1. Call the post office, visit their website (usps.com) or go there in person and request your mailing supplies. The post office offers flat rate priority boxes for free. No matter how much they weigh, it costs $8.10 to mail them. They come in two different sizes. You can also pick up priority tape and custom forms at no charge.
2. Always short on time? You can arrange pick-up of your priority boxes as long as you schedule by 2am on the previous day. How great is that? Visit the usps.com website for details.
3. When you are taping the boxes, there’s no such thing as too much. I sometimes wonder how the soldiers were ever able to get into the ones I sent! Be sure to tape all of the seams and I always run the tape in one continuous stream around the entire box. So far, they have all arrived in tact.
4. Some place stickers underneath the tape across the seams. This makes it easy for the soldier to see if the box has been opened and re-taped. Just be aware that some units do not allow ANY decoration on the outside of the box.
5. Be sure you address the package exactly how the unit instructs. Some units do not allow rank, etc. on their packages. Address them correctly to ensure the delivery is not delayed.
6. Many wonder if priority is the best way to send a package as far as speed. Priority only allows it to get to its final destination in the United States quicker. After that, it is in the military’s hands. Most have said that priority packages take about 2 weeks to arrive where normal parcel post can take four weeks or more.
7. There is much debate on what to put on a customs form. The official answer is to fill it out completely and accurately. Many people are VERY vague on the form in order to guard against theft (yes, it does happen). I know some who list “snacks” and a value of $10 every time no matter what they send in the box. The choice is up to you. Always remember, the package can be insured for a minimal fee.
8. Be sure to check the guidelines for the region your soldier is in. For instance, some areas do not allow pork products. Pornographic materials of any kind are also not allowed. It is permissible to send a bible for personal use but not to send multiple bibles for distribution. Note: This is only a sampling of regulations and not a full list.
9. Be very careful combining hygiene products and food in the same package. Some soldiers have reported opening their package to find all of the food tastes like soap/deodorant even when everything is sealed separately.
10. If anything in your package could possibly leak, bust, etc., be sure to put it in a Ziploc bag. You don’t want the entire package ruined because something leaked.
11. If you are sending pictures or anything that could be damaged if the package got wet, it is a good idea to enclose these in a Ziploc bag as well.
12. Many send the soldier a list of things that they included in the box either in the actual box or in a separate letter so the soldier knows everything arrived in tact. Some also include this list in the box so if it happens to come apart in transit, the mailroom staff knows what was in it.
13. Be creative when sending packages!
14. Send your soldier cards or letter writing materials so he can write home or recognize special days for those in his family. Don’t forget that letter mail from overseas to the U.S. is free for the soldier.
Do you have additional tips? Be sure to let me know!
Stacey Abler is an Army Wife and owner of the website, http://www.marriedtothearmy.com.
In addition, she also operates several Cafepress stores - http://www.cafepress.com/soldierswife for Army families and http://www.cafepress.com/soldierswife2 for Navy, Marine and Air Force families.