Care Packages for Deployed Servicemembers

Everything You Need to Know--and More

Really and truly, there's not much that stateside civilians--whether they're family members or not--can do to make deployments safer or less stressful. But the simple act of preparing and sending care packages is a great way for individuals and communities to come together to show their support. 

Sending a care package to a deployed servicemember--whether he or she is a friend, a loved one, or someone you've never met--is a kind and generous gesture that's very much appreciated by...MORE the recipient. Care packages can include food and other items that aren't available where the servicemember is stationed, books, movies, religious items (where allowed), clothing, and many other objects. But perhaps more important than any of that, care package make the servicemembers who receive them feel loved, connected to the folks back home, appreciated, and supported, And while this may sound a little dramatic, those feelings of love, connection, and support can literally save lives by giving deployed servicemembers something to live for.

Of course, there's more to sending a care package than gathering up some stuff, packing it up in a box, and dropping it off at the Post Office. Before you start pouring a lot of your time and money into preparing care packages, it's well worth putting some serious thought into the best way to get the job done. In the sections that follow, we'll take you through every step of the process, including:

  • Determining when to send your packages (and why you might want to wait a bit before shipping)
  • The best items to send, the most commonly requested items, and what you'll definitely want to leave out
  • How to pack (for example, you could put baked goods and hygiene supplies in the same box, but it you don't put them into separate plastic containers, the person who opens the package could end up with cookies that taste like soap--yes, it happens
  • All the supplies you'll need and how to physically pack and ship your packages to give them their best chances of arriving in good condition.

Updated by Armin Brott, August 2016 

  • 01 of 06

    When Can I Start Sending Care Packages?

    Photo by Bill Mossman, U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii Public Affairs. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army.

    After a loved one deploys, family members are anxious to start sending care packages. Learn why you may need to wait a few weeks before shipping and mailing items.

  • 02 of 06
    Photo by Photographer's Mate 1st Class Shawn P. Eklund. Photo courtesy U.S. Navy.
    Before you send a care package to a deployed servicemember, see this list of prohibited items.
  • 03 of 06

    Care Package Preparation - Shopping and Baking Tips

    Photo courtesy of DoD.
    Not all homemade or pre-packaged foods make the best care package items. These tips will help you determine what to send and what to avoid.
  • 04 of 06

    Include Plastic Containers in Care Packages to Deployed Troops

    Marine spouses prepare care packages for their deployed loved ones. Photo by Pfc. Noah S. Leffler. Photo courtesy of U.S.M.C.
    Learn why it's important to include inexpensive plastic containers in care packages to deployed troops.
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06
    Photo by Lance Cpl. Ronald W. Stauffer. Photo courtesy of U.S.M.C.
    List of necessary shipping supplies you'll need when sending care packages to deployed servicemembers.
  • 06 of 06

    Care Package Shipping Tips

    Photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Andrew Skipworth. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy.
    Increase the odds that your servicemember will receive his or her care package in the best possible condition.