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Care package tips for loved ones overseas

Starla L. Ivey, PhD, Building Strong Families; Reviewed by Mary Jo Williams, 4-H Associate State Specialist/Leadership Development and Lucy Schrader, Building Strong Families Program Coordinator, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension


When family members are separated, care packages and cards can be a reminder that others are thinking of them. This article gives some packing and mailing tips and ideas of what to send. Please see the references for more specific information.

Packing and mailing tips:

  • Instead of using styrofoam packing peanuts (which are hard to get rid of), use items that can be reused as packing materials such as plastic grocery bags, plastic zipper-type bags, newspapers, small tissue packages.
  • Mail toiletries separate from food items; otherwise, food ends up tasting like deodorant.
  • If sending batteries, ship them in new and unopened packages for the quickest and safest arrival. If sending battery-operated gadgets such as flash lights or games, remove the batteries prior to shipping so that the batteries do not corrode in the item. Certain types of batteries cannot be shipped through international mail. To get specific information about batteries or other possible restrictions, call 1-800-ASK-USPSŪ (1-800-275-8777) or contact your local Post Office.
  • Use sturdy cardboard boxes to ship your items. Avoid using recycled boxes that may be damaged, torn or punctured. Use clear packing tape to seal all openings of the box. Avoid masking tape, scotch tape or duct tape to seal closures.
  • For addresses and labels use large, block print. Use a dark permanent magic marker to write with if possible. Cover the address with clear packing tape to avoid smearing or illegible addresses in case of contact with moisture or water.
  • On the address label, include the full name of the person you are sending mail to (with or without rank designation), the unit address, the APO (Army Post Office) address, the nine digit zip code and a return address.
  • Keep package sizes small (under 5 pounds in weight). Larger packages take a longer time to be delivered and are hard to carry around.
  • Packages can take between 21-28 days to arrive, possibly even longer during major U.S. holidays. See the United States Postal Service website for more information on mailing packages to our troops.
  • The United States Postal Service will send free boxes, packing materials, tape and mailing labels for care packages to be sent to military family members deployed to Iraq. Call 1-800-610-8734 and press one for English or two for Spanish, then press three to reach an operator.

Shopping tips:

  • When selecting food items to send, remember that the heat is intense in some locations, which means that gum may stick to the wrapper or chocolate will melt quickly.
  • Small packages of individually wrapped snacks are portable and stay fresher longer.
  • Can openers can be hard to come by so choose flip-top lids on canned products when possible.

Examples of items to ship in care packages

Toiletries and personal care items:

  • baby wipes/cleansing cloths
  • toothpaste/toothbrushes
  • shampoo, deodorant, lotion
  • antibacterial soap, hand sanitizer
  • liquid body wash
  • eyeglass wipes, eyeglass case
  • sunblock, aloe vera
  • throat lozenges, cough drops
  • lip balm
  • aspirin, pain relievers
  • feminine hygiene products for military women
  • jock itch spray, foot powder
  • antifungal/athlete’s foot products

Food and drink items:

  • coffee, tea, hot cocoa mix, pre-sweetened drink mixes, Gatorade powder
  • hard candy, cookies, homemade cookies, candy bars, gum, mints
  • small bags of individually wrapped snacks – nuts, trail mix, power bars, protein bars, breakfast bars, pop tarts, granola bars
  • chips or crackers
  • peanut butter

Fun stuff:

  • frisbee, nerf football, hacky sack
  • decks of cards
  • hand-held games
  • music cds, video game cds for laptop computers

Communication items:

  • envelopes, small pads of paper
  • pre-addressed labels and/or envelopes
  • notebooks (a size they can keep in a pocket and keep dry)
  • single-use camera


Mailing Restrictions: Each country and even each mailing zip code within those countries have different restrictions for what is allowed to be mailed to that country, so get all the information and tips you need before preparing your package.

University of Missouri Extension does not endorse specific brands of products, vendors or manufacturers.



References/Resources for more information:
Field, S., November 15, 2004. Deadlines near for sending troops holiday packages, Army Public Affairs - Army News Service, web article

Marine Parents website,

Military Postal Service website,

United Stated Postal Service website,


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Last update: Monday, December 03, 2012