When you’re far apart from your sweetie because of deployment, a care package is a great way to ship your love overseas! We compiled a list of 12 deployment gift ideas that spouses and family members can give to their loved one stationed overseas. We also list down things you should avoid giving as deployment gifts.
What To Avoid in a Deployment Care Package
Before we dive into things to definitely pack, it’s important to know what items to cross off your to-buy list.
There are some big categories to avoid when gift-giving for a military deployment:
- Alcohol: do not send booze, beer, spirits, liquor or hooch to your loved one on deployment. First, its illegal to ship alcohol in the mail. Second, alcohol is generally frowned upon when on deployment except in very limited circumstances. Third, some of the locations your loved one may be deployed might actually have bans on alcohol for religious reasons.
- Weapons: similar to alcohol, the USPS generally discourages people from sending weapons in the mail. Many weapons, like mace or firearms, require licenses to carry. Third, your loved one likely has access to weapons, for official purposes only, while deployed. They don’t need more.
- Illegal Substances: if it’s illegal to buy, sell, possess or use a substance in the US, then it’s not a great idea to send it in a care package. That includes substances that are sold in gummy candy form or which are incorporated into baked goods. Your soldier gets regular drug tests that they cannot fail. So keep your gifts drug-free!
- Things that Melt: gummies, chocolates, candles and other things that melt in high temperatures should be generally avoided unless they are carefully packed. No one wants melted chocolate bars all over their new white socks.
- Breakable Things: unless your gift is carefully wrapped, stick to items that are fairly sturdy. Much like melted chocolate, glass shards are not a pleasant surprise.
- Pork: due to the high deployment rate to predominantly Muslim countries over the past 20 years, care packages should avoid pork products in order to respect the religious beliefs of those nations.
If you avoid these 6 categories, you should generally be in the clear. When in doubt, leave it out!
Personalize What You Give
Just like your soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, every deployment care package will be different. Knowing your person in the military will help you personalize a great gift just for them!
Ultimately, the goals of sending a gift to a deployed service member is to share encouragement and love. We love military care package ideas that will help those deployed stay uplifted and mission focused!
Send Love with Family Care Packages
Send a care package from the whole family! Having the kids get involved will help make it more special for their deployed parent, aunt, uncle or grandparent.
Encourage the kids to draw pictures or write cards to include in the care package. Then pack in small items and little luxuries that you know your loved one will enjoy.
Consider these little luxuries for deployment:
- non-chocolate candies that don’t melt
- fancy bar soap
- lip balm
- Kindle gift cards
- luxurious shampoo or conditioner
Spiritual Items to Send on Deployment
Keeping the faith can be challenging on deployment. Your loved one may not be able to access regular religious services or participate in fellowship groups. But you can curate an awesome faith on deployment gift package that will help them focus and stay hopeful.
Spiritual and religious gifts include:
- a pocket copy of their religious text
- a code for a digital text study
- small religious items, like a saint medallion or prayer beads
- videos of you or the kids praying so you can worship “together”
- a letter from their spiritual leader at home
Knowing that the folks back home are keeping you in their prayers can be a huge boost for someone on deployment.
Funny Gifts to Keep Them Laughing
Honestly, sometimes you just need a good laugh. Curating a deployment gift to give someone the giggles can be a hoot for you on the home front, too!
Some hilarious (or at least, amusing) gift ideas include:
- whoopee cushions
- toilet spray for before they go
- funny socks or slippers for their down time
- scratch & sniff stickers
- funny movies
Really, packing a box full of funny things truly does depend on what makes your person crack up. However, it’s always a little bit silly to add in fake bugs, spider or snakes.
Favorite Deployment Care Package Food & Snack Items
Nothing beats home cooking, especially when your loved one is existing on MREs (meals ready to eat) or chow hall food for weeks at a time. Pack a box full of special food items they love or things to add a little spice to their plate. Even though they have access to food, having ways to mix it up or personalize can really help keep morale high in the ranks.
