7 tips for a “surprise package” to your military person

Keep food safety in mind when sending packages overseas.

Receiving a “surprise” package in the mail is fun for anyone, but it is particularly important for a deployed military person. It is one way to boost their spirits because it shows you are thinking about them. But what to send to them?

The following are seven helpful tips for sending those surprises overseas:

  1. Starting with packaging and shipping time, it takes Priority Mail 10 to14 days to reach the country of destination. It may take even longer before the package reaches his or her hands. Other things to consider are temperature and climate extremes; the unexpected delays; and the potential handling abuse that might occur. Late November or early December would be the time to consider mailing something to your service member a half a world away for the holiday season.
  2. There are size and weight restrictions for packages being mailed overseas. Packages should be less than 108 inches in total circumference (the distance all the way around the package). There may be restrictions to consider such as weight and size, depending on the military service unit. Free Priority Mail boxes are available at the post office. The #4 or #7 size box are good choices.
  3. Put a card inside the box detailing the items in the box. Be sure to include both the recipient’s name and your name on the card. This way if the box breaks apart during shipping the mail handlers know what to repack in the box.
  4. Items that may leak or spill during transit should be enclosed in a heavy-duty plastic zipper-locked bag. The plastic bags can always be re-purposed by your service person.
  5. Use re-usable packaging material. For fragile items, use small packages of tissues; copies of the local newspaper; plastic zipper-lock bags filled with popped popcorn; small beanbag-style stuffed toys (for your service member to give to the local children); or anything that could act as a cushion.
  6. Your service member’s full name, unit, and APO/FPO (Air/Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office) address should be written on the package. In addition to the unit name, the battalion, ship, squadron, platoon, etc. should be included. If there is a 9-digit ZIP code, it is needed as well.
  7. Number the packages and letters because some may take longer to arrive than others. By numbering the letters and packages, your service member will know there are others on their way.

Finally, Michigan State University Extension does not recommend sending perishable food products to warm climates during spring or summer for food safety reasons. Perishable food includes those foods that need to be kept below 40°Fahrenheit for food safety reasons. The reason is these foods will spoil in a dessert environment. The climate heats up quickly between winter and spring in Iraq where the temperature in the mail storage facilities may get over 120 F.

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