Sending love across the ocean: Care packages for family and friends


Sending love across the ocean: Care packages for family and friends

by Courtney Woodruff
Stripes Europe

Admiring the beautifully handcrafted items for sale at another European fest, a gorgeous piece of Polish pottery catches my eye. Immediately, the bright colors and intricate patterns take me back to my mom’s kitchen. She would love this, I say to myself, and without a second thought, I reach for the crumpled euro bills I have stashed away in my purse.

Within the context of military life, putting together care packages is most often thought of as a way to send words of love, little comforts of home and the bare necessities to our troops downrange. Care packages are also a great way to stay connected with grandparents, as well as extended family members and friends in the States.

When it comes to keeping up with loved ones while stationed overseas, social media definitely has it perks, but let’s face it — simply sharing photos, posting statuses and sending messages back and forth lacks a good, old-fashioned personal touch. I have learned from experience,
however, that opening a box thoughtfully filled with things meant just for you can feel like the next best thing to getting a comforting hug in person.

The next time you think about sending a message to the kids’ grandparents on Facebook, grab a box and start putting together a meaningful care package instead. To get you started, here are a few ideas for what to put inside:

Good, old-fashioned letters

In the time of instantly received texts and emails, there is nothing quite like a handwritten note. Spotting an unexpected colorful envelope mixed in with the usual bills and junk mail always makes my day. Take the time to share your thoughts, experiences and adventures with pen and paper. Include things your family members and friends may find interesting about living overseas, and let them know how much they are loved and missed.

Handmade cards

Simple, homemade cards are a wonderful way to show you care. Get creative and use whatever you already have around the house to design a personalized greeting. Encouraging the kids to get involved also helps teach them to think of and care for others.

European treats

One of the best ways to give your family and friends a taste of what life is like in Europe, so to speak, is to send boxes filled with goodies. Grab a bag or two of unique candy and chocolate every time you stop by your local grocery store, and collect unique sweets on your trips. My sister always requests sour gummy candy, and my dad loves the soft licorice ropes that are sold at our village market. Just keep in mind, it is illegal to ship Kinder eggs to the States, and soft, German chocolate may not arrive in its original form in the hot summer months.

Photo books and keepsakes

Websites like allow you to turn your pictures into personalized photo albums and gifts. After my mom-in-law visited us for Thanksgiving, I filled a book with all of the special moments we’d captured together. The kids’ grandparents have all loved the customized coffee mugs, cards and stainless steel water bottles we’ve sent them.

Souvenirs from your jaunts around Europe

While you are out and about, keep your eyes peeled for trinkets you think your family members and friends might enjoy. Purchase a few beautifully decorated ornaments for your parents’ tree at a Christmas market; collect magnets from each city you visit; pick out a post card that suits
the recipient’s personality. Cuckoo clocks and intricately decorated beer steins make wonderful gifts as well, but souvenirs don’t have to be expensive to be meaningful.

For more creative tips and ideas about how to put together a special care package your loved ones will be sure to adore, visit

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