The Christmas holidays are almost here, which means you need to act quickly if you have friends or family members who are living overseas on a military installation. Shipping to MPO / APO / FPO / DPO (Military Post Office™, Air/Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office, Diplomatic Post Office) addresses can take a little longer than shipping in the continental US, especially when the holiday season rolls around.
The following tables list the USPS holiday cut off dates for domestic, MPO/APO/FPO/DPO, and other overseas locations. Pay attention to the shipping cut off dates in order to make sure your Christmas gifts and care packages arrive on time for the holidays. You should try to beat the cut off dates if possible, as some shipments may require customs checks or may experience other delays.
Domestic Mail Holiday Shipping Cut Off Dates
The following chart lists the cut off dates for domestic mail packages to reach their destination by the Christmas holiday. When in doubt, try to get your package out earlier than the cut off date if possible.
|Domestic Mail Class/Product||Cut Off Date|
|USPS Retail Ground||Dec 15|
|First-Class Mail®||Dec 20|
|Priority Mail||Dec 21|
|Express Mail*||Dec 23|
Military Mail Christmas Holiday Cut Off Dates
Military members can receive standard packages at Military Post Offices (MPO), Army/Air Force Post Offices (APO) and Fleet Post Offices (FPO) addresses. The price of Military Mail postage is the same as domestic postage, and a First-Class® Mail stamp will deliver a letter to a U.S.military service member located anywhere in the world. These packages are first sent to the east or west coast of the US and then shipped to military installations worldwide. Keep in mind there can be delays, so it is best to ship your package early if possible.
|Military Mail Addressed To||Express Mail® Military Service (PMEMS)1/||First-Class Mail® Letters and Cards||Priority Mail®||Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) 2/||Space Available Mail (SAM)3/||USPS Retail Ground|
|APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092||Dec 16||Dec 09||Dec 09||Dec 02||Nov 25||Nov 07|
|APO/FPO AE ZIP 093||N/A||Dec 02||Dec 02||Dec 02||Nov 25||Nov 07|
|APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098||Dec 16||Dec 09||Dec 10||Dec 3||Nov 25||Nov 07|
|APO/FPO AA ZIP 340||Dec 16||Dec 09||Dec 10||Dec 3||Nov 25||Nov 07|
|APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966||Dec 16||Dec 09||Dec 10||Dec 3||Nov 25||Nov 07|
1/ PMEMS: Available to selected military/diplomatic Post Offices. Check with your local Post Office to determine if this service is available to an APO/FPO/DPO address.
2/ PAL: A service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Standard Post items not exceeding 30 pounds in weight or 60 inches in length and girth combined. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the regular surface rate of postage for each addressed piece sent by PAL service.
3/ SAM: Parcels are paid at Parcel Post postage rate of postage with maximum weight and size limits of 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined. SAM Parcels are first transported domestically by surface and then to overseas destinations by air on a space-available basis.
International Mail Christmas Holiday Cut Off Dates
|International Mail Addressed To||Global Express Guaranteed® (GXG)*||Express Mail® International (EMS)||Priority Mail® International (PMI)||First-Class Package International Service (FCPIS)|
|Africa||Dec 20||Dec 08||Dec 01||Dec 01|
|Asia/Pacific Rim||Dec 20||Dec 15||Dec 08||Dec 08|
|Australia/New Zealand||Dec 20||Dec 15||Dec 08||Dec 08|
|Canada||Dec 22||Dec 17||Dec 10||Dec 08|
|Caribbean||Dec 22||Dec 15||Dec 10||Dec 08|
|Central & South America||Dec 21||Dec 10||Dec 01||Dec 01|
|Mexico||Dec 21||Dec 15||Dec 08||Dec 08|
|Europe||Dec 21||Dec 15||Dec 10||Dec 08|
|Middle East||Dec 19||Dec 15||Dec 10||Dec 08|
*GXG: Cutoff does not take into account time needed for customs clearance. Extra Transit time should be allocated. (more info)
Tips for Sending Military Members Mail Overseas
There are a few restrictions for sending mail to military members in overseas locations. In general, you want to ensure anything you send to military members in an overseas location is legal in the country where they are located. You also want to avoid sending hazardous items, illegal substances, and anything else which may be restricted.
- Use sturdy packaging. Use a strong box with appropriate tape (no string or twine).
- Use adequate cushioning. Bubble wrap, air cushions, and Styrofoam peanuts are great for securely packing items.
- Labels and customs forms. Clearly label the contents, especially if you need a customs form.
- Batteries. Remove batteries from objects and wrap them separately.
- Be aware of heat or other extremes. Many military members are stationed in extreme temperatures and some contents may not do well in hot weather (it’s not a good idea, for example, to send chocolate bars to a desert location in the summer).
- Don’t send packages to “Any Service Member or Any Wounded Warrior.” This practice has been discontinued following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Only send packages to troops you know, or make a donation to a service organization that supplies troops with care packages.
Use the Military Care Kit to Send Presents and Care Packages
The Postal Service has created a free Military Care Kit based on the items most frequently requested by military families. The kit contains:
- Two Priority Mail APO/FPO/DPO Flat Rate Boxes
- Two Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Boxes
- Priority Mail tape
- Priority Mail address labels
- Appropriate customs forms
To order the kit, call 800-610-8734. Guidelines for packing, addressing and shipping items to U.S. troops can be found at usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-dpo.htm. To order Flat-Rate Boxes featuring the “America Supports You” logo, go to usps.com/freeboxes.
Photo credit: Eric E Johnson