Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Benjamin Carr was a licensed insurance agent in Georgia and has experience in life, health, property and casualty coverage. He has worked with State Farm and other risk management firms. Benji is also a strategic writer and editor with a background in branding, marketing, and quality assurance. He has been in military newsrooms — literally on the frontline of journalism.

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Reviewed by Benji Carr
Former Licensed Life Insurance Agent Benji Carr

UPDATED: Apr 19, 2022

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To Sum It Up

  • Care packages can help your soldier feel more in touch with home and boost morale
  • Make sure to properly package everything in heavy-duty shipping materials
  • Daily essentials are important for the health and well-being of your military service member
  • Always take into consideration what your soldier really wants in their care package

If you have a soldier in the military or deployed abroad, you may be wondering what to put in a care package.

When you are sending a care package to a military service member, you are sending a piece of home to them while they are away. This can help you stay connected, regardless of how far your loved one is from home.

What to put in a care package depends on the individual and their needs, but there are appropriate things to send that will help your soldier, even in challenging times.

In this article, you will learn what to put in care packages for troops, how to send these care packages, and what troops really want in their care packages.

How to Send Care Packages to Troops

There are many important steps you need to take before shipping your care package to your military service member. The last thing you want to happen is your package to arrive damaged, or not even arrive at all.

Proper Packaging

Any liquid or powdered item needs to be sealed tight into a ziplock baggy. Do not count on product packaging to hold up through transit.

It is recommended to always use the Priority Mail packaging from USPS. The materials are free and it includes the box, tape, labels, and customs forms.

Do not ship any USPS prohibited items. There are also restricted items, such as matches, aerosols, and tobacco products, that have to be packaged in a special way to be shipped.

Remember that your military care package may be opened before it gets to your loved one, so make sure to not pack anything that you wouldn’t want other people to see.

Shipping Best Practices

Make sure to provide accurate shipping information and give as much detail as possible. This includes the military member’s full name and title, their unit, DPO/FPO/APO, and ZIP code.

If you are shipping out of the USA, you will need to fill out a customs form. When you are shipping overseas, it can take quite a while to reach your service member. This can be anywhere from two weeks, to up to six weeks over the holidays. If you are shipping out a care package to arrive at a certain date, make sure you have it shipped in plenty of time for it to arrive on time.

If you are shipping multiple packages at once, number them, so your service member knows that there are more on the way.

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Food and Drinks in Care Packages

When you are sending food and drinks, make sure to send non-perishable items. You also want to ensure that everything is packaged tightly to avoid any spills, especially liquid items.

It is better to send small, individually packaged items rather than large containers, so soldiers can pack these small items when they are on the go.

Also, think about the climate where the package is being sent to. If it’s a warm climate, don’t send things that melt. If it’s a cold climate, don’t send things that freeze.

Some snack ideas include:

  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Hard candy
  • Gum
  • Dried fruit
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Pudding cups
  • Beef jerky

In addition, drink powders are best for shipping rather than liquid drinks. Hot cocoa mix, Kool-Aid, tea bags, coffee, and powdered creamer are some good ideas.

You can add in some condiment packets to spice up those MREs. Ketchup, mustard, hot sauces, relishes, salt, and pepper are good choices.

Microwaveable foods, such as popcorn and ramen noodles, also work well in care packages.

Toiletries to Put in Military Care Packages

Troops don’t usually have access to their regular toiletries when they are overseas. A bit of daily refreshing from using their favorite essentials can help with their everyday morale.

Basics toiletries keep your service member clean and healthy for duty. Items they will always need include:

  • Soap
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Razor
  • Shaving cream
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Mouthwash

Simple first-aid items go a long way. Pain relievers, fever reducers, cough drops, band-aids, ointments, and skin creams all come in handy and may not be easy to come by for your soldier in the field.

Grooming items are a must-have in a care package. Hairbrushes, tweezers, nail files, and hair spray are some ideas for daily grooming essentials.

Sentimental Items in Care Packages for Soldiers

When service members are away, especially overseas, sentimental items can really keep them going through challenging situations.

There are basic sentimental items you can send that do not take up much space. Things like family photos, handwritten notes, and postcards are good military care package ideas.

If they have children, you can send them their art projects or schoolwork with high grades.

You can place homemade videos and photos onto a DVD or an external thumb drive for them to view.

Interesting clippings from the local newspaper can keep them in touch with what is happening at home.

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What Troops Really Want in Care Packages

When you are coming up with ideas for a care package, take into consideration what they have directly asked for. Ask them what they want in your next letter, and you may be surprised at the simple things that they request.

When troops are deployed over a long period of time, sometimes they just want to feel normal, like when they were at home. Sending hobby items that they used to use every day can really help with morale, such as a baseball or a football.

There are also essentials that they might need which they would never ask for. This could be athlete’s foot ointment, or new underwear.

You can make a list of all the things you use every day, and send them the travel sized versions, like toothpaste, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.

Take into account the change of seasons as well. Are they deployed somewhere cold? Send hand and foot warmers. Somewhere sunny? Send polarized sunglasses.

Other Ways to Support Service Members

Sometimes, we need to support our troops with more than just a care package. They may need help with vehicle maintenance while deployed, filing taxes, and auto insurance.

You can even look into finding discounts for them, such as military garaging discounts for veterans. These are some ways you can help to support your service members with things they can’t do while abroad.

Conclusion – What To Put in a Care Package

It is important to know the most effective items to put in a military care package, as there are only so many things you can put into a small box. These items can help your service member out tremendously during challenging deployments, or through being away from home for long periods of time.

Make sure to use sturdy packaging that can handle going through the postal system. Anything that is liquid, fragile, or in powder form needs to have extra packaging around them.

Use the best postal practices when addressing your shipments. Fill out customs forms properly, and expect that your package could be opened by others along the way.

Always make sure to ship the care package with plenty of time for your soldier to receive it on time, especially over the holidays.

Be mindful of climate conditions and pack appropriate items for their weather.

Send your troop essentials that they use every day, food items that do not perish, and sentimental items that keep them in touch with home.

Overall, supporting our troops with care packages will brighten their lives, even with the simplest of items.