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151 Awesome Items for Your Next Care Package

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It’s time to fill that care package!

A common thread I hear from military spouses and significant others: I’m at a loss for what to send! I don’t know what to send my boyfriend (or girlfriend). I’m totally lost!

I get it– it can be intimidating, especially with Pinterest and Instagram perfect ideas scrolling on your phone. Sometimes it can be overwhelming too; a blank box can often feel like a blank canvas. And what you are hoping to be a care package for a boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife seems overwhelming instead of joyful.

Don’t worry. I’ve got you.

A bunch of care package ideas for you

Here’s a list of more than 150 care package ideas to choose from and it’s a great jumping-off point if you’re not sure how to get started. This list is broad and could be used for anyone sending a care package– to a college student, military personnel, or a missionary– so make sure that you know what guidelines and restrictions you are shipping under.

Also remember– you know your recipient best! Ask them what they want and need– their suggestions will always be better than a generic list. (No matter how awesome that list is!)

Great suggestions and ideas for military care packages. Pin to save for the next deployment!

And happy, happy shopping, filling, and sending!

Care Package Ideas: Self-care and beauty supplies

Military Care Package Tip

If you have contact with your loved one, it’s best to check with them to see what they need and what they can store. During some deployments, you might find that your loved one has access to the supplies they need and want through a well-stocked USO or Exchange. During other deployments, your loved one might be in leaner circumstances and be far more dependent on your care package shipments.

College Student Care Package Tip

Before your college student leaves for school, ask them to write down their favorite scents and brands of self-care products. This list will come in handy for you as you shop (and make it super easy to know that your money and time are being well-spent). Be sure to check-in with them every so often in case their tastes have changed. If your college student can’t easily get off campus or doesn’t have access to shopping, ship these products. Otherwise, consider sending them a gift card to Target or Walmart or putting them on Amazon’s Subscribe & Save subscription service so you’re not spending extra cash on postage and shipping.

Missionary Care Package Tip

Similar to care packages for the military, make sure that the missionary you’re sending to needs the things you’re sending… and that you’re sending things they will actually use (or share). If they’re able to easily purchase supplies they need, consider sending funds since their local purchases will help them get to know the people in the community they’re serving and will also give them the opportunity to support the local economy.

If you’re looking themed care package ideas, check out these suggestions for a hygiene package!

Care Package Ideas: Gifts and comforts

No care package is complete without some fun surprises that make home feel a little closer for your loved one. Creature comforts and homey touches don’t have to be expensive, bulky splurges. So many of these items are inexpensive, homemade, and small– tucked into the top or side of a box.

Military Care Package Tip

Military mail can often be delayed, depending where your loved one is serving and how they are serving. If you’re sending an anniversary or birthday care package full of mementoes and fun reminders of home, make sure you’re generally shipping 21-30 days ahead of time. (So if you’re sending a Halloween care package for October 31, pop it in the mail around October 1-7.) For Christmas and holiday care packages, check with the United States Postal Service to see their recommendations for the season.

If your loved one is serving in a very remote area, learn about the expectations and best practices before they leave. How often are they expected to get mail service? What kinds of things will they need that they might not on other deployments? Are there restrictions particular to their deployment? You may have to get creative with what you send and how you send it.

College Student Care Package Tip

Keep in mind that you’re sending a care package to a college student who (most likely) lives with someone. Depending on your relationship with your college student, you’ll want to be careful of what information you divulge through the kinds of gifts you send. For example, Mom, you should probably not send photos of naked baby pictures. For many students, college is a time of learning more about themselves and meeting peers. Make sure that you’re not hampering that with embarrassing gifts.

You also want to make sure that you’re keeping the school’s schedule in mind. When are breaks and finals weeks? You don’t want your care package to sit in the mail room for weeks (or even months).

