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A+ Care Packages
Prepack items properly in a storage box so they arrive intact. Put magazines in a clear container and food in Premier Containers.

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Entertaining Solutions
A+ Care Packages
It's always a welcome surprise to get something personal in the mail. Here are a few tips for sending a care package to someone you love.

Care packages show loved ones you’re thinking of them, no matter how far away they may be. Whether at college, studying or working abroad, serving overseas or just living in another city, re-creating a little bit of home in a box is an easy and delightful way to send your love.

Keep it personal
When gathering contents for a care package, think of treats for all the senses. For example, you might include some favorite hometown snacks, CDs (burn a personal mix), photos, paperback books and magazines, stationery, and scented toiletries. In particular, look for things the recipient might not be able to easily find or afford to buy themselves.

Use dual-purpose packaging
Put homemade cookies or other goodies in reusable food containers; choose ones that store efficiently if the recipient has limited space. Not only does such packaging protect what’s inside and prevent scent transfer (so brownies don’t end up smelling like deodorant soap), it gives the recipient an added gift—and reduces waste, too. Pack everything inside a plastic storage bin (one more bonus for the recipient) before placing in the shipping box. Tuck bubble wrap or crumpled newspaper into the gaps to keep items from shifting around.

Get everything ship shape
It sounds basic, but it is important to send a care package in a sturdy cardboard box (if you’re reusing one, be sure to remove or cover any old labels that could confuse the post office) and secure it well with packing tape (not masking tape). Print the address neatly—legibility issues are surprisingly common and can slow delivery or cause a package to be lost or returned. When shipping overseas, be specific when filling out customs forms and avoid the generic term “gift items.”

Parcel post is a good value for most packages up to 70 pounds if they don’t need to get there in a hurry (domestic delivery can take up to three weeks). Priority Mail offers fast, trackable service averaging one to three days (though it can take up to five), but costs more. Visit www.usps.gov for details on delivery options and rates.

SENDING SUPPORT TO THE TROOPS

Mailing a care package to military personnel requires extra consideration.

The United States Postal Service offers a military kit containing Priority Mail materials (boxes, labels and tape) as well as customs forms for mailing packages overseas. Call 1-800-610-8734 to order the free kit (press 1 for "Express Mail, Priority Mail or Global Express").

Avoid sending expensive items. Unfortunately, mail theft is an ongoing issue. Also, keep packages under 10 pounds to ensure faster delivery (large packages are also a target for thieves).