Gifts for Troops Overseas:
What You Should Know

Want to show your support
with gifts for troops overseas?
Let's review the rules!

Please Note: After you become familiar with some important rules & guidelines, we invite you to visit Gifts for Troops for gift suggestions!

The information provided here is largely specific to the US, and information for Canada is shown below. For our friends from other countries, we suggest that you consult your nation's armed forces and/or postal service websites. These sites may also list government-sponsored or non-profit organizations through which you can send gifts for troops overseas.

From the US, only letters and packages addressed to specific individuals may be sent directly to troops overseas. Packages addressed to "any service member" or similar designations are rejected by the Military Postal Service (APO and FPO addresses).

Understandably, the primary reason is security. But another reason, especially important during the holiday season, is the need to control the volume of military mail so that troops deployed abroad can receive timely delivery of letters and packages from family members.

Gifts for troops overseas and other mail are subject to inspection by customs officials of the destination country. Each country has restrictions that may prohibit certain food, entertainment, or religious items. The USPS advises that in general, parcels should NOT contain:

  • nude, semi-nude, sexual or obscene pictures/items of any sort
  • non-authorized political materials
  • pork or pork by-products
  • bulk quantities of religious materials contrary to the Islamic faith. Items for the personal use of the recipient are permissible (e.g. a Bible or individual religious item)

For restrictions to a specific APO/FPO location, call 1-800-275-8777 or consult your local Post Office. The Military Postal Service toll free number,
1-800-810-6098, is available Monday-Friday, 7:30am – 4:30pm (EST).

Other considerations if you are sending a parcel direct to a specific service member:

  • Remove batteries and wrap separately to prevent your gift turning on in transit. It's best not to send batteries at all, says one official, as a ticking or vibrating parcel on a military plane "immediately puts us in bomb mode."

  • Destination temperatures may be extreme: the desert typically reaches over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Enclose a card listing sender and recipient info and contents. Should the package break open, an inventory will assist in retrieving the contents.

  • Select a strong box large enough for plenty of cushioning. Seal opening and reinforce seams with 2" wide packing or paper tape. No cord, string or twine. Shipping a Gift has more tips on packing.

  • Address parcel on one side only, with recipient's info in the lower right. To avoid routing through the host country's mail system, do not include the country or base camp's city in the address.

  • For further information, visit the USPS "FAQ" page about military mail.

If you wish to send gifts for troops but don't know a specific service person, the US Department of Defense website "Support Our Troops" section offers a listing of approved organizations through which you can support our troops overseas.


In Canada, the rules and guidelines are similar to those in the US, but here is one exception:

Parcels containing bundled letters and postcards addressed to "Any Canadian Forces Member" will be accepted, but note that such parcels cannot contain any other enclosures.

Canada's National Defence and the Canadian Forces website also offers an online message board where you can both read the messages and send one of your own.

When sending gifts for troops overseas, addressed to specific individuals, the following items should be strictly avoided:

  • alcohol, beer and wine
  • explosives, radioactive materials or ammunition
  • matches
  • flammable liquids or solids
  • compressed gas
  • propane cigarette lighters
  • corrosive fluids
  • obscene magazines or pictures
  • drugs
  • perishable items

Note that all mail is subject to inspection by the customs officials of the destination country. Avoid sending gifts for troops overseas that might be offensive to any ethnic, cultural, or religious group in the host country.

Detailed shipping information is also presented at the Canadian Forces Mail section of the Canada Post website.

The Canadian Forces Personnel and Family Support Services (CFPFSS) website contains information about donation programs, with details about supporting "any CF member." Individuals wishing to conduct a donation campaign such as OP Santa Claus should coordinate it through the Support Our Troops section of the CFPFSS website in order to comply with logistical and security issues.

Gifts for troops overseas are
a much-appreciated taste of home.
Follow the guidelines for safe and sure delivery!

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Logo photo by Jane M. Sawyer; soldier photo by R. Beaty;
helicpoter photo by Kenn Kisen, all courtesy of