Missionary Care Package Tip

Make sure you know the rules that your missionary is serving under. Depending on what they’ve agreed to abide by, they may be living a very spartan life without many creature comforts. If you’re able to, ask before they leave. If you’re not able to contact them directly while they’re serving or do some digging on your own online or through their religious group so that you know what you can and can’t send in a missionary care package, especially when it comes to gifts.

  • Physical pictures
  • USB drive with photos and videos
  • Small photo album (Or try your hand at a photo-a-day journal!)
  • Encouragement book
  • Letters/notes
  • To-go insulated coffee mug
  • Envelopes
  • Journals
  • Notebooks
  • Writing utensils
  • Pencil sharpeners
  • Stationary
  • Tablets
  • Hand/feet warmers
  • Hot water bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Gift cards
  • Calendar (You could make your own!)
  • A set of sturdy, reusable cutlery
  • Small packets of washing detergent
  • Flashlights
  • Desk fan
  • Mesh laundry bag
  • Devotional
  • Religious texts (Or include your own favorite verses and prayers. Here are some Bible verse suggestions if you are Christian.)
  • Fleece pullover

Care Package Ideas: Entertainment and athletics

Even during deployment, there is some downtime. Depending on the interests of your loved one, where they’re deployed, and storage they have access to, some, all, or none of these suggestions might be appropriate for them. Some of these items can be sent digitally, too, if your loved one has access to the internet.

Military Care Package Tip

Ideally, you might want to know a little bit about what your loved one’s deployment situation is like. Some entertainment and sports items might just be completely inappropriate or unusable depending where they are. They might also have access to some of the items already mentioned, so you’ll want to check. If you’re not sure, make sure that the things you send are universally usable (like a Sudoku book) instead of something that might not be (like posters).

College Student Care Package Tip

It’s possible that college students can figure out how to entertain themselves no matter where they are or what they’re doing. But they’re usually pretty short on cash. Consider sending a mini care package with a gift card or a few bucks to help them plan the next way they’re going to blow off steam.

Missionary Care Package Tip

Again, you’ll want to know what their life and rules are for serving are. Pay particular attention to magazines, books, and posters if you’re sending these. Are the pictures and topics following allowable guidelines? Even if you’re using your judgment, the organization your missionary is working with may have very strict stipulations. Know them before you send so your care package isn’t putting your missionary in an awkward position.

  • Batteries
  • Tennis balls
  • Hacky sacks
  • DVDs
  • Card games
  • Puzzles
  • Sudoku/Crossword/Puzzle books
  • Booklight
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Sneakers
  • Other sports equipment
  • Cotton socks
  • Under Armour
  • Gel insoles
  • Posters/small room decorations
  • Nerf balls/frisbees
  • Headphones

Care Package Ideas: Food and drink

What is more comforting and wonderful than getting food from someone you love? (My love language is DEFINITELY food.) If you’re making food, you’ll need to be very careful about packaging it so that you’re not accidentally sending a box of mold. That would be awful. Make sure that you know the basics of sending food correctly before you head to the post office. And if you’re ready to take on sending homemade food, you’ll want to try these tried-and-true recipes from military spouses.

Looking for healthy care package ideas? Download this list of 72 health foods that can be shipped in care packages and then check out these suggestions for a healthy care package.

Military Care Package Tip

Military mail can often be slower, which means you can’t always be sure when your recipient will be getting your package. Pay special attention to the foods you’re sending– will they mold fast? Are you sure they’re shelf-stable? Could they melt and create a mess? If you’re afraid your food could be a problem with slower shipping times, make a few swaps:

  • Change out chocolates or other products prone to melting with one of these alternatives. (If you simply must send chocolate, sending it during cooler months is a better option than sending during hot months.)
  • Replace foods that are not shelf-stable with pre-packaged foods or avoid sending food. Sending spices and powdered drinks or water additives (like flavor drops) are always a good option.
  • If you really want to send homemade foods, pick recipes that are dry (or as dry as possible). Think crispy cookies instead of moist cakes.

