Wednesday, January 22, 2014

NGR: Your Military Care Package Questions, Answered!

The Navy Girlfriend Report
(NGR)
By: Mindi Clark

 U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet
via Flickr cc
This month I sent my first care package to Japan in the mail. Of course, I found myself reeling with questions and unnecessary concerns about… well, every aspect of putting together and executing a great care package. Every thought from “what is the most cost efficient packing?” to “what can I pack that won’t embarrass him on a ship full of testosterone?” rushed through my head until I finally got the darn thing in the mail.

I spent so much time hunting down “the correct answers” from various sites. In an effort to make it possible to acquire as much info as possible, in one place, and so now that I've done the work, I figure I can make it easier for you. Here’s a breakdown of shipping concerns that I tackled in the last month…

SHIPPING, THE IN’S & OUT’S:

Q: Is it considered domestic or international?
A: Any shipping to a military base is considered domestic.

Q: Do I need to fill out any special paperwork to ship to a base/ship?

A: You do have to fill out a customs form. (This is something I found overwhelming. Don’t take the directions provided with the from too seriously, its stressful. I was not required to fill out the weights of individual items and I was able to combine multiple items per line item section. These are both things that go against the paper instructions but the post office clerk assured me were fine to do. Also, don’t worry about how to properly cram the military mailing address in the provided mailing lines. As my clerk said, “as long as all the information is there, the formatting does not matter.”

Q: Are there any discounts?
A: Yes! The post office has a box that measures 12" x 12" x 5-1/2". It is called the “Priority Mail APO/FPO Flat Rate Box” and costs $14.85, a two dollar discount from domestic shipping for the same size! This is the ONLY flat rate box that gets a discount and seems to be the best deal, it comes with a tracking number and is automatically insured for $50. My post office clerk told me that if I had printed the shipping label myself online that there is a larger (10% off) discount. I have not yet tested this method. 

My favorite: the box comes with fool proof addressing instructions, for those of us unsure of how to properly pen out a military address.

Q: What the heck does APO/FPO mean?
A: Army Post Office and Fleet Post Office. I’m a curious beast and this drove me nuts until I looked it up.

 U.S. Pacific Fleet via Flickr cc
Q: What’s the best way to send baked goods?
A: There are a LOT of opinions about this throughout the depths of the internet and cooking/home-keeping websites. The most consistent information I could find was to put either saran warp cookies in pairs and pack in in air tight container OR layer the cookies in an air tight container with paper towels/coffee filter/whatever between each layer. The “pack a slice of bread with soft cookies to keep them soft” trick seems to hold up well for mail. Also, it seems that it is not a good idea to pack soft cookies with hard cookies in one air tight container because the hard cookies will steal moisture from soft cookies, like a bunch of jerks.  Also, be sure to write "perishable and fragile" on the outside of the box. (I wrote this on all sides and the top, for good measure)

Q: How long does the shipping usually take?
A: Honestly, this is something I have not found a concrete answer to. It seems to me that this is dictated by a NUMBER of factors. If the ship is not currently underway, shipping will be at its fastest, which seems to be around two weeks. From what I have gathered, it seems that during underway the ship will receive mail at the same time it receives supplies shipments. With this in mind a package going out during underway can take up to two months to reach your sailor. If anyone has more educated information on this, please comment! I would love to edit this to be more accurate if the knowledge is out there.

Keep in mind that the package may go through all sorts of climates. If you think something might leak or melt, put it into a Ziploc bag to ensure that nothing tragic happens. Remember, if your box leaks it has the potential of ruining other packages on the same shipment!  So just be smart and considerate when you pack up.

Lastly, the most important thing about putting together your care package is to have fun with it! Don’t let yourself get too caught up in making it “perfect.” He is going to love whatever you send him. Toss in an inside joke, make it sexy, make it loving… Heck, make it all of these things at once!

About Mindi
jaipatoulunivu via flickr cc
I am a 24-year-old Navy Girlfriend who lives in Washington, DC. My background is heavily ingrained in the arts. I have a Bachelor's in Theatre Arts with a focus in technical theatre and management. I perform burlesque as a hobby and have recently started playing with stand-up comedy and figure modeling.
    
I met my Navy Boyfriend last May 2013. In July, he told me that he got orders to Japan starting in late November 2013. In September 2013, we decided to try and "make Japan work." There's a lot of hope in this girl, while also trying to stay grounded in reality. I've got a lot of spunk and have a tendency to be optimistic and honest to a fault.

I will be writing and sharing my entire journey as a Navy Girlfriend experiencing her first deployment here with you on Unhinged & Empowered Navy Wives & Navy Girlfriends! 

       Cheers & Glitter!

       -Mindi

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