Alright, so if you’ve ever had a loved one deployed, or even a child or friend away at school, you may have sent a care package or two.
…or you’re like me and have sent closer to ten in the last 3 months. Oops.
So I thought that I would put together a little list of helpful tips that I have learned to make these care packages a little more special. 🙂
First things first. The Box.
I ordered my boxes from The USPS Website and they are free of charge. When I was first researching ideas and how to send a military care package, I found a lot of blog posts that suggested calling 1-800-610-8734 to request a Military Care Kit. The Care Kit is also free of charge from the USPS and includes some Priority Mail boxes/envelopes in different sizes, customs forms and sleeves, and Priority Mail Tape. Now, while this was awesome for getting started, I later realized I only used the FPO/APO Large Flat Rate Priority Mail Boxes. You can also just walk into a USPS store and pick up some boxes for free.
So now that you have a box, it’s time to decorate it. I decorated my boxes based on themes or holidays. If you’re stuck for ideas, Pinterest has some incredible examples and helpful tips.
Once you have an idea for how you want to decorate your box, it is time to assemble it. The boxes come flattened out, but it is super easy to fold the flaps to assemble. The way I do my boxes is as follows:
- Locate the bottom of the box. This is easily found because the top flaps have an area to write your recipient’s name and address.
- Fold 2 bottom flaps in, and the last 2 over them. Tape where the seam is so that the bottom is sealed.
- Flip the box over. You should now have a more boxy shape and a sealed bottom for your box.
- Fold the top 4 flaps down so that they are sticking outwards on the 4 sides of the box.
- Now you’re ready to decorate!
I have used a few different materials to wrap the inside of the boxes.
- Construction Paper
- Wrapping Paper
- Scrapbook Paper
My favorite way to wrap the inside of the boxes is with Scrapbook paper. The reason for this is because if you cut the 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper in half, each piece fits almost perfectly with a side of the box (I have only done this with the Large Boxes). So if you wrap all 8 sides (4 inner walls + 4 flaps) and the bottom of the box, you will have used 5 pieces of the scrapbook paper. This seems like a lot of paper, but I typically buy my scrapbook paper in stacks or books, usually 25 pages each. I like to look for sales on paper at Michael’s Craft Store, but I have also purchased cool paper stacks from Amazon, like this cool USMC Paper Stack.
The way I attach the pieces of paper to the box is with simple Elmer’s Glue Sticks. I find that the jumbo glue sticks are more efficient.
Now that your box is nice and wrapped, it’s time to pack it. Now the stuff you put in your boxes differs depending on the recipient and their location. My boyfriend is deployed, and with that being said, there are rules and regulations on what can be sent. There are many helpful tips on the USPS website as well as The Military Postal Service Agency.
Now, the trickiest part about this whole ordeal: Customs Forms.
For the next few steps, I recommend creating an account on USPS to make managing your forms and addresses easier. You can register for an account HERE. Creating an account is free and easy to use. You can even download the mobile app to manage tracking and order history.
Filling out the Customs Forms can be difficult, but I have found that by using the USPS website Click-N-Ship system, they are so much easier.
The first couple times I sent my SO a care package, I read each package of whatever I was sending him and calculated the total weight based on the ounces. This was more math than I ever expected to do on a project like this. Later, I developed an easier system.
- Weigh yourself on a scale and write down your number. For example, let’s use 130 lbs.
- Now, step off the scale and grab your box (contents inside, but not yet sealed) and step back on. Take note of your new total. Let’s say its 138 lbs.
- The difference is the weight of the box. 8 lbs.
Now you have a starting weight. Now when filling out your customs form online, select a few items from the box to declare. (If you’re like me, I shoved so many different things in the box, I declared almost 10 items on the forms.) My suggestion is to pick 4-6 items to declare.
When the page pops up to start declaring the total monetary value of the box contents, it is up to you how much you put. The USPS will insure the box up to $50, any more and there’s option to purchase more insurance.
Start by adding your items to the list with quantity, weight and value of each. The USPS website Click-N-Ship process will prompt you for billing and shipping address information. Once finished, print your customs forms.
Seal your box with tape. I like to make sure all seams are sealed nicely to avoid damage in transit. Place your custom form into the clear sleeve with adhesive backing. Peel the paper off the back and stick the sleeve on the box above the area that has the name and address of your recipient.
And there you have it….a box, ready to ship 🙂
Shipping options also vary.
- You can take your box into a USPS location and ship from there.
This option is easy, but keep in mind the post office hours can be difficult if you have other things going on during the day.
- You can schedule a Pick-Up
I am never able to make it to a USPS location before it closes because of my work hours, but there’s a great solution for this problem!
On the USPS website, you can schedule a pick up for your box through one of two options. With the first option (which I use) you can schedule a pick up with normal mail delivery. This means that the mail person can take your box when they drop off the mail that day. I usually ship mine from work because I know my box is secure.
You can also choose to leave your box where your home mail gets picked up. (I don’t do this because I’m always afraid my box might get stolen.)
You can also schedule a pick up by choosing a specific time and date, but this requires an extra charge.
So ship that baby off!
The best part about sending the Priority Mail boxes is that you can get the tracking updates emailed or text to your phone.
I hope this gives some insight and helps with any package projects! Please feel free to comment with any questions or if you have some tips of your own!