There are nearly 195,000 American soldiers stationed overseas.
And whether they’re located in South Korea, Afghanistan, or Germany – you can bet that they’d all love to have a little slice of home shipped to them.
Whether you have a loved one serving overseas, or you just want to show your appreciation to all of the brave men and women, who put their lives on the line for our protection – a care package is a great way to go.
A thoughtful delivery will bring a little comfort to those in far-off lands.
Of course, there are some logistics to making sure your care package arrives in one piece and makes it to its intended recipient.
Here are 9 tips to ensure the safe delivery of your goodies to those in the military:
First off, you need to be aware of what you can’t ship.
Some things should be no-brainers, such as alcohol, animals, explosives, and illegal substances. But also keep in mind that some tobacco, pornography, nail polish, perfume containing alcohol, lithium batteries, fruits/vegetables, and live plants are also a no go.
The USPS has a helpful list of international guidelines and limitations by country. When in doubt, it’s probably a good idea to keep it out.
There are restrictions that apply specifically to military personnel, so it’s important to know those as well.
Some items are not accepted in certain countries because of cultural reasons. Not every country has the same rules, so it will depend on where the service member is stationed.
For instance, you may be able to send that jerky to a soldier in Germany, but if it contains pork, don’t try and ship it to Afghanistan.
The whole point of shipping goods to service members is to give them something they actually want.
Obviously, soldiers’ needs are going to depend on where they’re stationed. You may think that handknit sweater is gorgeous, but it may not be of much use to a soldier in Iraq in the middle of summer.
A cursory search on the internet shows that items like sunscreen, toiletries, and magazines tend to be a hit.
If you’re preparing a care package, you’re likely filling it with different types of items. You may be shipping energy bars, sunglasses, boots, and toothpaste. It doesn’t make sense to haphazardly throw all of these in one custom box as one big mass.
Plastic bags with zip locks are a great way to keep small items together, contain odors, and keep things dry. As a bonus, service members can reuse these bags.
Be especially careful to package food items separately from things like toiletries. Because, seriously, who wants to eat candy with a shampoo aftertaste?
Unfortunately, theft is a concern – even on military bases.
A good idea is to seal up your box with stickers or tape so the intended recipient will know if someone tampered with it.
It’s also helpful to include a list of the contents inside the box, so they’ll know if something’s missing. If your items are particularly expensive, consider insurance.
A strong box is your first line of defense in protecting what’s inside.
You don’t want your items swimming inside, but you want to leave room for padding.
Once you have your items in the box, tape up the package to make it even stronger.
If you’re going to the trouble of shipping something across the globe, you want to make sure it arrives in one piece.
Your heart may be in the right place but if a soldier opens up a box containing a bunch of broken bits, they’re not going to be happy.
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure everything arrives intact:
Have you ever mailed something off, only to have it come back stamped “return to sender” months after the fact? Total bummer. You definitely don’t want your carefully prepared package to be left languishing in some far off post office.
That’s why it’s so important to have complete, accurate shipping information.
You need to include the unit, last and first name, title, and zip on your shipping label.
Also, be sure to double-check that your label is legible and all of the details are correct. It’s also a good idea to include a shipping label inside the box as well, in case the outer one gets ripped off or lost.
When shipping things overseas it’s important to be aware of any international regulations. You’ll need to know the value of the items you’re shipping, so you can make sure you have the right customs forms. The USPS makes it easy by having customs forms automatically built in.
You should also know the dimensions and weight of what you’re shipping. For instance, if you’re shipping to a base, it can’t weigh more than 70 pounds.
Also, keep in mind that mail delivery frequencies will vary depending on where you’re sending your stuff. Factors such as bad weather and enemy threats can delay packages.
If you’re using the USPS to ship to an APO/FPO/DPO you’ll enjoy domestic mail pricing – which will save you big bucks.
Additionally, the USPS also provides free military care kits, which include flat rate boxes, shipping labels, and even needed customs forms.
Because of security concerns, you need to address your care package to an individual soldier.
But that doesn’t mean that if you don’t know a service member personally, you can’t send a care package to a deserving soldier.
Organizations like Any Soldier let you choose from a list of names of individual military personnel to send your care package. You can even search by branch if you want to send to someone serving specifically in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard.
So, now that you know the ins and outs of shipping a military care package, what are you waiting for?
Go ahead, let them know they’re not forgotten.
Show your appreciation for a brave service member by shipping out a care package today.