Care Package Ideas for Soldiers or People Who Are Far Away
General Tips for Sending Care Packages
When you are separated from a loved one, a care package can be one way that you show your love and appreciation for that person, even from a distance. If you've got a young adult away at college, a soldier deployed overseas, or a friend in the hospital across the country, you need a way to show them that you are thinking of them and to a provide for a few of their practical and emotional needs.
Items to Include in a Care Package
Here are some great items to include in your care packages. Check with your soldier to see what specific things he is in need of!
(Ensure access to a source of HOT water)
- Cup 'o' Noodles soups
- Dry cereal - small, individual serving boxes
- Instant oatmeal
- Breakfast, granola, cereal and power bars
- Pop tarts
- Tuna in the "fresh pouch" (no draining required)
- Crackers (Graham, Triscuits and Ritz - with or without cheese spreads and/or potted meats)
- Single servings of bagged potato chips
- Cookies, candy, licorice, bubble gum, maple syrup
- "Lunchables" (many varieties don't have to be refrigerated)
- Pre-packaged brownies and Snack Cakes (individually wrapped, lunchbox type)
- Pretzels and/or chocolate-dipped pretzels
- Snack mixes like "Chex Mix"
- Nuts - Cashews, peanuts, etc.
- Rice Krispie Treats
- Applesauce, pudding, or fruit cups with pop-off lids
Note: Sending fruit and fruit products to deployed military—DO NOT ship fresh fruit or exposed fruit. Instead, ship suitable fruit products such as dried or canned fruits. Ship products in the original manufacturer's wrap and packaging. Which means you may send raisins, dried apricots, dried bananas, other dried fruits, trail-mix, canned fruit, single-serving fruit packs (like applesauce, cut peaches), fruit rollups, fruit breakfast bars, and other fruit-containing products.
- Anything that will change the taste of the local water is usually most appreciated! Don't forget to include a container for making the beverage (e.g. pitcher, jug, travel mug, etc.)
- Instant coffee (comes in many different flavours)
- Tea bags (available in many flavours)
- Instant Ice Tea
- Powdered "Gatorade"
- Lemonade mix (pre-sweetened)
- Kool-Aid (pre-sweetened)
- Powdered hot chocolate (this also comes in many flavours)
- Gel insoles
- Foot powder: “Gold Bond” medicated powder is a favourite
- “Tums” (indigestion tablets)• T-shirts, underwear and socks!
- “Glade Stick-Ups”
- Blanket from home
- A big fluffy towel
(Pocketsize, travel-size or sample-sizes are ideal)
- Disposable razors, shaving cream and aftershave lotion
- Toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss and mouth wash
- Tissues (small box or individual packets of the ultra-soft, expensive type)
- Shampoo, conditioner, gel, hot oil treatments, etc.
- Soap and shower gel
- Toilet paper (a roll of the soft, expensive brand)
- Cotton swabs
- Baby wipes (unscented is best)
- Eye drops (“Visine” or “Clear-Eyes” type products)
- Lip balm
- Note: Sending Shaving Cream to Deployed Military. Some controversy exists over the shipping of aerosol-type containers. Consider sending a "squeeze bottle" shaving cream.
General Items to Include
- Self-addressed stamped envelopes, stamps, paper and envelopes
- Padded mailing envelopes
- Box of 'All Occasion' cards
- Duct tape, super glue, electrical tape
- Pre-Paid Calling cards
- “Zip-lock” bags
- Dixie cups
- Small battery operated light, batteries
- Eyeglass cleaner wipes
- A small shoe polish kit
- A small sewing kit
- Hairbands, barrettes
- You might also consider sending letters that you've recorded on cassette tape or videotape. You could make and send mixed tape of all your favourite songs or a miniature scrapbook. Send pictures of yourself, your family, and friends.
- Note: Sending Batteries to Deployed Military. Please ensure that all batteries are packaged in original manufacturer's packaging and have not been used. Do not send items with batteries installed.
- Playing Cards (include a magic card trick book or a book of card games)
- Board Games (travel type with magnetic pieces: Chess, Checkers, UNO, Battleship, Monopoly, Scrabble, etc.)
