Military Care Package Tips

Let me begin by saying that each unit has specific requirements regarding care packages that are sent to a soldier when they are overseas. Some of the guidelines you will see here are among the strictest…what I say is not allowed may be allowed by your husband’s unit – BUT check first!

Addressing the package

When addressing your package, write the address exactly how it was given to you. All of the packages that I send contain my soldier’s first and last name only (no rank, unit, etc.) along with the address. We are not allowed to put anything on the outside of the box to decorate it – the box must be plain.

How to pack the box

The best rule is that when you shake the box, it should not rattle. Make sure you ship the smallest box possible and fill it with popcorn or newspapers to ensure the contents don’t move. Many include newspaper pages from their local paper so even the packing materials are useful. Be sure to seal the box well including all of the edges. Try to find items that come in sturdy packages – send Pringles cans rather than a bag of chips. Or send cookies in a tin instead of their plastic packaging. If possible, send single serving size items. The sturdier the packaging the more likely it is to make it to your soldier in tact. If you are sending anything that may possibly open and make a mess, pack it in a Ziploc bag. Take the time to pack your package well – remember it typically takes 2-4 weeks to arrive at its destination and there is LOTS of handling and throwing about in the meantime. Also, the Army advises that you send small boxes weighing ten pounds or less. Though keep in mind this is just a recommendation. I doubt I ever sent one that weighed less than 10 lbs.

What you should know about the Post Office

You will have to fill out a customs form, which can be obtained by the post office. You are supposed to list each item in the box. I typically am more vague – my listing may say “food, magazines, books, personal hygiene items.” It is not advised to list expensive items on the customs form as this increases the risk that your package may be stolen. You can get priority mail materials from the post office for free – this includes boxes, shipping labels and tape. These materials can be delivered to your house as well by calling the post office and requesting the military pack. Be advised that when sending your box priority mail, it will only make it to its final destination in the United States faster. After that, it’s up to the military to get it to your soldier. I did find that my priority packages arrived as much as 10 days sooner than those sent by regular mail.

What you can’t send

Depending on the region your soldier is deployed to, some things are not allowed in packages. This includes pork, alcohol, tobacco and any pornographic types of materials. You should not send this. But now that I’ve warned you, I’ll also tell you that I know guys who have received all of the above. Just know that all packages are subject to search and if the materials are found, they will be discarded and your soldier may get in trouble for it. You may send religious materials (bible, etc.) but it must be for your soldier’s personal use (you cannot send a box of bibles). Also do not send aerosol type cans – shaving cream, etc. – as the cans may explode in transit.

Use your own judgment in sending your soldier personal, private pictures of yourself. I’ve heard from many Army wives, fiancees and girlfriends who were very upset when the pictures landed in the hands of others. Your soldier can’t be around his belongings twenty-four hours a day…he has missions to do! If you send them, be comfortable beforehand with the knowledge that they may be seen by others.

Most requested items

This list is compiled from a variety of sources. I have not included food items on this list but of course, it can be one of the most requested items. One thing most soldiers would like to have but it is advised against is chocolate! Even if it is cold where they are, you don’t know where your package will be in the meantime. I did find that M&Ms usually made it in tact. Another favorite that is great to send is drink mix that only requires water to make. If you know of other items to add to the list, please email me!

MP3 players
Portable CD players w/ headphones
Gameboy/PS2/DS games (depends on where they are)
Batteries (all sizes)
Handheld games
Playing cards
Crossword puzzles

Hygiene Items
Baby powder
Foot powder
Baby wipes (lots!!)
Lip balm
Toilet paper
Dental Floss

Clothing, etc.
Baseball caps

Pen, paper, envelopes
International phone card
Greeting cards to be sent back home

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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  1. Stacey,
    I am new to this Army way of living. I am 52 so this is late in life for me. Any websites or books to read that can help me would be greatly appreciated. Since we are not married, I find things very difficult for me as learning the military lifestyle, the do’s and don’ts, what to say, how to say it and what NOT to say. Also to add to your list I was told to send is jockstraps. My soldier is a Chief 5 and advises all his men not to wear underwear. Hope that helps.

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