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What Not to Send in a Military Care Package? Think to Know

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

what not to send in a military care package

If you are a spouse or dependent of a military member and want to show him/her a bit of your support by sending a military care package. It is a nice way to stay connected. However, if you send the wrong items in a military package, you do more harm than good. So, let this guide on what not to send in a military care package guide you.

Besides avoiding prohibited items such as drugs, alcohol, aerosols, etc., there are many things you need to know about to deliver the most suitable care packages. We will provide information on military care packages rules as well as suggestions on items you should include.

To prepare the best military care package, read this until the very end!

3 Things to Exclude in a Military Care Package


1. Big Things

There is little space in the military. So, unlike other gift-giving occasions, you need to think small while packing a military care set. Both items inside and the set itself should be small.

2. Prohibited Things

There are items that are a big no-no in the military. Therefore, you absolutely cannot send these in your military care package: alcohol, carbonated drinks, cigarettes, drugs/narcotics, fireworks, explosives, flammable items, lithium batteries, pornographic images, byproducts, etc. These are not prohibited by the military.

However, there are also restrictions imposed by the postal service that you should keep in mind: no aerosols, airbags, dry ice, fresh fruits and vegetables, nail polish, perfume,…

If you send items that are on the restrictions list, your entire care package can be confiscated, and your efforts will be wasted. So, it is very crucial that you do not overlook this.

Note: For a complete list of the things you cannot send to your service member, go to this link and put in your service member’s five-digit zip code. It is especially important to consult regulations and restrictions if you are sending a military care package overseas.

3. Perishable Goods

Food items are always welcomed. However, it is better to go with snacks in jars or cans, candies that do not melt, and frosting-free desserts for “no-frills” eating. Other recommended items are beef jerky, trail mixes, cookies, and crackers. When looking for these in the supermarket aisles, make sure you grab well-packaged ones. Remember: Delivery is not always seamless.

While it would be lovely to send your homemade baked goods, they can arrive spoiled or stale. Then, your military recipient will have to spare extra time and effort to deal with them. Thus, help them avoid the hassle.

Top Tip: You should also avoid sending high-moisture goods because they are susceptible to mold and mildew.

Other DON’Ts to Keep in Mind

There are a few other DON’Ts that you need to remember while preparing your military care package:

  • Do not overstuff: Referring back to the first thing(s) to exclude in a military care set, an overstuffed box is big and bulky—very difficult to handle and poses an inconvenience for the recipient.
  • Do not mix non-food items and food items: Sometimes the recipient will slowly use up the packed items from top to bottom. If they see non-food items on top, they will likely assume that the rest of the box are also non-food items. Any food items at the bottom may spoil or become stale. They can also become an ant, mold, or mildew problem.
  • Do not pack food items in glass containers: We have touched upon this earlier. While you need well-packed items, like ones in jars, avoid glass ones because they can break during the delivery process. If there are shards in the box, the recipient going through the box may be injured.
  • Do not use packing boxes labelled with a prohibited substance of “Packing Peanuts”: This may cause it to be confiscated at the postal service, and your package will never be delivered to the service member. Obviously, you don’t want to waste your time and effort.

4 Things to Include in a Military Care Package


1. Content List

Include a list with all the items you have or will pack in the care set. It is useful in case the pack is broken or spilled during delivery. The mail handlers will not miss any items when repacking your set.

2. Toiletries

Toiletries are necessities. Everyone, including military members, needs them. So, you cannot go wrong with them! Common toiletries to pack are toothbrushes, toothpastes, shaving lotions, shampoos, wipes, sunscreens, foot powders, deodorants or body sprays, q-tips, etc.

Note: For items that are prone to spillage, secure them in a Zip-lock bag before you pack your care set. It takes a bit more time and effort, but as they say: better safe than sorry!

3. Entertainment

Military members still have some free time. Therefore, it is a good idea to send them several items for entertainment. Examples are books, magazines, DVDs, cards, crossword puzzles,… However, make sure that there is no inappropriate content in the items that you send. Avoid adult content and religious content.

4. Personalized Items

A military care package is not complete with personalized items. Handwritten letters, cards, or drawings can put a permanent smile on your service member’s face. Make sure you put your heart into these personalized items and pack them safely. After all, you would want them to make it to your service member’s hands.

Top Tip: Photographs with handwritten notes on the back are the best!

Furthermore, you can find other care packages for military ideas here!

Other DOs to Keep in Mind

1. Fill out the customs form

You will need to fill out a customs form if you are sending the care package overseas. It is very important that you do this correctly so the package is delivered properly to your service member.

The general information that you will need to provide are

  • Name and rank
  • Unit information
  • Address
  • Zip code

For the address, make sure you use your service member’s complete FPO or APO details.

2. Check the size restrictions

If you send a package that is bigger than the accepted limits, then it will not be delivered to your service member. Therefore, this is a step that you cannot skip. Your package cannot exceed 108 inches in circumference, which is the total width and total length all the way around. However, some units will have other specific restrictions about the size of packages. Thus, it is best to contact and consult your service member’s unit for details.

Note: Shoebox sizes are the safest bets. Or, you can use Priority Mailboxes at the Post Office. Use the 4 or 7 sizes.

3. Number your packages

If you are sending more than one package, make sure you number each of them. Since packages do not always arrive in order, this will help your service member navigate the packages. It will also tell the service member that there are other packages on the way.

Before you leave, here is a Youtube video on 17 Things to Pack in a Military Care Package. For inspiration, consider checking it out!


Now, you know what not to send in a military care package. The information that we have provided above is general, so it should apply to all military branches. So, you can look at it as navy care package rules and navy care package restrictions as well. Hopefully, this will help you pack the best military care package for your member in service. Good luck, and do not forget to share your experience with us in the comments once you have sent your care package!

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