- Dice (they often get lost)
- Disposable cameras
- Compact Discs
- Current movies on DVD (make sure a DVD player is available for use)
- Videotape their favourite shows on TV (ensure a VHS player is available for use)
- Favourite magazines/comics/crossword puzzle books
- Send a few toys (hacky sack, Slinky, squirt gun, whoopee cushion, bag of marbles)
- Pocket electronic games and hand-held video games (Game Boy, etc.)
- Always include a short letter or card. That is the best part of the care package. If you're not feeling particularly upbeat on the day you are putting the care package together, simply jot down a few lines on the back of a postcard and include that (E.g. "Packed with Love," "Also includes Hugs and Kisses from All of Us," "Missing You," "Special Delivery – Just for You")
- Small packages arrive more quickly.
- Food items are nice, but not a priority. The exception is the need for drink mixes (hot and cold) to flavour the water.
Items to Avoid
- Avoid sending liquids whenever possible. But if you must send a liquid, double bag it. Ziploc-type bags are great, and can be re-used at the other end.
- Anything containing alcohol (including perfumes and colognes, mouthwash, etc.)
- Flammable items (including matches, lighters and fireworks)
- Obscene materials
- Drugs and medications (including over-the-counter medicines)
- Perishable items (including meat)
It's a good idea to keep the following in mind to ensure that packages are delivered promptly:
- The Box: Select a box strong enough to protect the contents and large enough to accommodate cushioning. If reusing a box, cover all previous labels and markings with a heavy black marker or adhesive labels.
- Cushioning: Cushioning the contents with newspaper is a novel way to send news from home. Styrofoam and bubble wrap are also good choices. Consider popping up a batch of popcorn and placing it in plastic or zip-lock bags - if the box does not contain fragranced toiletries, you have just included another edible treat for your loved one! Close and shake the box. If it rattles, add additional cushioning to keep items from shifting.
- Batteries: Occasionally, a battery-powered item such as a radio or electric razor will turn itself on during shipment. Always remove and wrap the batteries separately.
- Sealing: Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams with 2" wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape – cello tape or other ‘desk-top' tapes are not strong enough to hold the package together. Do not use cord, string or twine as it causes the package to get caught and possibly damaged in sorting equipment.
- Include a card describing the contents: Occasionally improperly wrapped packages fall apart during shipment. Including a card inside the package that lists the sender's and recipient's addresses along with a description of the contents helps in collecting items that have fallen open during processing.
- When packing your items, ship toiletries separate from all food items. When the toiletries and food are packed together, the food tastes like soaps or deodorants, even when heavy zip-loc bags are used to separate the items
- Pack your parcels to withstand temperature fluctuations from –20°C to 30°C, rough handling and a camel sitting on them! If you don’t think your parcel will make it through that, don't send it!
Fun Care Package Themes
Here are some ideas to help make them extra enjoyable, both to put together and to open!
- Use a theme for your care packages. Either follow seasonal themes or get creative with entertaining themes like “cocktail party,” “romance,” “motorcycles,” etc.
- Include light reading suited to the recipient’s tastes. Although there are general magazines available to deployed personnel, material on specific interests like snowboarding, jogging, antique cars, etc. might be interesting too.
- Newspaper clippings and comics from local newspapers are entertaining and don’t require all the trouble of reading the newspaper.
- Photos are pleasing and can be inexpensive if you order doubles when you get them developed.
- Kids’ drawings are always well received and can be mailed in parcels or in letters.
- Old bed sheets (that don’t need to come home after the tour) can make sleep a little easier. Pack them with a couple of dryer sheets in between the layers to give them a fresh scent!
- If you're feeling ambitious, write a short note for each day of the tour. Poems and limericks, memories of special moments and short anecdotes about everyday life at home will remind the deployed member that he or she is missed - even when there is no mail.
General Food Item Tips
Before contemplating what food to include in a care package, remember - be practical! For instance, don't send something that your favourite person will either not have the means to prepare OR have to carry when traveling.
- Consider whether or not the food item would arrive in a usable condition. In other words—if it melts, spoils, or can be contaminated, you may want to reconsider the selection.
- Avoid sending baked goods that might become stale or broken in transit. Grandma’s cookies are mouthwatering when fresh from the oven, but they’ll lose some of their appeal after six weeks.