How to Make a Kick-ass Halfway Box (Without Breaking the Bank)

You and your sailor have spent a pretty penny at the Nex buying everything he/she needs for underway.
You’ve nagged about how much toothpaste they need and how many pairs of underwear to pack.
He or she has stuffed their rack [living quarters aboard the sub] to the brim. But something’s missing…

Ah yes, the halfway box! Wether it’s your first deployment (like me) or your 100th deployment, halfway boxes tend to lift the spirits of both spouse and sailor.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been crying left and right at the thought of how much you’ll miss your sailor.
But, making the halfway box definitely made me feel like I had a little bit of power in making my fiancé’s first underway experience a little more personable and- hopefully- more bearable.

And I know it’s going to cheer him up- wether he opens it up at halfway point or sooner- to get a few of his favorite snacks that they probably don’t have on the boat.

And that’s exactly what a halfway box is, for my new Navy girlfriends and fiancés and non-military readers: a small-sized box that contains the favorite snacks and other smaller items that your sailor loves, but has no access to underway.

My mom is also a Navy wife, and I see her and her other Navy wife friends, as well as the FRG (Family Readiness Group) come together to share ideas and materials to decorate their boxes.

But, if you’re like me, a Navy girlfriend/fiancé with no access to other spouses or the FRG, you’re kind of on your own to figure this whole halfway box situation out. Allow me to answer some of your questions!

1.) What should I use as my box?

If you’re creating your box on a budget, you have two standard options: a cardboard box, or a plastic, tupperware-like container.
I personally went with a plastic container that I found at walmart that was 14″ x 8″ x 4 7/8″. There were bigger and smaller options available, but as I have no idea how much space my sailor actually has, I decided to go with the middle to smaller sized box. I found that I could still fit a decent amount inside of it.
I also liked that it came with a lid, and I wouldn’t have to worry about using a lot of heavy-duty tape to keep it secure.
Going with a plastic container saves waste product in the end, as there is no cardboard to break down and recycle or tape to throw away, and your sailor can use it for storage purposes after he’s eaten all of his snacks!

While a cardboard box would obviously work well for other branches of the military where you can send your significant other mail, I feel a plastic container works better for submariners, seeing as
A.) we can’t send tangible mail (the exception being mail drops, but is hard for Navy girl/boyfriends and fiancés to accomplish without FRG involvement)
B.) Submarine waste product is either disposed of into the ocean or has to wait until they surface, and
C.) space is limited.

2.) What should I put in my box?

This is where the fun comes in: picking out what goes into the box!
Think about all the yummy snack foods that your sailor loves. A few ideas to get your brain flowing are:

  • Crackers
  • Chips
  • Pre-popped popcorn
  • Beef jerkey/Slim Jims
  • Nuts
  • Gummy or other non-chocolate candies
  • Gum, mints or cough drops
  • Drink mixes (my fiancé asked for Mio Energy since he normally drinks energy drinks but can’t easily bring them aboard. Other favorites include Crystal Light, Kool Aid, etc.)
  • Assorted cookie, brownie or muffin bites
  • Packaged dessert snacks, such as Twinkies, Cosmic brownies, etc.
  • Energy, granola or cereal bars
  • Sunflower/other seeds
  • Dried fruit or fruit leather (Fruit by the Foot, for example)
  • Pretzel sticks

Do not include pasteurized products, and be wary of chocolate as it could melt and create a mess, although I know a lot of people who gave chocolate with no issues.

Think about the timeframe of your sailor’s deployment. Are they deployed for their birthday, or other holidays? If so, you may want to include some seasonal or traditional items!
Here’s what I included in my halfway box. Although it doesn’t look like much, I decided to get bigger bags of the snacks instead of many smaller-sized snacks, as I feel this will last my fiancé longer and therefore, be worth the extra dollar they cost. These are also his absolute favorite; I didn’t include any extra ‘filler’ snacks.

You may also wish to include other little trinkets to remind your sailor of home or brighten their day. Some ideas are:

  • Small joke books
  • Prayer card or other religious paraphernalia, if applicable
  • Little drawings or favorite quotes
  • Deck of cards
  • Small photo album (you can see mine in the first picture! I included photos of us, as well as of his family and dog!)

*These are also things you could include in letters, which is what I ended up doing!*

You also cannot send anything inherently flammable. For example, my fiancé will unfortunately be underway for his birthday, but I can’t send him candles.

Don’t feel like you have to cram fifty different things into your box. Think about your sailor’s absolute favorite things, and try to find them in bigger packages.
Your sailor will be so happy to get their hands on a snack they haven’t had in awhile that they won’t even care about the quantity. He or she will be thankful no matter what!

3.) How should I decorate my box?

Decorating the box is the final step in the process, but should not be hastily or overdone.
The main reason for decorating the box is to hide the contents of what’s inside! Otherwise, the element of surprise is gone, and the point of a halfway box is lost!

Decorating is super fun and gives you a chance to be creative, but can also get costly fast. Craft supplies are expensive!

While you may see decked-out boxes on other military blog websites, perhaps thirty different kinds of sparkly scrapbook stickers are just not in the budget right now. And that’s okay!

The good news is that you don’t need to take a small loan out for your box is to look amazing. All you need is a plan!

When I say ‘plan,’ I mean that you should think about the overall theme of your box.

Having a themed box will help prevent overbuying materials you won’t need or use, as well as prevent wasting of materials if you decide you no longer like what you’ve started.

Do you want it to be themed around your sailor’s favorite color? Be sure to buy construction paper in that color. Their favorite tv show? Maybe you can print a couple of photos from that show and glue them onto to the box.

This is another opportunity to think about the timeframe of your sailor’s deployment and consider what events he or she might be missing.

Basic materials such as glue, tape, construction paper, markers and crayons, can all be bought at the dollar store or walmart for cheap.
I’ve also found that dollar stores tend to have a decent selection of stickers considering the price.

It also helps to buy things you know will double their use and can be used for other projects or future halfway boxes.

The rainbow pony stickers may be cute, but you may want to think twice before you buy them if you’re not sure they’ll ever be used. And if you do end up buying them, think twice about putting them on the box- his crew will bust on him!

I decided to go with a patriotic theme, covering the inside of the box with red, white and blue paper. I used tape instead of glue to minimize the mess.
Simple! Now he can’t see what’s inside.

I then decorated the top of the box with a little rhyme I came up with.
Overall, a simple yet themed box.

If you don’t like or trust your handwriting, use some stickers to write a sweet message or little rhyme like this. If you can’t come up with anything, a quick google search should do the trick (or just borrow mine, I’m sure plenty of people have used it before me!)

Consider your sailor’s interests and the inside jokes you share. You could tape or glue pictures on the inside of the lid and decorate it to your liking!

Anything to get your sailor to smile and laugh is definitely worth the effort!

You don’t have to buy a huge box and stuff it to the brim with expensive snacks and fancy decorations (In fact, don’t! They probably won’t have room for a big box, and an over-the-top box might make your guy the center of attention- in a bad way!)

All that matters is that your halfway box was made with love (corny, but you know it’s true!)- and a few good snacks!

I hope this post was helpful, especially to first timers like myself!

My fiancé and I are both so new to real submariner life- if you’re in the same boat (pun definitely intended) as a new significant other or spouse, reach out! Leave a comment below! And if you’re seasoned (meaning you’ve done this before), advice is always appreciated!

Cheers to an extraordinary life- and an extraordinary halfway box!


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