2018 recommended holiday season mailing dates, mailing tips

by Air Force Staff Sgt. Timothy Moore
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

U.S. Air Forces in Europe-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. — Photo by Airman 1st Class Kristof Rixmann


The 2018 recommended holiday season mailing dates for postal customers assigned to the European theater are:

U.S. Postal Services (USPS) Retail Ground/Space Available Mail (SAM) — Nov. 27

First Class Mail/Priority Mail — Dec. 11

Priority Mail Express Military Service (PMEMS) — Dec. 17

These dates are for mail originating in Europe and destined to locations in the U.S. Customers in the United States who mail to European APO/FPO/DPO addresses should use the same recommended mailing dates.

“U.S. Air Forces in Europe-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, USAFE-AFAFRICA Air Postal Squadron Postal Operations Flight command postal training manager.

Customers can avoid long lines at the post office when they mail early. They can also take advantage of the cheaper, although slower, SAM service military post offices in Europe offer.

“USPS Retail Ground/SAM service takes longer to arrive at the end destination and moves via ground once it arrives in the (U.S.),” said Rivera.

Though it costs more, if you want preferred or expedited service, consider using priority mail or priority mail express military service if it is available.

Most mail accepted at military post offices in Europe is flown to the United States on commercial aircraft. Once mail arrives stateside, it’s transported based on the service you selected and paid for. Customers should keep in mind packages transiting through the mail stream are handled numerous times so proper packaging is very important.

The following USPS 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. Sturdy paperboard or corrugated fiberboard boxes are best for weights up to 10 pounds. If you’re reusing a box, cover up or mark out any old labels and markings.

USPS-Provided Boxes

Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail boxes are available at no cost to the customer at the post office for items sent using either of these services.

Cushioning

Place cushioning around your items. Close and gently shake the box to see whether there is enough padding. Place an extra address label with the delivery and return addresses inside the package to ensure it can be delivered in case the outside label becomes damaged or falls off.

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

Packages heavier than 70 pounds cannot be mailed. If you use Priority Mail Express Military Service or Priority Mail services, the length plus girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) cannot exceed 108 inches. When you use USPS Retail Ground/SAM, the total cannot exceed 130 inches.

Correct Address

Using a complete and correct address is critical for timely delivery. To find the correct spelling of a city name and state abbreviation or to find a ZIP code, visit www.usps.com. Print or type the delivery address parallel to the longest side of the package. Type or print clearly with a pen or permanent marker so that your address is legible from an arm’s length away.

Return Address

Print or type your address in the upper left corner on the same side of the package as the delivery address.

USPS Extra Services

Extra services can provide additional protection and peace of mind.

  • Adult Signature — Requires the signature of someone 21 years of age or older at the recipient’s address.
  • Certificate of Mailing — Provides evidence of mailing.
  • Certified Mail — Provides proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery.
  • Insured Mail — Provides coverage against loss or damage up to $5,000. The fee is based on the value of item.
  • Registered Mail is not available at all locations — Provides maximum security, includes proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Insurance can be added up to $50,000. The fee is based on the value of item.
  • USPS Tracking — Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Free with select services.
  • Signature Confirmation — Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery and the name of the person who signed for the item. You can request a printed copy of the signature.
  • Return Receipt — Provides a postcard or electronic notification with the date of delivery and signature of the recipient.
  • Restricted Delivery — Confirms that only a specified person, or authorized agent, will receive a piece of mail. This service is available only if you also purchase Certified Mail, Insured Mail (over $500), Adult Signature, Signature Confirmation, or Registered Mail.

Customs Declaration Form

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

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.

Option 2: Customers can print a customs declaration at home on the USPS website without establishing an account and then pay at the postal finance window when presenting their parcels and packages for mailing.

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


Contact your local installation 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.