Looking for that nearly last minute gift to send to a loved one deployed or at sea? You know that timing is everything so if you’re feeling a bit panicky, don’t! You have at least another week until the sweaty brow, heart attack inducing panic need arise… But there are so many options to get stuff out to far off places in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the sea. (Be warned though that folks at sea may not get holiday gifts on time during the season only because mail is dependent on ships’ movement around the world. I once had a package ordered from Kiehl’s in late November while I was on a carrier in the Far East/Western Pacific…it didn’t arrive until mid January, after it had been on no less than 3 other ships that were with us during one point or another…Jeesh!).
So as I look at last minute gifts for my loved one overseas, here are a few tried and true gifts to send, for the holidays or whenever! I’m splitting some of them up based on gender, so no offense is meant to anyone. Also remember: There’s nothing quite like a personalized care package to make someone’s day.
1. Bath, body and hair products in regular sizes. If you know that person likes a certain scent, patchouli vice rose or lavender, that’s even better. For instance, I love Aveda products and while I can order them myself online, when I was deployed, I would much rather get them from someone else! When we girls left to return home, we would leave our half used bottles of stuff in the community bath rooms in our barracks in Kandahar. Why let them go to waste when I needed the space in my ruck for more important stuff?
Also, depending if there is a little shoppette that has a good selection of toiletries, your guy pal may have a special favorite body soap, like Axe or Old Spice (!), that may always be out of stock.
If the recipient is in a dry and dusty environment, like Afghanistan, throw in some skin moisturizers and great hand sanitizers, lip balm, or even a jar of organic coconut oil. For organic coconut oil…Add a list of its practical uses, found online on blogs like No More Dirty Looks.
2. Nice comfy pajamas that can take frequent laundering or sleep shorts/pants for the guys. There’s something really cozy and cool about cute pajamas when you might have to run outside your room or barracks for rocket attacks. (See #10…). Don’t send anything white… Because of the different laundering options, whites tend to gray. Contract launderers don’t separate whites from colors!
3. An online gift card to a company like Amazon who can send just about anything to a military address when your soldier needs it. For instance, I know I needed new wool socks after the 4th month since I was rotating through the same 6 pairs of boot socks, but I didn’t think to ask for them until I had holes in the heels… Since I didn’t like the itchy generic brand sold at the exchange on Kandahar airfield and they never had my size anyway, I always ordered online and they would get to me in about a week to ten days.
4. Tech gifts for your tech savvy pal… a new iPad mini, Kindle preloaded with favorite reads and magazines, a great set of headphones like iPod’s newest, DVDs, Chick flicks, or other movies and TV series.
There are moments when you just want to lie in your rack, stick a set of headphones on your head, and tune the rest of world out for a couple of hours.
5. Lickies and Chewies… Junk food is always a hit and it is better when you have more to share with others! I liked sharing with the Dutch gals across from us…they introduced us to stroopwaffels and we introduced them to American junk food! Local favorites are even more cherished since it can cost an arm and a leg to ship them overseas and some companies won’t even ship overseas. My roomie used to get a case of snack bags of Charles Chips from Louisiana. Another pal would get his mom’s baked goods and would share with the office. My mom sent hopia, a Filipino sweet made of sweet mung bean and pastry dough (I always shared with a couple of folks as sweet bean paste is an acquired taste). This year, I am trying to get Sponge candy from Buffalo, New York since the weather is now cold enough to send via airmail.
6. Aromatherapy works wonders… Air freshener for her locker/closet. Bottles of Febreze. You get the picture, don’t you? Just because she’s a soldier, sailor or airman, doesn’t mean she wants to smell like diesel, jet fuel, dirt, sweat or grime all the time! And guys are just as interested in nice smells…they may not like the vanilla lavender scents, but something evergreen, piney woods, spicey, or bay rum would work and not overpower a small space.
7. Something from home to decorate her personal space. A favorite gift was sent from home (San Antonio) just before Fiesta… I got Fiesta themed garland that stayed up most of the deployment. For the holidays, a decorative elf or advent wreath might be a nice touch if a small decorated tree might prove impractical.
8. Photo albums that she can flip through or a homemade DVD album of old and recent photos and videos.
9. Books, magazines…fun reading material that can get passed onto others.
10. A bathrobe to traipse to and from room to shower, room to the bunker for rocket attacks, and so forth. If it is winter, a nice long warm one might seem bulky at first, but he would probably appreciate it if he ever had to run outside wet and soapy! For hot summer months, a towel wrap (with velcro closure) or lightweight robe is a good idea too. I had a lightweight cotton jersey robe from the gap that was awesome and when I had to move from our barracks to tents for the last couple of weeks in Afghanistan, it didn’t take much space in my bags.
11. Hobby specific gifts… If he is a photography buff and has his digital camera, add an SD card or 2. Music buffs, add CDs. (If she’s in Afghanistan, do not send iTunes gift cards. It takes a week to download big files!) Readers, books! Knitters, yarn and cool patterns. Sports fan, sports memorabilia. You get the picture!
Wrap, pack and mail…
You can arrange for all to be sent directly from the company’s website or you can put it all together yourself and send it via your local post office. Timing is everything so if you think you’re cutting it close for a Christmas gift, tag it as a way to celebrate New Year’s. You can send an email to the recipient so she or he can look for it at the next mail call. If you are doing it yourself, don’t forget to add some New Year’s themed party gear for fun! To make use of every cm of space, forgo commercial packing material and bubble wrap and be creative! (I like using individual bags of honey roasted nuts, wrapped candies and individually wrapped Rice Krispy treats, the smaller snack sized ones, to squeeze into gaps in a package). If you’re worried that there might be leakage or spillage, line the inside of the box with a clean trash bag and individually wrap any bottles. (Don’t forget what you pack as you’ll have to list it in the customs forms!). Be wary of shipping restrictions… For instance, you can’t ship meat products in or out of Germany.
Apologies for anyone who sends to nonUS military overseas. I don’t know specifics for you here, but you could find out if their country’s Amazon ships to their military address, like amazon.de. Might take a couple extra clicks, but it will be so worth it!