The other day I was at the post office and came across a lady trying to ship a care package overseas. It was her very first time doing so and you could tell she was completely unprepared for the entire situation. The customs form was stressing her out and the cost made things even worse!
So I tapped into my many years (ahem…one year) of care packaging (that’s a word now-trademark it!) and offered her some advice. She was so happy and relieved and I’d like to think that somewhere, someone is opening their box full of goodies partially because of me.
- Flat rate USPS boxes are legitimately your best friend. I like to take advantage of all the space they offer and cram them full of goodies. A hasn’t complained yet. You can get even more bang for your buck by decorating the inside to match any theme you may have!
- Keep customs forms vague in terms of the contents in the box and their value. I hate that I have to include this one, but it’s true. If you list very expensive items on the customs form, your box is far more likely to get stolen along its trip. Stick to generic categories like toiletries and snacks as well as a low overall cost (I usually list $30) to avoid something happening to the box you’ve worked so hard on!
- Shelf stable items are probably the best to send because it can take quite a while for the box to arrive. For example, on A’s last deployment, my boxes were taking about 2 weeks to get to him. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t send homemade things! It’s best to freeze chocolate and put it in a plastic bag before sending it. Also, double wrap baked goods (in plastic wrap and then in a plastic container) before shipping them.
- Keep track of how long it takes your first box to get there and then use that as a gauge for future care packages. This allows you to plan for holiday-themed or special occasion boxes to arrive on time.
- Wrap things individually. This doesn’t really serve any technical purpose other than making the fun of the care package last longer for your loved one! I wrapped things in A’s first care package individually and he commented on liking it so much that I did it the rest of the time he was gone. It’s like Christmas morning!
- Baby wipes
- Photos or notes, especially if you spray the note with perfume so it smells like home
- Toiletries: favorite brands that we may not have there.
- Favorite magazines or books about anything other than what’s happening around us. Send us travel or exercise magazines so that we can think about anything other than our job.
- Unhealthy snacks, especially candy bars we can’t get there.
- Small funny or sentimental items: reasons why you love the recipient, a silly “day in the life” story. It takes our mind off work for a little bit and makes us feel connected to you.
- Plans for when we get home! A lot of what keeps us going is looking forward to going home and the fun we’ll have when we get there. Send vacation brochures or activity ideas so we have something fun to look forward to!