Today is the official start of the holiday season and we can’t wait to celebrate.  For us here at Great Plains Communications, that means decking the halls, wrapping the cubicles, and opening registration for our Support Our Troops Program.

Every year, we help loved ones provide a little piece of home for soldiers serving overseas.  You can find full program requirements here.  Of course, the free shipping label is just part of that process. Below we have tips and tricks to make the most out of your care package.

First, it’s important to know what you can and can’t send overseas.  While items such as explosives may seem pretty obvious, it’s important to note that this category also includes lighters.

Additional items that can’t make the trip include:

  • Aerosols
  • Air bags
  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Ammunition
  • Cigarettes
  • Dry Ice
  • Explosives (while this seems a bit obvious, lighters and Zippos fall under the category of “explosives”)
  • Fresh Fruits & Vegetables
  • Gasoline
  • Nail Polish
  • Perfumes containing alcohol

Surprisingly you can send the following:

  • Lithium Batteries
  • Cigars
  • Medical Devices
  • Medicine or Drugs

Each country has their own rules and regulations so before sending your package, make sure you check to make sure that everything you send follows their individual policy.

Now that you know what you are allowed to ship, let’s talk about what is best to ship.  Clean socks are a perennial favorite.  So are name brands of a favorite candy, soap or even music that troops can’t get overseas.  Sentimental favorites include mom’s cookies and photos.

If you send something fragile, make sure that it is properly wrapped in bubble wrap or packing material.  The care package will be shipped halfway around the globe and that means they’ll be a lot of opportunities for damage.  In fact, it’s a good idea to reinforce the box with packing tape at the corners and along any seam.  Also, make sure to wrap anything that could be hurt by liquid in a waterproof casing.  Ziplocs will suffice in most cases.

Be sure to check the weight of your packages. You cannot send a package that weighs over 70 pounds. Again, be sure to check any weight restrictions that are country specific. You may need a customs form for your package. Check USPS.com to see if your package requires one. If it does, you can print the form directly from their website.

Speaking of customs, make sure that you give your package plenty of time to make it to the military base.  At least three weeks is normally needed to make sure a package gets there.  The holiday season can delay mail times even further.  Luckily, the November 1st start date gives you plenty of time.

Finally, it’s important to make sure that the package is mailed correctly. The Support Our Troops program provides labels for approved military addresses that differ slightly from residential addresses here in the US. Here’s an example of a proper senders address:

CPT JOHN DOE

UNIT 2050 BOX 4190

APO AP 96278-2050

We’ll be sharing more ideas and tips as Christmas draws nearer.  If you have a standout gift you are sending this year, let us know in the comments section below!

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