by Jo, Guest Contributor
I hate customs forms. Hate. Them. I hate how tiny the boxes are. I hate how I screw up a few of the forms before I get through one without messing it up.
During my husband’s deployment, I got to Month 8 and had an implosion. I had sent him carefully crafted, cutesy care packages throughout the deployment.
But somewhere between February and March, I had enough. I was out of ideas and making care packages wasn’t fun anymore. I had reached the end of my patience with the deployment too. The care packages John got during that time were literally cans of green beans (hey, he asked me to ship vegetables) shoved in a bulging Priority box. You know why? Because I could write “cans of vegetables” on the customs form and call it a day.
I’m sure that’s not the most epic breakdown anyone’s ever had over care packages. (Oh wait, I had one of those too.) But it was a moment that I think most of us can identify with.
Sometimes you find yourself crying while watching a commercial for your husband’s favorite beer (yep, been there) or getting irrationally angry when you can’t get everything to fit into the stupid care package (been there too). And sometimes you just really, really, really want to give up.
I can’t solve all of those deployment problems—at least not in this article—but I can give you some resources (that honest-to-goodness work) that can make your life a lot easier when it comes to making and sending care packages.
Say it after me, “USPS is my friend.” And keep saying it so that you don’t forget. USPS.com has bunch of tools that you can take advantage of right from your computer. Get Priority boxes mailed to you (for free!), fill out customs forms online (no tiny boxes to scribble into, yay!), print the labels, pay the postage online and schedule a pick-up from your home. You won’t have to go to a post office and stand in line again. (Yes!) Don’t believe me? Here’s the proof.
Send a Subscription Box
With a click of a button you can send a care package that you haven’t had to shop for or send. Subscription boxes are an awesome way to make sure that your honey gets something fun in the mail when you’re stressed out, low on energy or if you hate making care packages. And because it’s a subscription box, you can set it up to ship every month until deployment is over. Make sure you read the fine print before you subscribe: although many subscription boxes ship to APO/FPO including NatureBox, Go Picnic and Love With Food, others do not.
Here’s another bright spot: subscription boxes are often more economical than sending a care package since many are $25 or less (and almost always with shipping included).
Ship a Taste of Home
Maybe subscription boxes aren’t your thing. And maybe, just maybe you’re busy doing the—oh, I don’t know—bazillion other things that you do to keep your family running. If you’re in a pinch and want to send something, there are many services that offer one-time gift baskets and boxes that can be shipped to military addresses.
Harry and David offers a line of gift boxes and baskets just for APO/FPO recipients. Cheryl’s has free shipping on boxes of baked goods headed to military addresses. Hickory Farms also gives free shipping on specific items when shipped to an APO/FPO. The Tasty Cookie Company (which is also a military family business) will ship to APO/FPO addresses.
Of course, this isn’t a complete list—check your loved one’s favorite brands and businesses and see if you can send them a little bit of home.
Ask for Help
If you feel like you’re burning out, consider asking other people to lend a hand. Ask family, friends, the members of your place of worship or other organizations to send mail. There are also quite a few organizations that ship care packages free of charge like Operation Gratitude and H.E.R.O.E.S Care. You just need to register your service member to get them on the list.
Supplement with Programs
When my husband was deployed, I stumbled across a few free programs that were available to deployed service members. Because of those programs, John received a photo album, box of StarKist tuna and multiple cups of coffee throughout his tour. The only thing I needed to do was to enroll him in those programs. Take 10 minutes and do it. It’s definitely worth your time.
Of course, these aren’t the only ways to take some of the stress out of care packages. What tricks, shortcuts, and resources have you found?
Jo is the author of Jo, My Gosh! a blog about her journey as a newlywed military wife. When she’s not working from home, she’s writing, reading, trying new recipes, watching sports or cross stitching. Catch her on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook.