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Cat's Help on Packing & Shipping PDF Print E-mail

Hey there! Let me start by introducing myself. My name is Cat, of Cat's Pajamas. I am by no means an expert, but I've mailed hundreds (yes, really) of packages to The Husband and our squadron while on deployments. I'm going to help out a little by giving a few tips for what to send and instructions for those pesky customs forms that seem to be such a bother...

Lets start with your package itself.
My greatest success is found when using one of those cheap Ziplock Snap and Seal containers that measure about 12" x 6" x 4". Line the bottom of the container with 2-3 sheets of folded paper towels or napkins. Inside the fold that is going to be closest to the cookies, tuck a few pieces of apple peel. This is an old throwback to the days when Granddad was fighting in WWII and my grandmama would send goodies to him. I've tried the bread before and have received reports from "over there" that the bread has molded. Of course, that doesn't stop the men from eating what's under the molded bread... but let's try and prevent that from happening. Mmm, kay? We wouldn't want all your selfless, hard work to go to waste! Layer the cookies in a single layer, take another paper towel, fold it in half and tuck another little apple peel into the fold, repeat until you get to the top. At the top fold another 2-3 paper towels, again with a small piece of apple peel in the fold closest to the cookies. Tape the container shut, these boxes get thrown... so if you go through the paper towel trick and then tape the container shut, you're cookies are pretty much guaranteed to arrive safely.
On to cookies:
Make a cookie that makes you think of home. They don't need to be fancy: just simple, sweet and home baked. The JarHead Brother prefers chocolate chip, along with most of the guys in his MEU. I mail all sorts of cookies to The Husband, as I don't want him to get bored. I tend to sway away from hard, crunchy cookies because the cookies loose a little oomph when mailed already. So- very simply, make a cookie that when you smell it... you think "home." Oh! and use real butter if you can afford it.
If you're interested in filling a box of just plain old goodies here are a few suggestions:
Granola, home made or purchased
Trail mix
Packaged tuna
Candy, things like Sweet Tarts, Mentos, Skittles, etc. (chocolate and gummies will melt)
BEEF Jerky (absolutely NO pork products)
Canned foods (no PORK and beans though)
Crystal Light or Kool-Aide single serving packets
If you have questions about something you'd like to send and you're not sure about it... email me at cats (dot) pajamas08 (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll help you out.
Finally, that pesky customs form the Post Office likes to confuse us with...
Here's the form...
In Section 1, Sender's Information: fill out your own information. You need to put your real name and address in that box because the Post Office will require you to sign the form.
In Section 2, Recipient Information: fill in the destination.
First line is the name of of the person or unit/squadron you're shipping to.
Second line is the funny little unit label and box number.
Third line is where the APO, FPO, etc. goes along with the zip code.
MSgt Gomer Pyle -- person, unit or squadron
CMR 123, Box 456 -- unit code, squadron code and box number
APO, AE 12345 -- this is the city/state/zip for the military installation it goes to
"AA" stands for Armed Forces America (meaning they're stateside)
"AE" stands for Armed Forces Europe (meaning they're stationed in Europe)
"AP" stands for Armed Forces Pacific (meaning they're stationed in the Pacific)
In Section 3, Contents: list the contents of your package (the whole box if you put more than cookies in there) It doesn't have to be detailed, you can fill the box with cookies, candy, postcards, etc and simply state on the form: Homemade Cookies, Candy, Postcard. You don't have to individually list these items... just a general "tada!" of what's to be expected. If you don't fill this out (I'd be surprised if the mail clerk would let you go) they'll have to open and inspect the box. You don't want this to happen because it can delay the delivery of your box upwards of months.
Check Airmail/Priority
Check Gift
In Section 4, Quantity/Weight: You don't have to list 31 cookies, 22 mints, 1 chapstick. I usually just leave this blank and they don't mind. The mail clerk will fill in the weight on the bottom of the form, so don't bother yourself with the weight either.
In Section 5, Value: If you purchased items to go into your box, just write down what you spent.
In Section 6, Total Value: Just add up section 5. I usually declare about $15. Anything over $500 they'll ask you to purchase insurance.
In Section 7, Senders Request: Check the box that you want. I usually check "Treat as Abandoned" because there's usually just goodies in there and I don't necessarily need them back. If you want your box returned to you if your buddy/unit for some reason cannot accept it, simply check "return to sender," you'll be charged for return postage though.
Sign and Date the bottom.
It's simple. I promise. I usually grab a pile of customs forms at the post office and fill them out at home because I'm a Type A who has to have all my things together. If you want to fill it out at the post office, or online... feel free.
Occasionally, I've been asked to fill out a little green form (it's about 3"x 3") but not always. This is the same information as what goes on the other form... just not as much info is required. The green form is not used in lieu of that train wreck above, but in addition to.
Some important things to note:
The men over there really want a connection to home, meaning the States. Grab a couple postcards from your local city/state. Drop a line or two on the back of the postcard, maybe write your web address so the soldier/airmen/marine/seaman can check up on you and drop you a thank you. They like to say thanks. You can always write a few lines about yourself, why you felt compelled to send them cookies or just say thanks for their service.
**Please, please, please do not send pork products (pork won't make it there, as this is an insult to the country these men are probably in).
I hope this helps! If you have questions, please don't hesitate to ask me. I'd be more than happy to help. Thanks for doing this for our men and women. You just don't know how this touches their hearts.
~ Cat Pajamas

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