Like many of you, I have sent a whole lot of care packages out. While DH was deployed, I became very familiar with the local post office.
I thought you might like to see some of the ideas and tips I have for creating your own care packages to your soldier(s) and I am hoping you will share some of your own.
- Reminders from home: If you know a soldier or live near his home town, many soldiers are comforted by news from home, well wishes from friends and family, and images of their home town. Take some pictures and get everyone to write a message on the back of the photograph. Gather up some local products that will ship well and send a care package.
- Make sure to write: Regardless of whether you are offering your support to an old friend or a new friend you found on a website, do not underestimate the value of a simple letter. Soldiers like to know that we are behind them and appreciate their loyalty and their sacrifices.
- Postage to Iraq is the same as sending anything to a domestic destination.
- Consider using priority mail: Letters and packages tend to arrive more reliably (anecdotally) through priority mail. Priority mail is not much more costly than regular 1st class and can make the difference in your package arriving eventually and arriving in a timely manner (especially important when sending baked goods). Packages may take up to 20 days, but I spoke with a postal worker whose son is deployed and he said most packages arrive in 10-12 days. That has been my experience as well.
- Get free boxes: If you plan on sending a lot of packages, you can order FREE priority boxes from USPS, including a special kit for sending to soldiers (you still have to pay postage, but they'll send you the boxes and labels).
- Be personal: Iraq now has a number of P/X (Post Exchanges) that sell most of the items soldiers need. So, as per this article posted at The Patriette, sending specialty or local products is more in need now than razors and baby wipes. At the same time, some soldiers are not near a P/X and would still appreciate those essentials. Soldiers also share and any care package will be put to good use. When in doubt, just ask!
- Items not to send: Pressurized items should not be sent through the mail and some items are prohibited to our troops in theater, such as alcohol or pornography. Here's a list from Boots on the Ground.
- For the bakers out there: Nestle has some Tips for Sending Baked Goods. Others suggest adding a slice of bread to absorb excess moisture and wrapping in tin foil. I've also heard that Pringles containers make for good packaging. I have bought a food sealer to use for our Family Readiness Group (FRG) that works great for cookies. For brownies I wrapped them in paper towels and then in a ziplock with the air squeezed out, and then in bubble wrap. Remember that chocolate does not survive well in the Middle East (although chocolate baked into items does better).
There are a number of websites that provide suggestions, soldier "wish lists," and possible theme ideas for CARE packages. Here are some theme ideas for me--most can be adapted for personal use or for an FRG.
- Work It Out!: sneaker balls; deodorant; Gatorade powder; hydroxy cut; power bars; cheap headphones; cheap tape players; workout CDs/Tapes; white gym socks (no logo)
- Cookie Mania: everyone bakes a batch and we vacuum seal them
- Night at the Movies: Inexpensive or pre-viewed DVD movies; stove top popcorn; individual size movie-candy packs; entertainment magazines (like Rolling Stone); add favorite movie quotes to a poster; take pics of kids/do DVD recording with star shape in background and with sunglasses
- Game Night: Poker Chips; Board Games; Packs of Cards; hand-held games and puzzles; nut mix; snack packs
- Texas Misses Y'all (adjust for your own state): Buy a stack of Texas postcards for people to fill-out at the meeting (for their own and other soldiers); include pictures of favorite area spots; pralines or pecan cookies or muffins; Texas pens; Texas stationery; Longhorn stuff; anything useful with a Texas theme; hot sauce; BBQ sauce
- Breakfast in Bed: Breakfast Bars, Individual Cereal Snack Packs, Powdered Juice Mix, Coffee, hot/cold mugs (saw them for $1 at Walmart), muffins; powdered creamer; instant oatmeal; poptarts
- Winter Wonderland: hot cocoa mix; cider mix; winter cookies; have older kids/parents make and sign paper snowflakes and paste to construction paper; chapstick; hot/cold mugs (saw them for $1 at Walmart); marshmallows
- Luck O' the Irish: make a "kiss me I'm Irish" poster with shamrocks and kisses; send Hershey kisses if still cool enough out; good luck charms; St. Patrick's themed cookies
- Take Me Out to the Ball Game: Cracker Jacks; Peanuts; Sports Illustrated Magazine and other sports magazines; sports highlights DVDs; gum with baseball cards; Nerf Balls; beef jerky; favorite team pennants
- Are You Ready for Some Football?: Highlights DVDs, Sports Magazines, Team Pennants; Regulation and Nerf Footballs; pretzels and chips and salsa; posters of cheerleaders and football stars
Let us know YOUR ideas and tips!