Try these food ideas for a deployment care package:
- hot sauce
- flavored salt or seasonings
- a favorite drink mix, like Nuun
- beef jerky or turkey jerky
- ketchup and mustard
- chips, pretzels or other snack items
- protein bars
- protein powders
Personal Care & Hygiene Items They Need
Showers could be few and far between on deployment. And laundry facilities might be nonexistent. You, however, can send a little relief in your next care package! These are necessities, yes, but when you’re far from home it can be hard to get even the basics.
Stuff the box with these items to keep your loved one smelling fresh and clean:
- bar soap
- solid shampoo and conditioner
- dry shampoo powder
- baby wipes
- toothpaste or toothpaste tablets
- new toothbrushes
- fabric refresher
- hand sanitizer
- feminine toiletries
- foot powder
- new socks
- fresh underwear
Items to Send a Touch of Home on Deployment
Sometimes, the things you miss the most on deployment are the little touches from home. Build an awesome gift that includes all of those special everyday items. Even when your person is bunking down in a tent, having something that feels like home can help keep spirits bright.
- super soft pillows
- silky or cooling pillowcases
- a soft blanket
- new sheets
- fabric spray
- pictures and photos
Clothing Care Packages for Deployment
To be honest, your person on deployment isn’t going to need much in the way of clothing. They’ll be in uniform on the daily. And the only time they’ll be out of uniform will be when they’re sleeping or exercising. But you can still keep their limited wardrobe looking fresh.
Clothing care package essentials:
- flip flops or shower shoes
- new PT shirts
- boot socks
Oh, and if your loved one is promoted while deployed, sneak a few extra rank insignia into that next care package. Knowing you’re celebrating with them from the home front will make the moment even more special.
Care Package Ideas to Keep Them Entertained on Deployment
Even though your military loved one will be go-go-go while deployed, there will still be moments of downtime. Send over a thoughtful gift to help them stay occupied and engaged even when the mission hits pause.
You might think about packing:
- an e-reader
- gift cards for ebooks
- slim paperback books
- puzzle books
- small jigsaw puzzles
- travel sized board games
- decks of cards
- pre-stamped envelopes with stationary and pens (enough to share with the rest of unit, too!)
Trading books and playing games together can also help build unit morale!
Care Packages to Keep the Romance Alive
Distance can make the heart grow fonder, but only with a little effort. Keep the flame burning bright with thoughtful gifts straight from the heart.
Romantic gift ideas include:
- letters to “open when”
- photos of the two of you
- gift cards for ebooks to read together
- romance challenges, like Love Dare
- “I love you because” book that you’ve already filled out
It’s definitely not easy to stay connected, especially during a stressful deployment. And while it might be tempting to get a little R-rated with your care package items, please skip those racy photos or videos. Keep things PG-13.
With Love, From Mom
So many care package ideas lists are focused on military spouses, but military moms love to send gifts overseas, too! Knowing that Mom (and Dad) are back home thinking about you can help deployed troops get over the rough patches more easily.
If you’re sending a care package to your deployed child, you might want to pack:
- childhood photos
- letters to “open when”
- favorite (non-perishable) snacks
- notes from other family members
- small tokens of affection with links to favorite memories growing up
Jewelry on Deployment
Okay, huge caveat: do not send any expensive, valuable or that might impeded the mission to someone deployed overseas.
Here’s why you want to avoid jewelry gifts:
- it might get stolen
- it might get lost
- rings could get stuck and cause an injury – de-gloving is a real and dangerous injury
- bracelets could get stuck and cause an injury
Now, if jewelry is still on your “must send” list, you might want to consider these options:
- silicon rings that flex
- new chains for dog tags
- silicon or rubber bracelets
Mostly, if you’re sending jewelry, it should be something that can be broken or lost without a second thought but that carries meaning.
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Meg Flanagan is a teacher, blogger and military spouse. She owns Meg Flanagan Education Solutions, an education advocacy service dedicated to serving families on the K-12 journey. You can find Meg on Facebook. Meg is also available as a freelance writer and personal education advocate!