Tips for Sending Military Care Packages for the Holidays

October 31, 2019

Sending care packages to troops over the holidays is a great way to send a little bit of home to those serving. It can be difficult being away from family and friends during the holiday season, so sending a holiday military care package can be just the right amount of holiday cheer while deployed. Not only is it great for the troops, but preparing a package can be a fun holiday activity to involve the whole family in. Read below for tips on what to include in your military care package and how to successfully send packages to make the holiday season merry for troops.

Military Member Receiving Holiday Military Care Package

 

Holiday Military Care Package Ideas

 

Holiday Gifts

Spread a bit of holiday cheer when assembling your military care package. The holidays are all about traditions, spending time with family, and having a break from day-to-day life. Obviously, those three are difficult to achieve when deployed, so send reminders of those activities in your package. For example, if you have a family tradition of matching holiday pajamas, send a photo of your family wearing the outfits while sending your loved one their own, matching set. Sending entertainment items also helps your loved one decompress and relax in their free time.

Holiday gifts include:

- Audio recorder with messages from family - Personalized playlists
- Books and magazines - Photos from home
- Games (cards, video games, puzzles, etc.) - Small holiday items (ornaments, tree, etc.)
- Handwritten letters - Stocking holding small items
- Movies and TV shows - Universal outlet adapter

 

Daily Staples & Self-Care Items

Our troops have access to many items in the supply stores on base, but there usually isn’t much variety. Send some of their favorite name-brand items to add that extra level of comfort and a reminder of home this holiday season. Stock up their pantries with flavor enhancers like non-perishable condiments, drink powders, gum, and protein powders they don’t have access to when on base. You would also be surprised just how great new socks are, too! Sometimes getting socks for the holidays isn’t quite a bad thing.

Daily staples and self-care items include:

- Batteries - Icy Hot
- Condiments (hot sauce, peanut butter, etc.) - Jerky
- Cough drops - Mild air fresheners
- Deodorant and body wash - Protein powders
- Drink powders - Socks
- Eye drops - Specialty snack foods
- Gum - Sunscreen
- Hard candy - Toothpaste and toothbrush

 

Homemade Goods

Nothing says holiday season like a batch of homemade goods. Sending a batch of family-recipe holiday cookies sends back a taste of home and helps maintain the holiday tradition. A sweet treat is also a nice break from the food military members have been eating on base. Shipping military care packages can take weeks before getting to the base, so avoid packing any homemade goods that may spoil, such as those with fresh fruit, or items that can melt, such as chocolate. Wrap each item carefully to avoid spills or crumbs ending up over other items, and mark anything containing nuts.

Homemade goods include:

- Biscotti - Peanut brittle
- Gingerbread - Shortbread
- Graham Crackers - Trail mix

Person Making Holiday Cookies for Military Care Package

 

FPO, DPO, and APO Shipping Restrictions

To keep command rules, shipping hazards, and weather considerations in mind, do not pack alcohol, explicit or inappropriate material, perishable items, chocolate, or anything breakable like ceramic or glass in your holiday military care package. Keep in mind, too, that large packages can slow down the shipping process and can result in higher shipping fees. Put together a holiday military care package that is modestly-sized and contains all the important items that will make your military member’s holiday memorable.

Packages must weigh 70 lbs or less and cannot exceed 130" in combined length and girth. You cannot send any perishable food or any items restricted by the USPS. While typically restricted when shipping domestically and internationally, USPS allows shipment of tobacco and lithium batteries when shipping to APO/FPO/DPO locations as long as the items are not prohibited or restricted by the base or destination country.

Restricted USPS items also include:

- Aerosols - Gasoline
- Air bags - Marijuana (medical or otherwise)
- Alcoholic beverages - Medical devices
- Ammunition - Nail polish
- Dry ice - Perfumes (containing alcohol)
- Explosives - Perishable items
- Fresh fruits and vegetables - Poison

Person Carefully Packaging Items for Holiday Military Care Package

 

How to Send Military Care Packages

Due to security restrictions, the USPS is the only carrier that can deliver mail and packages to APO/FPO/DPO locations. Both FedEx and UPS can deliver within countries with military stations, USPS is the only carrier with access to direct delivery to military bases. For any military care package you send, you will have to fill out customs forms before shipping, so be sure to keep a list of the package’s contents and quantities to make the form process easier. If you need any help completing the customs forms, post office employees can help you navigate the process.

Just like when sending mail and packages domestically, military addresses follow a specific format to ensure proper delivery. Making sure your military care package is accurately labeled is extremely important, especially when shipping internationally. A mislabeled package can prolong the shipping process or cause the package to go missing in transit. The military base address must include:

  1. The full name of the addressee.
  2. The unit or Post Office box number.
  3. A three-letter code associated with the type of location. APO is used for Army and Air Force installations, FPO is used for ships and Navy installations, and DPO is associated with U.S. embassies overseas.
  4. The “state” of the addressee. Instead of an actual state or foreign province, military “states” include:
    • AA for Armed Forces Americas
    • AE for Armed Forces Europe, Armed Forces Middle East, and Armed Forces Africa
    • AP for Armed Forces Pacific
  5. The 5-digit zip code for the military unit. All military zip codes will start with a 0 or 9.
    Example:
    CPT John Doe
    Unit 45013 Box 2666
    USAG J
    APO AP 96338

Be aware that the earlier you send out the package the better, especially when taking the holiday rush into consideration. USPS holiday shipping deadlines for military packages are:

To/From APO/FPO/DPO

First Class Mail

Priority Mail

Priority Mail Express

AE ZIPs 090-092

December 11th

December 11th

November 6th

AE ZIP 093

December 9th

December 9th

November 6th

AE ZIPs 094-098

December 11th

December 11th

November 6th

AA ZIP 340

December 11th

December 11th

November 6th

AP ZIPs 962-966

December 11th

December 11th

November 6th

Sending a holiday military care package to troops is a wonderful way to spread the holiday cheer and send a bit of home to those who are missing it this time of year. Include sentimental items, delicious homemade goode, and daily comfort items to create the ultimate care package that will bring a smile to your military member’s face. Be sure to follow the proper addressing and packing rules and pay attention to shipping dates to ensure your military care package successfully arrives on the base in time for the holidays.

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