This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, INC. and The Coca-Cola Company, all opinions are mine alone. #USOCarePacks#CollectiveBias
As the weather is getting warmer and summer is creeping closer, we’re coming up on a couple of pretty patriotic holidays. I know that for a lot of you, that means heading to your patio for some grilling with family and friends, or maybe to the beach to let loose. While I’m all about those things (trust me, have you seen me eat?), I’m also about remembering the reasons behind those holidays. For those new to the blog, the military is close to my heart. My husband is currently serving, and I am prior service as well. With Memorial Day right around the corner, I’ve been thinking about all of our fallen soldiers, as well as coming up with ideas on how to help those still serving. One thing that I know soldiers love, is receiving care packages. With a little experience on both the sending and receiving ends, I thought I would share some ideas on how to create the perfect care package to ship overseas.
I know many of you out there want to show love and support for our troops, but may not know anyone serving. How can you send a package, with no one to send it to? Fortunately, I’ve found a way you can help! You might have heard of the USO and their efforts to keep soldiers connected to their families back home. Well, while recently shopping at my local Sam’s Club, I noticed special USO packaging on Coca-Cola™. I had to it check out, and once I realized that Coca-Cola was connecting members to the USO to provide care packages, I was super sold! They are hoping to donate 3000-5000 USO packages overseas, and when Sam’s Club members buy Coca-Cola, they are helping! If any readers would also like to join Coca-Cola and the USO on the initiative via donation, you can do so here. Now, onto those tips…
1. Find a box big enough for your goods, and decorate it if you please.
Now, I don’t recommend sending anything huge. Some units even have restrictions on mail size, so double check first. I usually just use Priority Mail boxes, or something similar. If you want to get fancy, you can decorate the inside of your box, as I’m sure it will bring a smile to the recipient’s face. To be honest though, we used to just get rid of the boxes because they took up too much space. So, when I send a package, the most I will do is use some fun tissue paper. If I’m sending the box near a holiday, I’ll go with the appropriate color scheme. You spend more time on a handmade card, or something that can be kept.
2. Think of a soldier’s basics needs.
Think hygiene products, and think favorites! Chances are, soldiers aren’t able to just go buy their favorite hygiene products at the troop store. More often than not, everyone is stuck with whatever is available, IF it’s available. A pro tip for shipping these items, is to put them in individual baggies before shipping. Sometimes they will leak, and your whole package will be ruined. The following items are ALWAYS good to include in a care package:
-BABY WIPES! The only person who uses more baby wipes than a baby, is a soldier.
-Feminine hygiene products: It’s entirely possible that the troop store will run out, and that’s no fun.
-Flip flops or shower shoes
-Baby powder or foot powder
3. Clothing and Bedding
Similar to basic needs, sometimes clothing will wear out and soldiers can’t easily replace the items. Once again, the troop store may run out, and then everyone is just SOL. Care packages can help a lot with this. Here are some items to help out:
-Socks: These not only wear out quick, but depending on the laundry situation, they may get lost just during EVERY load.
-Underwear: If your soldier has a brand he or she prefers, I’m sure it would be appreciated.
-Bedding: On many bases, service members sleep in dorm-like rooms or bays. They are often able to use regular bed sheets and blankets in this instance, and make their area feel a bit more like “home.”
-Towels/washcloths: Microfiber takes up less space and dries faster!
4. Send a little entertainment!
When you’re deployed and not on duty, you’re not exactly hitting up the mall, going to the movies, or taking a walk around town. It’s wonderful to receive a package that includes a few things to do! Here are some ideas:
-Video games: Yes, people have Xboxes and Playstations over there, or play computer games!
-Newspapers: As a bonus, you can cushion items with your local newspaper. This way, your soldier can keep up on current events, and you wont have to waste packing material!
-Crosswords or sudoku puzzles
-Playing cards: Seriously, one set of playing cards can keep numerous soldiers entertained for an entire deployment. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.
-Portable DVD player
-Portable music player: I relied heavily on this to pass time as I worked, focus in the gym, and help me fall asleep.
4. Food and snacks!
Please be warned, care packages can sometimes take a very long time to arrive overseas, so if something might spoil, don’t send it! Also be aware that things tend to fall apart a little when shipping, so keep that in mind. With that said, you can still send plenty of items. Here are some popular choices:
-Trail mix: You can even make your own!
-Home made cookies/brownies/etc: These were ALWAYS so appreciated! I recommend an airtight container instead of a baggie for these.
-Bottled, canned, or jarred foods. Example: Almond butter. It goes a long way. We used it bread, fruit, or just ate a scoop as a snack.
-Protein shakes: A lot of soldiers use their free time during deployment to work on fitness, while some enjoy the protein shakes because they’re doing a lot of physical activity as it is.
5. Pieces of home.
I used to love getting little pieces of home, or things to put up around my room or work area to remind me of family and friends. When you’re deployed, your life kind of gets put at a standstill for a year, while everyone else’s lives go on. Soldiers miss holidays, birthdays, family vacations, and so on. It’s nice to make them feel included, or share proud moments with them. Here are a few ideas on what you can send:
-Photos: Albums or single photos, new ones or old favorites!
-Home made cards or art projects
-A playlist or CD of your favorite music: I know you can create playlists online to share, but sometimes the internet situation overseas is not ideal!
-Letters: Include a letter or two in your box! You can even get friends and family to throw one in as well.
-Stamps/stationary: If you and your soldier are into snail mail, send over some stationary so that he or she is able to write back.
6. Miscellaneous items.
Talk to your service member about items that he or she might just like to have. Some items depend on the area, time of year, weather, and so on. Here are some recommendations that you can consider:
-Band aids/moleskin: I used these for blisters a lot!
-Holiday decor: We decorated a little! Some units are into it, some aren’t.
7. Make sure you have the correct address!
Now that you’ve filled your box, it’s time to mail it! If you’ve never sent a box internationally before, you’ll realize that there is a bit more to it than just slapping an address on it. In addition to a normal address label and return label, you’ll also be filling out an itemized customs form. Aside from listing the contents, you’ll put in the overseas address. These addresses can look a little odd, so if you’re unsure, the wonderful folks at the Post Office will surely assist you. After you’ve mailed your item off, it usually takes about 2 weeks to arrive. By that time, you can probably start planning an entirely new box!
If you’re a Sam’s Club member, don’t forget to look out for the Coca-Cola USO packaging while in club this summer! You can also visit the USO donation page to show your support. If you have any helpful tips to add to my list, feel free to leave them in the comments and thank you all so much for helping to support our troops!