Unless you are brand new to this military lifestyle you know the power of a great care package.

Heck, even if you are new to the game, I bet you still know how much fun it is to get an honest-to-goodness piece of snail mail that isn’t a bill!

So put yourself in your spouses boots for a moment and think about the impact that one little box has when it arrives to whatever floating city or foreign port they might be in at the moment.

The words “MAIL CALL” have a way of making even the most cynical person perk up. If you need some help creating one of these boxes of joy this fall I have a few tips for you. (pay attention these these holiday care package deadlines!)

1. Embrace the Theme!

I don’t care if your husband is the biggest, baddest, mean muggin’ Marine on the post, when he opens a box that says “Let’s ‘fall’ in love again” and it is full of autumn colors, leaves that you’ve written love notes on, pumpkin pie flavored anything, and hand turkeys drawn by your kids, he will melt like Olaf in the summer.

Female servicemembers might appreciate the cheese of themed boxes more than the men, but don’t let that tough exterior fool you. I watched many a Sailor show off his themed care package because it meant he could brag about how much someone back home loved him. And even the ones that weren’t bragging knew that all the effort it took to come up with the theme and put together the box was their spouses way of showing their support from the states.

This time of year is perfect for themed boxes too! You could stick to a general fall theme. Or you can play up your favorite part of the season. For your “perfect pumpkin” go all out with the pumpkin spice. Include air fresheners, snacks, and instant coffee that will remind your spouse of pumpkin carving and fall walks.

Or maybe to you fall means apple picking and cider by a bonfire. Create a box that tells your spouse they are still the “apple of your eye.”

If Halloween is your thing, consider sending one these sCare packages.

And we can’t forget that Thanksgiving is quickly approaching. Why not figure out how to do a feast in a box? While you can’t exactly ship a whole turkey, you can send turkey jerky, canned cranberry sauce, and other non-perishable items that can help your spouse feel just a little bit more at home on deployment.

2. Ship Smartly!

Believe it or not, the holidays are going to be here before we know it!

So while there is still time to get those perfect fall boxes out in the mail, it is also time to start thinking about preparing to ship off the boxes from Santa. The USPS has already published their list of care package shipping dates to ensure that packages will get to your loved ones in time for the holidays.

However, and this is a big deal for some people, these dates are not 100% perfect. I can tell you from experience that I received packages on deployment that were postmarked in October and did not arrive to us until January.

The USPS and other state side shipping services do everything they can to get mail out on time and to the troops as fast as possible.

But once it hits the overseas postal systems, base post offices, and military sorting departments it can, and often does, slow the process down. If you get a tracking number from the USPS, you need to understand that it only goes up until the package reaches the FPO or APO location. It does not track all the way to an aircraft carrier in the middle of the gulf.

Try not to get upset when a package takes a little longer than you expected. Like with all other frustrating part of the military life, this is just one more thing to get use to and learn how to adapt to.

On top of understanding shipping timelines, it is vital that you insure any package that has anything important in it.

On our deployment, the week before Christmas we had a huge shipment of mail arrive. As it was being transferred from the supply ship to our carrier two pallets of mail, almost two tons, fell overboard.

Right into the water. Splash!

And once it was over the side, there was no way to get it back. That mail was in boxes and in mailing bags so there was no way to figure out who was missing packages, whose mail had been lost, or what exactly had gone over. The best we could do was to email family members that had sent packages and get in contact with companies we ordered things from and see what could be done to replace lost goods. If you have your mail insured, even if your packages are lost in the abyss of the postal service, you have a means for getting back some of what you spent on care packages.

3. Remember Your Friends.

I know we are all quick to send off packages to our loved ones when they are gone. I even sent monthly packages to a close friend who was deployed because I remembered how bad the food was on the carrier…

There is one more set of people you might want to include on your care package list.

Your best friends!

These are the people that are there for you when your spouse is gone. They bring wine, watch your kids, make condolence casseroles, answer 2am phone calls, and are the strength that keeps you going on your worst days. Why not let them know just how much they mean to you with a care package?

My best friend and I send each other packages a couple times a year. I know that she is obsessed with all things pumpkin spice, so this time of year I put together a little something just to kickstart the obsession. And when I got engaged, she packed up every wedding magazine she could find to get me started on the path to perfect planning. These days when we check the mail it’s more often than not bills or junk mail so why not surprise your friends with something to make them smile? Who knows, it just might prompt them to do the same and before long this great chain of love is being delivered, one box at a time.

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