Let’s all go ahead and admit that we have the same question when it comes to mailing holiday packages: “What is the absolute latest date I can mail this package and still have it delivered in time?”
Last-minute shopper by nature, or intimidated by the long and winding holiday lines at the post office, procrastination is something of a holiday tradition when it comes to mailing packages.
When we do finally lug our stack of boxes the post office, we spend what seems like hours zigging and zagging through the line surrounded by folks of differing levels of patience and definitions of personal space. Then, we reach the counter and listen to postal worker read off the shipping options.
There is nothing worse than surviving the line only to get the bad news that a gift won’t make it on time, or — possibly worse — the gift can make it on time if we’re willing to pay shipping costs that far exceed the cost of the gift itself. What a moral dilemma that is.
When you’re shipping to or from an OCONUS post office — your APO, DPO, and FPO military addresses — you need to build in a little extra time. From the very official copy of no-later-than ship dates taped to the wall of the nearest FPO post office (made better only by the word approved being surrounded by quotation marks), here are the 2018 “approved” APO/DPO/FPO holiday shipping dates.
If shipping to or from overseas military addresses — those are the Armed Forces America (AA), Armed Forces Europe (AE), and Armed Forces Pacific (AP) addresses, plan to hit the post office a little earlier than normal. Hey, maybe you’ll beat the lines.
Except for AE ZIP 093–, the USPS recommends the following mail-by dates for all Army post office (APO), fleet post office (FPO), and diplomatic post office (DPO) addresses:
- December 11 – First-Class and Priority Mail
- December 17 – Priority Mail Express
The odd duck, AE ZIP 093–, covers the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. If shipping to a service member or a civilian contractor in this region, your deadline for shipment is Dec. 4.
Now You Know When, But How?
For anyone new to APO, FPO, or DPO shipping, it can be intimidating. How does that weird-looking address fit on the customs form? What is a custom’s form? Where does the country go? Here are the basics.
- Remember that only USPS delivers to APO, FPO, and DPO military addresses.
- When addressing a package, treat APO, FPO, or DPO as the city and AA, AE, or AP as the state. Don’t ever list the actual city or country where the package is headed; the United States should always be the destination country on the customs form.
- Handle the customs form ahead of time, either by picking a few up at your local post office or filling it out online.
- Keep in mind that these dates are only estimates for December 24 delivery, and some military post offices may have special holiday hours that make package pickup on that date difficult. So, shipping a day or two before the deadline is ideal.
For more information, the USPS has a great little reference that breaks it all down and offers some packing and shipping pointers.
Standing in line at the post office isn’t anyone’s most anticipated part of the holidays. But, thanks to the shipping deadlines, the only surprises at the post office this year will be in “brown paper packages tied up with string” (or — you know — white USPS boxes).
Photo Credits: Unsplash