2012 USPS Holiday Shipping Cut Off Dates for Military Members

USPS holiday mail schedule for militaryThe 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 APO/FPO 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, and other overseas locations. Pay attention to the shipping cut off dates in order to make sure your Christmas gifts 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
First Class Mail Dec 20
Priority Mail Dec 21
Express Mail* Dec 22
Parcel Post Dec 14
DBMC Drop Ship Dec 19
DDU Drop Ship Dec 22

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 (EMMS)1/ First-Class Mail® Letters and Cards Priority Mail® Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL) 2/ Space Available Mail (SAM)3/ Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092 Dec 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec 3 Nov 26 Nov 13
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093 N/A Dec 3 Dec 3 Nov 30 Nov 26 Nov 13
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098 Dec 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec 3 Nov 26 Nov 13
APO/FPO AA ZIP 340 Dec 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec 3 Nov 26 Nov 13
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966 Dec 17 Dec 10 Dec 10 Dec 3 Nov 26 Nov 13

1/ EMMS: Available to selected military Post Offices. Check with your local Post Office to determine if this service is available to an APO/FPO address.

2/ PAL: A service that provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis. It is available for Parcel 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 Mail®
Africa Dec 19 Dec 11 Dec 3 Dec 3
Asia/Pacific Rim Dec 18 Dec 15 Dec 10 Dec 10
Australia/New Zealand Dec 18 Dec 15 Dec 10 Dec 10
Canada Dec 20 Dec 17 Dec 13 Dec 10
Caribbean Dec 19 Dec 15 Dec 13 Dec 10
Central & South America Dec 19 Dec 11 Dec 3 Dec 3
Mexico Dec 29 Dec 15 Dec 10 Dec 10
Europe Dec 19 Dec 15 Dec 13 Dec 10
Middle East Dec 19 Dec 15 Dec 13 Dec 10

*GXG: Cutoff does not take into account time needed for customs clearance. Extra Transit time should be allocated.

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.

Other tips:

  • 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.

Photo credit: Eric E Johnson

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Date published: December 4, 2012.

Article by

Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.


  1. Nancy Sadowsky says

    Mailed a box priority on 11/02/2010 to APO address from Bottineau, ND 58318. Customs Tracking #CP63 9434 582U S. Box has not been recieved to date 12/02/2010 by military family. I thought I mailed early enough. I just want someone to help track this box so I have some idea what’s going on or what I need to do. When I enter customs tracking # in, it shows me package was delivered in 2009!! It’s very frustrating. Thank You.

  2. Rick Smith says

    I mailed a package to my son in germany on 12/10/2010 parcel post. was told should arrive by Christmas. it is now January 15 and they still have not received it. when i enter the customs tracking number, it only shows the date mailed from our post office and no updated information. would like to know if you could help track my box. please email me. thank you in advance. customs #cp588302452us.

      • Hate UPS says

        USPS will not help you once it is out of their hands. I’ve been looking for four packages for Germany for days! All they could tell me was it was out of their system by 12/24/2011. Customs numbers or not-they are done once it reaches the militray. I’m waiting to hear from DAPOSTAL@conus.army.mil to see if they can help. Once again-once it is in the hands of the militray the USPS is done and are not much help. Good luck!

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