College Student Care Package Tip

Your college student’s circumstances will determine the kind of foods you’ll send in the care package. If your college student has access to a meal plan, they may not need (or want) certain foods. In these situations, sending homemade or sentimental foods might be a great option for your college student.

If your college student does not have a meal plan, your care package may provide more than a fun surprise– it might help them supplement their food budget. If that’s the case, consider sending them a gift card to Target or Walmart or putting them on Amazon’s Subscribe & Save subscription service for some of their necessities.

Missionary Care Package Tip

Your missionary may not want foods from home as they experience the region and culture they’re serving in. Check in with them first, before you send anything. Similar to the care package tips for military, you’ll want to consider the time shipping will take, the climate you’re shipping to, the ability for your missionary to store the foods you’re sending.

  • Single servings of canned fruit (You can theme your whole package around fruit!)
  • Single servings of canned veggies
  • Beef jerky
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Marshmallow creme
  • Oreos, Nutter Butters– you know, the cookies that could outlast a nuclear winter
  • Cake in a jar
  • Cookies (Use a vacuum sealer, and you’re golden!)
  • Brownies (Ditto about the vacuum sealer!)
  • Single-serving tuna packets
  • Tuna lunch kits
  • Dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • Granola bars (Try this recipe!)
  • Loose granola
  • Homemade nut mixes (Try this recipe!)
  • Crackers
  • Cracker sandwiches
  • 100 calorie snacks
  • Gum (the kind in blister packs keep better!)
  • Mints
  • Hard candy like Lifesavers or Werther’s
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Cereal bars
  • Trail mix
  • Popcorn
  • Healthy bars (protein, power, nutrition) like Clif Bars, Luna Bars, LARA Bars, etc.
  • Ramen noodles
  • Mac ‘n’ cheese in a cup
  • Ravioli, Spaghetti-O’s, etc.
  • Salt and pepper (packets or the shakers– you know what your recipient needs!)
  • Seasoned salt
  • Packets of ketchup, mustard, relish, mayo, etc. (Send these in a sealed Ziploc bag!)
  • Seasoning packets (ranch, Italian, etc.)
  • Spices
  • Dried herbs
  • Fruit snacks/fruit leather
  • Coffee
  • Packets of powdered coffee creamer
  • Packets of sugar/sugar substitutes
  • Single-serving 0 calorie drink mixes
  • Liquid drink and tea mixes (Mio, Lipton’s, etc.)
  • Sports drink mixes
  • Hot chocolate mix
  • Tea bags
  • Lemonade mix
  • Kool-Aid packets
  • Protein powder
  • Tang
  • Iced tea mix
  • Salsa
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Pretzels
  • Pita chips
  • Popcorn chips
  • Cereal

Care Package Ideas: Military items

While your loved one will most likely have access to these items through the Exchange in case they need to replace them during the deployment, it’s always helpful to know what brands and sizes they need in case you might have to send them.

Pro tip: You’ll also want to check with your deployed loved one for other items that they may need; after all, this isn’t an exhaustive list. Every service member will have different items and brands they need or prefer. If your service member has a lot of preferences, ask them to write down a list of items they might need during the deployment, sizes, brands, and other information you might need.

  • Socks for boots
  • Undershirts
  • T-shirts
  • Boot bands
  • Long underwear
  • Knit hats
  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Bootlaces
  • Underwear

Great suggestions and ideas for military care packages. Pin to save for the next deployment!

Looking For More Care Package Tips?  Try These Articles:


39 Responses

  1. You covered a lot of bases on this! Way to go. Sounds like you have sent a few care packages in your day ;)

  2. This is certainly going to be helpful to many spouses saying “hmm what can I put in this week’s box”? I used to have brain fart all the time on different things to send. I will be pinning this!

  3. My husband takes a Pyrex measuring cup with him. I send any microwaveable meals, as well as the laundry detergent pods.

