Thursday, October 22, 2009

Packing the Perfect Care Package - Part 1

When you are separated from a loved on, a care package can be one way that you show your love and appreciation for that person, even from a distance. If you've got a young adult away at college, a soldier deployed overseas, or a friend in the hospital across the country, you need a way to show them that you are thinking of them, and to a provide for a few of their practical and emotional needs.

This will be a two part post because of all of the information involved, but today I'll be discussing some general tips for packing a good care package.

Packaging Tips
It's a good idea to keep the following in mind to ensure that packages are delivered promptly:
  • The Box: Select a box strong enough to protect the contents and large enough to accommodate cushioning. If reusing a box, cover all previous labels and markings with a heavy black marker or adhesive labels.
  • Cushioning: Cushioning the contents with newspaper is a novel way to send news from home. Styrofoam and bubble wrap are also good choices. Consider popping up a batch of popcorn and placing it in plastic or zip-lock bags - if the box does not contain fragranced toiletries, you have just included another edible treat for your loved one! Close and shake the box. If it rattles, add additional cushioning to keep items from shifting.
  • Batteries: Occasionally, a battery powered item such as a radio or electric razor will turn itself on during shipment. Always remove and wrap the batteries separately.
  • Sealing: Tape the opening of the box and reinforce all seams with 2" wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape – cello tape or other ‘desk-top' tapes are not strong enough to hold the package together. Do not use cord, string or twine as it causes the package to get caught and possibly damaged in sorting equipment.
  • Include a card describing the contents: Occasionally improperly wrapped packages fall apart during shipment. Including a card inside the package that lists the sender's and recipient's addresses along with a description of the contents helps in collecting items that have fallen open during processing.
  • When packing your items, ship toiletries separate from all food items. When the toiletries and food are packed together, the food tastes like soaps or deodorants, even when heavy zip-loc bags are used to separate the items
  • Pack your parcels to withstand temperature fluctuations from –20°C to 30°C, rough handling and a camel sitting on them! If you don’t think your parcel will make it through that, don't send it!
Fun Ideas:
Here are some ideas to help make them extra enjoyable, both to put together and to open!
  • Use a theme for your care packages. Either follow seasonal themes or get creative with entertaining themes like “cocktail party,” “romance,” “motorcycles,” etc.
  • Include light reading suited to the recipient’s tastes. Although there are general magazines available to deployed personnel, material on specific interests like snowboarding, jogging, antique cars, etc. might be interesting too.
  • Newspaper clippings and comics from local newspapers are entertaining and don’t require all the trouble of reading the newspaper.
  • Photos are pleasing and can be inexpensive if you order doubles when you get them developed.
  • Kids’ drawings are always well received and can be mailed in parcels or in letters.
  • Old bed sheets (that don’t need to come home after the tour) can make sleep a little easier. Pack them with a couple of dryer sheets in between the layers to give them a fresh scent!
  • If you're feeling ambitious, write a short note for each day of the tour. Poems and limericks, memories of special moments and short anecdotes about every day life at home will remind the deployed member that he or she is missed - even when there is no mail.
General Food Item Tips:
Before contemplating what food to include in a care package, remember - be practical! For instance, don't send something that your favourite person will either not have the means to prepare -OR- have to carry when travelling.
  • Consider whether or not the food item would arrive in a usable condition. In other words - if it melts, spoils, or can be contaminated, you may want to reconsider the selection.
  • Avoid sending baked goods that might become stale or broken in transit. Grandma’s cookies are mouthwatering when fresh from the oven, but they’ll lose some of their appeal after six weeks.
Later we'll look at some of the food products and toiletries that are most appreciated over there, as well as items that are prohibited or to be avoided.

Attention Canadians:
Canada Post is once again offering their free postal service for family and friends of deployed soldiers, so send out a few Christmas care packages!
The service will run from October 26th-January 15th, 2010 at all Canada Post outlets (proper customs form must be filled out).
Mail intended for Christmas delivery to Canadian Forces personnel serving overseas and using the Belleville address must arrive at Belleville by 20 November 2009!

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