I’m working on my 3rd care package to send to Radar, and wanted to share some of the tips I’ve collected through our two deployments so far. Some of them are common sense or very popular (especially if you’re on Pinterest), but I like to think that a couple of them are more original. So read on to get some ideas to treat your loved one who is deployed!
One of the things Radar loves the most is keeping up-to-date with the magazines he subscribes to. He enjoys reading his AOPA Pilot magazine, and the Family Handyman helps him as a creative outlet when he can’t have his tools – he plans all the things he’s going to build when he comes home!
Now that Monster is in school again, I also include all of his artwork from school in care packages. Monster gets so excited to put them in Daddy’s box when he gets home from school, and I know Radar likes being connected to what’s happening at home in this way.
I’m going to pause here to say that we don’t have a typical deployment. Radar is not in the desert, he’s not on a ship, and he’s not in a really awful place to be alone. He’s on an Air Force base in Japan, with access to a BX and Commissary that are arguably better than what we have at home. So it’s really a challenge sometimes to spoil him, as he has all the comforts he enjoys at home, and he doesn’t even have to deal with the screaming kids! But having recently spent some time away from the kids (on my trip to Arizona over Peach’s birthday), I truly don’t know how he does it. I couldn’t leave the kids for that length of time, even if I were going to a 5-star resort! So the most important thing I include in every package I send him looks like this:
Radar loves looking at pictures of the kids, and seeing them grow makes the separation just a little bit easier. But sending pictures, even without frames, clutters his room and makes moves even harder (they have to vacate their rooms if they go on a detachment for more than 72 hours). So we got a digital picture frame, and I add a new set of pictures on an SD card with every care package I send. It’s easy to move, and he gets to feel like he’s missing just a little bit less while he’s gone. The SD cards are cheap, and he usually gets about 100 pictures at a time! I don’t even need to send a whole package to give him a card; I can just tuck it into a greeting card and mail it with a regular stamp to his FPO address. It’s an easy, cheap way to keep your loved one feeling at home while they are away.
I’m not a big shopper, but when I go to Walmart or Target, I always find fun little gifts to send to Radar. He likes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the old goofy ones, not the new mean ones), and I stumbled upon an insulated coffee cup and a plastic tumbler decorated with them, so I included them with my last package. That package also included the Michaelangelo turtle screen cleaner, so I ended up with a theme for the package. I’ve seen all these adorable ideas on Pinterest for decorating the inside of the box. And you know I’m crafty, but I don’t feel like taking the box apart to wrap the whole thing, or pulling out paint to attempt to make something pretty with my lack of art skills. So I came up with a simpler (lazy-man’s) version of the cute care package. I find images that I want to include, then print them as 5×7’s on my color printer and glue them to the flaps of the box. The TMNT box had photos of the turtles, pizza, and the rat (I can never remember his name). My first care package had funny flight-related memes that I found. It’s just a little something fun that brings a little sunshine to his day, because let’s be honest – he’s a guy, and it’s what’s inside the box that he cares about!
I try to include things that he may be able to get, but would never buy for himself. I’ll send Brookside chocolate covered fruit because I know he loves it, and it’s a nice treat. Or I’ll get him treats at Trader Joe’s, because who doesn’t love their stuff?? I also love to include things I make, such as the fox mug I sent in his first package. Nothing too expensive (I mean, we have a budget to stick to!) but just some little things I know he’ll enjoy.
And that’s the key to the care package. It’s not about spending a lot of money on them, or even stuffing the box full. It’s a reminder of home, a way to let them know that you’re thinking about them all the time, and bring a little light into those hard days away. I can’t imagine doing what Radar does, and if I can make it a little easier for him, I’m going to!
Those are my tips for ideas to put in a care package, but I have one more secret to share. Anyone who sends care packages internationally is oh-too-familiar with the customs form. I don’t know about you, but I hate filling them out. And I usually have to fill out 2 (and occasionally 3) because of the varied items I put in each box! It’s a pain in the butt to fill out the same information every time (and often multiple times) for every package. So now, I print labels! As long as the information requested is on each carbon copy, the post office doesn’t care how it’s done. The labels I found work the best are 1-1/3″x4″ (Avery makes some) – but that’s the biggest that will really fit in the little boxes. I print a bunch at the beginning of deployment and save the Word file, so if I need more it’s super easy (each form requires 5 labels with sender and receiver). Saves me the time and frustration of writing the same information over and over in those tiny little boxes. You could probably even make one label with a space in the middle that includes sender and recipient information.
For now, those are all my little secrets and tips for care packages. If you have anything to share, please comment and let me know! I’m always looking for more inspiration!