the real thing but will do! I am including that along with instant mashed potatoes (just add water), cranberry jelly-belly jellybeans, and also a can of pumpkin pie filling with those miniature pre-made crusts.

I often find that somehow various pies mysteriously end up in the grocery cart when we go together… and they disappear just as fast (wouldn’t mind it so much these days!).

Also, a tip I found out after painstaking trial-and-error is that the best way to send cookies or baked goods is to wrap them individually in Glad Press & Seal wrap and then pack them in bubble wrap inside of a throw-away Tupperware (the kind you can buy a few stacked for cheap at the grocery store). In a pinch, I’ve put microwave popcorn, popped, into Ziplocs to prevent crushing.

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Cakes in a Jar

submitted by Janitha
A friend of mine found recipes for cake in a jar. We are planning to make that and send frosting.

Also, my lovelies and I are cutting out cookies and making them to send to Daddy and the army “dudes.” We are also including frosting and colored gels so all the guys can enjoy decorating their own cookies.

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Skits & Songs

submitted by Andrea
Because they will be moving around prior to coming home, we aren’t sending big packages. We will be sending some snacks and other items.

But our big Christmas item will be a CD sent with our families making shout-outs and doing skits and singing songs. This will be made at our Thanksgiving feast that our FRG is throwing. So even if you are one of those who can’t spend or send too much, there are still things you can do!

Note in 2023: The CD idea was sent in when that was still a thing! You can easily do this with Canva or another online program and email it to him.

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Lots of Small Ideas

as submitted by Stephanie
This is a very nice list of care package ideas.  Soldiers like to get a nice BIG box of Sweet n Low or other sweeteners for their coffee because it is in really short supply over there.

I would also send my husband two mini 6 packs of Coke Zero (his favorite) in each care package which reminded him of home sweet home.

Also, a friend told me that her kids would take turns on a pocket calendar marking off the days with a light penciled X and also write tiny little notes on special days and then send the calendar in the package to Daddy. He’d mark off the next group of days and put a few short notes for them to read also and mail it back in a regular-sized envelope with an extra stamp or two. It was a wonderful keepsake that they will cherish forever.

They probably appreciate someone sending them a box of large envelopes and a roll of stamps. Fighting the crowd to buy postage is sometimes a big ordeal, so it will save your soldiers lots of valuable time and energy by having their own postage and envelopes.

It would also be a big help to your soldier if you could buy (all ahead of time and include in one care package) birthday cards, Christmas cards, or even I miss you cards that THEY can personalize and send while deployed as needed to their kids, family, and friends on special dates. The selection and availability of cards are very limited where your soldier will be, so it would help a lot to receive that box of assorted cards.

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Gained Soldier Approval

as submitted by Denise

My husband is currently in Iraq, and I just can’t bring myself to do the everyday normal stuff for him. I have a few things that were a HUGE hit with him and even his fellow soldiers made comments that I needed to talk to their wives… LOL

It’s very hot there. I send flavored ice pops that are Kool-Aid in the plastic sleeve so they have something nice and cold when they are frozen. I bought a bunch of them and took them to all the local family members and we took a Sharpie and wrote notes on every single one. That one brought tears to his eyes.

I have written him letters using magazines. cutting out the words or letters to make words. it’s very time-consuming, but it’s worth the response when he gets it

We got an Army doll and cut out a picture of his face and placed it on the doll. We had a fun family day out and we took the doll along and called it a Sunday with Dad. We put the doll everywhere and took pictures.

We have him sitting on the steering wheel, pumping gas, sitting on a table looking at a menu, sitting in his own chair at the movie theater, sitting on the counter at Starbucks, hugging a bowling ball, going down the slide, and each kid hugging and kissing him. That was probably his favorite outside the ice pops.

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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13 Comments

  1. My husband really wants to learn how to sail and wants to travel by sailboat. He had signed up for a sailing magazine before he left. It gets delivered to the house here, so I send it to him along with others in a care package. This time, I am going to cut and paste our heads onto the many people in the magazine who are sailing and tell him that we will take a sailing vacation sometime in the next year after he gets back. This will give him something fun to think about while over there.

  2. Hi When my husband was deployed I found out that some members of his section (aus army) did not receive anything from home. So each time I sent him a care package I would make sure that I sent something for each member of his section, ie , one member liked marshmallows, another peanuts etc. It made the ones who did not receive anything feel like someone was thinking of them.

