Sending a Military Care Package

Sending a care package to a loved one in the military is an extremely heartfelt gesture that can bring comfort and support to those serving far from home. The process of shipping a military care package involves careful consideration of regulations, packaging guidelines, and content restrictions. By following a step-by-step guide tailored to ensure a smooth delivery process, you can show your appreciation and provide much-needed essentials, treats, and reminders of home to your military loved one.

Understanding Military Mail


When sending mail to military members overseas, understanding the address formats APO (Army/Air Post Office), FPO (Fleet Post Office), and DPO (Diplomatic Post Office) is crucial. These codes help route the mail efficiently and securely without revealing exact locations. APO addresses are used for Army and Air Force installations, FPO for Navy ships and installations, and DPO for diplomatic missions.

The ‘city’ part of these addresses is represented by APO, FPO, or DPO, while ‘state’ is designated by AE (Armed Forces Europe), AP (Armed Forces Pacific), or AA (Armed Forces Americas), depending on the recipient’s location. The zip code follows, which further specifies the exact military post. It’s essential to format these correctly to ensure delivery and avoid the package being sent through the host country’s mail system by mistake.

Read More: Proper Addressing

A sample shipping label for a military care package
A care package including gum, candy, and other snacks

Specific Military Post Regulations

Military posts have specific regulations that must be adhered to when sending care packages. For security reasons, packages cannot be addressed to “any service member”; instead, they must contain the full name of the recipient. The USPS is the only postal service authorized to deliver mail to military bases. It’s also important to note that size and content restrictions apply, and these may vary between bases and over time.

Restricted items often include aerosols, alcohol, and perishable goods, among others. For instance, sending items like lithium batteries may result in the package being returned if proper packing and guidelines aren’t followed. When in doubt, use the Military Restricted Items Lookup to check for prohibited items and additional base-specific regulations. Proper adherence to these regulations ensures that your package reaches your loved one without causing them any inconvenience or disciplinary issues.

Read More: APO Shipping Restrictions

Preparing Your Military Care Package

Choosing the Right Contents

Selecting the right items for your military care package is a blend of thoughtfulness and practicality. Service members often miss the comforts of home, so consider including personal favorites like snacks, magazines, and games. However, it’s also beneficial to focus on necessities that may be in short supply, such as hygiene products and non-perishable food items.

Popular choices include protein bars, jerky, toiletries, and drink mixes. It’s important to remember that certain items like chocolate may not fare well in hot climates. When possible, choose items that are durable, compact, and can withstand a range of temperatures. Additionally, consider the cultural customs of the host country and any base-specific restrictions to avoid sending prohibited items. Thoughtful curation of package contents not only brings joy but also ensures your care package passes through military mail without issue.

Read More: How to Pack a Military Care Package

A care package full of snacks, gum, and candy
Care package boxes that include drawings and other art

Packaging Guidelines

Proper packaging is essential to ensure that your care package arrives in good condition. Use sturdy boxes and avoid leaving empty space, which can lead to items shifting and possibly breaking during transit. Cushion contents with socks, t-shirts, or candy. Liquids and powders should be double-bagged to prevent leaks. Make sure to seal the package with strong tape.

When packing, also consider the journey that the package will endure, which may include multiple handoffs and changes in climate. It’s a good idea to remove items from bulky original packaging and consolidate them to save space and reduce waste. Don’t forget to decorate the box for an added personal touch, as this can be a morale booster. Following these packaging guidelines helps ensure that your care package not only withstands the rigors of military mail but also conveys the care and attention you put into sending it.

Mailing Your Care Package

Filling Out a Custom Form

Before your military care package can be sent, a customs form must be completed. This form requires a list of the contents in your package, including the quantity of each item and its value. This step is important because it informs postal services and customs authorities what is being shipped, ensuring compliance with international regulations.

You have options: either fill out a manual form at the post office or use an online service like to enter your customs information, which then prints directly onto your shipping label. The online method can save time and streamline the process, especially if you’re sending multiple packages. Accuracy is key in filling out customs forms to prevent delays or rejections. Remember, shipping to military addresses requires customs forms even though they are considered domestic shipments for postage purposes.

ShipThrifty’s tools allow you to copy and edit labels and customs forms, save orders, and has  proprietary address checking to reduce nonrefundable returned packages.

Read More: Free Online Military Shipping Tools

Customs declaration form for a care package to be shipped
Shipping box showing how to measure dimensions

Understanding Shipping Costs

Shipping costs for military care packages can vary based on several factors, including the package’s weight, size, and destination. It’s important to understand that military shipping is treated as domestic, which can result in cost savings. However, exceeding size and weight limits can lead to additional fees. When selecting a shipping service, keep in mind that rates differ and using flat rate boxes is not always the most cost-effective choice.

To avoid overpaying, consider repackaging items into smaller boxes or combining shipments. Using free shipping tools like those offered by can also provide access to discounted rates with major carriers. Always ensure your package dimensions are accurate to avoid surcharges for incorrect sizing. Understanding these factors will help you manage shipping costs effectively while ensuring your package arrives safely to your loved one.

Read More: Managing the Cost of Sending Military Care Packages

Tracking Your Package (and a Word on Patience)

After sending off your military care package, tracking it becomes the next step. Most postal services provide tracking numbers that allow you to monitor your package’s journey. Understand, though, that delivery times can vary significantly. Packages typically take around two weeks to arrive, but this timeframe can fluctuate based on destination, transportation mode, and operational conditions at the base.

For example, deliveries to the Middle East might be quicker than those to remote locations in Africa. Furthermore, during holiday periods, increased package volumes can affect transit times. It’s also not uncommon for packages to be held up at the military post office for processing upon arrival. Sharing the tracking number with your service member can facilitate the package’s retrieval if necessary. Patience is key throughout this process, as the system is designed to prioritize security and efficiency over speed.

Read More: Tracking Your Military Care Package

Military officers happily showing their care packages