One of the silver linings of my husband’s deployment, of any service member’s deployment really, is sending care packages. The minute I received an address from my FRG, I started assembling everything I’d need for my ‘perfect’ care package. So, I put together a beautiful box filled with the husband’s favorite snacks, spent way too much time decorating it, and eagerly headed to the post office.
Where I waited in line for a half hour….with a one-year-old….yep. And that was only the start of the nightmare that was sending out my first care package.
When I had finally won my point with the postal employee (after calling my FRG leader near tears) and succeeded in sending my box on its way, I decided then and there that fiasco was not to be repeated. Hence, this stress-free guide to mailing care packages was born.
What You’ll Need:
- your Care Package (obviously) – I recommend using one of the Large Flat-Rate Priority boxes you can get at the Post Office fo’ free
- your Service Member’s APO Address – most likely, you’ll receive this information from your FRG but you might also get this straight from your service member (just be sure it’s correct)
- a USPS.com account – if you don’t have one of these yet, visit USPS.com and register. It’s super easy and free of charge.
And that’s it! See, I told you it would be super simple! And, my favorite part? You never have to leave your house.
First, if you prefer to watch things on video, I recorded a video tutorial for you right down below. This tutorial covers everything that’s in the rest of the post, including filling out the Click N Ship form and the customs forms as well as scheduling a pickup, and works well if you want to see how the process works while I’m explaining how you can make sending care packages a breeze!
Step 1: Fill out your Label Information with the USPS Click N’ Ship form
I’m going to assume at this point you already have a USPS account and are logged in and on USPS.com. (Because if you aren’t, you should be.)
First, navigate to “Mail & Ship” at the top of the page. Then click “Click N’ Ship”.
1. Fill in your return address.
If you like, click on “I would like to get tracking notifications” to receive confirmation and tracking. Easy enough, right?
2. Now, we’ll head to your Service Member’s information.
This part is a little tricky but not by much. Your Service Member’s address probably looks something like this:
PFC JOHN DOE
PSC 3 BOX 4120
APO AE 09021
Now, let’s take a look at the form and take this step by step.
First, be sure your ‘Country’ is set to United States if you’re sending your package to an APO/FPO/DPO shipping addresses. I’ve noticed many people will try to use the country their Service Member is currently in but that will send your care package into that country’s mailing network. Not something you want!
First and last name boxes are easy! Just enter your service member’s name in the correct space. You don’t need to include rank.
Alright, the next box we need to worry about is ‘Street Address’. Here is where the entire second line of your service member’s address goes. So in our above example, that would be PSC 3 Box 4120. Don’t worry if your address doesn’t have a box number–sometimes your service member will be assigned a box and sometimes they won’t.
My husband’s address doesn’t include a box number and the postal workers gave both myself and my sister-in-law trouble about it. Don’t worry, though, if you’re sure your address is correct, stick to your guns!
The third line of your service member’s address is where we’ll get the information for the rest of the form. In our example, that’s APO AE 09021.
For ‘City’, you’ll put in APO, or FPO if your service member is in the Navy.
Under ‘State’, there’s a drop-down menu with options like AE, AP, and others. Choose the abbreviation that matches your address. In our case, AE.
And, finally, for zip code, enter the zip code. Ta-da!
3. Fill out the shipping information.
This next part of the form is simple. Enter the date you want to ship out your package in the provided line, choose ‘Shipping Flat Rate’ (if you’re using a Priority Flat Rate box), and enter in your package’s value.
I usually follow Rachel’s advice and choose $30.00 as my package value, just to be safe.
Once you’ve chosen the size of your box, click continue and we’re on the customs forms.
Step 2: Fill out the Customs Information
1. Enter package information
For ‘Contents’, I always choose Gifts and soldier on to the next block.
2. Enter item information.
Alright, so here’s the tedious part, filling out what’s in your care package. If you’re anything like me, that could be anything from a bag of chips to a pack of pens. So if I were adding the toothbrush I used in my example, I’d put ‘toothbrush’ under “Detailed Description, $3.50 for ‘Item Value’, 1 for the ‘Quantity’ and I’d estimate the ‘Weight’ to be 2 oz.
I’m extremely vague when it comes to the items I’ve put in my care package. As I said before, I like to keep the total value of the box at around $30.00 so I usually list snacks and toiletries as my content. Even when I’m sending items that are much more expensive. This might strike some people as dishonest, but, for myself, I would much rather omit the brand new shiny GoPro Hero5 I bought my husband for Christmas from the descriptions list than get my entire box stolen. Remember, the higher the value of the box, the more likely it will disappear on its trip.
Click ‘Continue’ and enter your payment information on the next page. After you’ve printed your label and your care package is ready to ship, it’s on to the next step.
Step 3: Schedule your package pickup
Head back up to ‘Mail & Ship’ at the top of the page. Then click ‘Schedule a Pickup’.
After you fill in your address, click ‘Check Availability’.
For your next option, choose where you will leave your package (front door, on the porch, etc) then specify the time for pickup. I always choose during the regular delivery time because its f-r-e-e! Choose the date for your package pickup and the number of items your carrier needs to pick up + a roundabout weight of your package. then click ‘Schedule a Pickup’.
And, there you have it–sending care packages completely stress-free! The directions might seem like a lot but once you get the hang of the system, it will take you 10 minutes or less to fill everything out and schedule your care package pickup without leaving your desk!
IT’S YOUR TURN:
What is your biggest care package tip?