    1. I see this is a little late but I sent my husband his laptop in Afghanistan. I just wrapped it in bubble wrap and put it inside his carrying case. Then I used newsprint to fill in the extra space in the case and the box so it wouldn’t move around. Made it there just fine!

  3. Anything out of the ordinary that breaks the monotany is always appreciated. The thing that I have sent that has gotten the most positive feedback was an economy sized package of miniature squirt guns. Lets face it…its hot where most of our soldiers, sailors and marines are. Squirting water at each other both cools them down and gives them guns to play with. My husband had people he didn’t even know coming up to him and asking if he was “packing heat.” 🙂

    Thanks for all your suggestions.

  4. We’re on our first tour, Kuwait, and I modified the pillowcase with perfume idea. I had my sister take a photo of me lying on our bed with my hair all over his side of the pillow (he says it tries to attack him in his sleep). I printed it as the size of the pillow (I went to Kinko’s, but you could do it anywhere) and then traced the outline of my face and hair on to freezer paper. I ironed it on and then added a dotted line around my face and hair with a paint pen. I peeled off the paper and wrote ({my name} goes here). I printed an old photo of his profile too and so I did the dotted line to my pillow as well and sent him the photo. I sprayed his with my perfume and slept on the outline for one night with wet hair. I put it in a gallon sized Ziploc and sent it over. He loved it.

  5. Love the pillowcase idea!

    I just sent over a calendar made with pictures of our last few years of adventures and family birthdays and anniversaries. And since we don’t have kids, I put a bunch of random fun holidays on there like “Something on a Stick Day” or “National Sea Monkey Day”. I have an identical calendar so I plan to try to find ways to celebrate these random holidays from afar- I wonder if I can still ship Sea Monkeys… I also asked all his friends to send me one page to go in a memory book- just pictures or notes about favorite times in the past or what they loved most about him. I’m excited for him to get them.=)

  6. I love all of these ideas! I’m new to this, My husband just left for Afghanistan and this is my first deployment. SO I need all the help I can get for package ideas. I hope to hear from him soon to get his address.

  7. i love all these ideads… my dh is in japan his navy im army none the less military and deployed/….. he just left and i want to give you guys some ideas i came up with for a count up or down till they come home… i looked everywhere and really couldnt find anything i like..

    well in my daughters room im takeing one wall and got really nice black card paper to cut and make a giant cherry blossom tree… then as the flowers i makeing them from tissue paper to give it a 3d affect… one for everyday hes gone so when he comes home he has a taste of the place he was at for 6mo and a big full tree…
    also in the hall way arch my the door way im putting a picture of meand daughter in a moon across him in a sun.. then every wk will take a wkly pic to put a in wire star to fill in the night sky(cause hes half a world away) so when he comes home to a full sky and that way we know we will be always looking at the same stars no matter with time it is( pics from here and pics from there one from us and him for every nyt hes gone…)

    ok now for his fathers day i whent one line a looked up soldier poems and baby loss poems ( we just lost our son on 4.13.12 at 18wks 5 wk before he left) so his fathers day card was we our proud of u american flaged with a pic of my daughter kissing my belly i took beofre our loss…. in the front that it says happy fathers day because your our hero in side i wrote and mixed my own stuff and some on line poems and one bout how im proud of him and im always here for him… along with a lil grow your own flower some food things he likes….
    and our 1st anniversary so whent one line and made him a 50 page book(they had pic to chose from ) that says thing like i love the way we play game together.. or i love the way you eat my food even though im still learning…. along with im makeing him a puzze thats a sexy pic of me… and i like that one dinner idea but ill just make him 2boxes one for AM and dinner saying look babe im not there but i still made you dinner with some cute lil finger foods along with gifts…….

  8. My husband is working in Australia. Im not in the exact boat like yall but definitely understand how yall feel. thanks so much for all the great ideas.

  9. I am new to all this army stuff I met my solider over the internet only been together for 2 months now we only chat using kik we talk everyday he is deployed in Iraq am not sure what to put in a care package yet he has told me he needs a watch and a cell phone not sure about the phone but was thinking of a small tablet which he would be able to use for using skype. Any ideas would help thank you

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