2015 recommended holiday season mailing dates, tips

Courtesy of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa A6 Postal Operations Branch

The 2015 recommended holiday season mailing dates for postal customers assigned to the European theater are as follows:

• Space-available mail Nov. 25

• Parcel airlift Dec. 3

• First class and priority mail Dec. 10

• Priority mail express Dec. 17

These dates are for mail originating in Europe and destined to locations in the U.S. Mail originating in the U.S. and sent to European Army Post Office, Fleet Post Office or Diplomatic Post Office addresses use similar mailing dates.

“U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa postal patrons should plan ahead and mail early to ensure letters, cards and packages arrive to intended U.S. destinations in time for the holidays,” said Lionel Rivera, U.S. Air Forces Europe and Air Forces Africa A6 Postal Operations Branch public affairs officer.

Customers can avoid long lines at the post office by mailing packages early, and they can take advantage of using the cheaper, although slower, SAM service that military post offices offer in Europe.

“(SAM) service takes longer to arrive to the end destination and moves on a space-available basis once it arrives in the (U.S.),” Rivera said. “If you want faster service, consider using priority mail or priority mail express service. It costs more, but these classes of mail get preferred or expedited service.”

Most mail accepted at military post offices in Europe is flown to the U.S. on commercial aircraft. Once mail arrives in America, it’s transported based on the service that was paid for.

Costumers should keep in mind that packages transiting through the mail stream are handled numerous times; therefore, proper packaging is very important. The following U.S. Postal Service mailing tips are provided to help ensure packages arrive safely and undamaged:

• The box Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. If you’re reusing a box, cover up or black out any old labels and markings.

• Cushioning Place cushioning around your items. Close and gently shake the box to see whether there is enough padding.

• Sealing Tape your box shut and reinforce the seams with 2-inch-wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape or paper tape.

• Size The weight of your package cannot exceed 70 pounds. If you’re planning to use priority mail express or priority mail services for faster delivery, the length plus the girth, the distance around the thickest part of the package, cannot exceed 108 inches. When you use SAM, the total cannot be more than 130 inches. PAL is 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.

• Correct address Using a complete and correct address is critical for timely delivery.

Customers can also avoid waiting in line longer at post office finance windows if they complete an online customs declaration using the USPS website when presenting parcels and packages for mailing at the APO. Customers have several options available to them when completing required customs declarations using USPS.com:

• Option 1 Customers can chose the USPS Click-N-Ship feature to establish an account, complete their customs declaration and pay for their mailing using one of several USPS approved credit cards. Customers who chose this option will receive a discounted commercial base price versus the standard retail price.

• Option 2 Customers can also print a customs declaration at home through the USPS website without establishing an account and then pay at the postal finance window when presenting their parcels and packages for mailing. The USPS is working to make this option on their website more user friendly.

• Option 3 Customers can use the customer work station at the APO to go online and complete a customs declaration before presenting mail pieces at the postal finance window.

Patrons who do not present articles for mailing with an online declaration can mail their packages using the hard copy of the customs declaration, but it will take longer for mail clerks to process the transaction.

Contact your local postmaster for additional information on how mail is dispatched and received at your location and for advice on the best service to use based on your mailing needs.