  4. Heya i am for the ffirst time here. I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot.
    I hope to give something back and hepp others like you helped me.

    My bog post: lotto winning number (Lynwood)

  5. I sent otter pops to my boyfriend while in Africa. He has access to a freezer and well.. Who doesn’t love otter pops?!

  6. This is SO helpful! My boyfriend is starting tech school and there are so many ideas for a great first care package. Thank you so much for your help!!

    1. Awesome, Abby! Take a bunch of photos of your care packages and send them to me. I’d love to feature them on the blog!

  7. This are great ideas! I recommend not stating specific locations of loved ones. We want them to be as safe as possible!

  8. I like to theme my care packages, to my husband. My most recent one was health and fitness, so I sent multivitamins, compression gear, protein bars etc. Next one will be Easter (I can only hope the chocolate doesn’t melt on the way over), and the one after that will be for ANZAC day (I’ll send ingredients to make ANZAC biscuits, his replica medals to wear when parading, and a game of Two up.)
    The final one will be a series of memes like the Forrest Gump – “I’m pretty tired…think I’ll go home now” (I think I’ll also need to send an extra suitcase so he can bring home all the stuff I’ve sent while he’s been away.)
    I’ve also done a Chinese New Year theme, “Half way” theme, and Movie night theme. So far, he’s loved them all.

  9. DVD’s are great but when my son decided to join the Navy we started buying movies with the code so they are all on his “cloud.” We also added some of his favorites online so he could watch them over and over. This way he can watch them wherever he is. We can also send him Kindle books as a surprise as long as he has WiFi. This leaves more room in the box for goodies.

  10. I’ve heard that a lot of troops came home from deployments with messed up teeth and gums due to stress and grinding their teeth. My BF just got the night (mouth) guard I sent him – AND HE LOVED IT! Too bad I won’t be there to know if it will also help his snoring …

  11. I didn’t see sleep mask on your list, and wanted to add it to the list of useful items. DreamyThing sells a Contoured Sleep Mask on Amazon.com. A sleep mask can make chemo sessions and hospital stays slightly more tolerable by blocking out bright overhead lights. It’s also great for to use during daytime naps, and for blocking any ambient light at bedtime.

  12. I loved to have the list that you had. It made my shopping so much easyer, since I

    do most of my shopping online!!

  13. Hello! I’ve been following your web site for some time now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas!
    Just wanted to say keep up the excellent work!

  14. Hello,
    I live in France and want to send cookies homemade in my package. I don’t own a vacuum sealer, can I put it in a box for food ?? Will it last enough until it arrives (it might take 14 days to arrive)

    1. Put a piece of bread in with the baked goods and the bread will soak up all the moisture while the goods stay fresh!

    2. You can also close the bag almost all the way across and use a straw to “suck” the air out the bag, it works nearly as well and keeps the cookies from breaking and crumbling!

  15. thank you this really helped me a lot especially cause this is all new to me :/ .

  16. Extremely thorough list! Right now in my area it is Girl Scout Cookie time again. Well my happy body certainly does not need another cookie. And I have a zillion kids coming to the door. Here is what I do. When I moved to this neighborhood some 15 + years ago, I contacted the troop leaders. I buy 1 box of cookies from each girl that comes around. (I save money in my budget for this.). I end up purchasing on average 75 – 100 boxes of cookies. That’s a ton o cookies. And fair to the kids. Then I contacted the local recruiting office and told them I wanted to send all my boxes of cookies to the troops over seas. They were thrilled to bits! So every year I do the same thing. The kids sell cookies and make money and the troops get girl scout cookies from home. A win win for everyone.

  17. I loved your post, it gave me a lot of ideas.
    My mom sent me a care package when i was away from home , it contained a lot of the things a missed the most , like pijamas comfy socks , andyes , my favorite books , pictures amogs others ! }

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  19. Thank you for all the suggestions. Super helpful even for us Brits who are a little clueless on some of the items!

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