Monday, November 26, 2007

CHRISTMAS MAILING TIPS & CUSTOMS FORMS - PLEASE READ



According to the United States Postal Service website:
You can send packages to APO addresses
by PRIORITY MAIL until December 4, 2007
PARCEL POST PACKAGES SHOULD HAVE BEEN MAILED
BY NOVEMBER 13th
USE PRIORITY MAIL FROM THIS DATE ON!!

Just get those packages out ASAP!!

Nov 13 was the deadline recommended by the USPS - for Parcel Post. If you are using Priority Mail you might be able to mail as late as December 4th for most of "our" troops, but I recommend the last week of November as a deadline. If you are sending decorations, mail even sooner so the guys and gals get a chance to use them.

I HIGHLY recommend PRIORITY MAIL at all times if you can afford it. It gets handled quicker in the USA AND overseas! Sometimes it only costs $1 or $2 more. (especially FLAT RATE boxes). Get your boxes ASAP as the Post Office often runs out of them. You can order online and the boxes get delivered to your door, just like stamps.

Check it out on this post office website, which also lists mailing deadlines. I've also cut & pasted the chart down at the bottom of this Blog entry. www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/localnews/in/in_2007_1004.htm

MAILING LATE: Don't ever NOT mail something because it might be late! It's much better to get that Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or birthday package a few days after an event than not at all!

NON-PROFITS: Schools, Scout groups -- many local business offer donations each month. I think it's TARGET and WAL-MART, for instance, who give out $100 each month to a requesting non-profit group. Some groups have even been fortunate enough to get shipping donations from UPS, and other freight companies.
Give it a try to help pay your postage. Let me know if you are successful and I'll post any hints or suggestions you may have for others.

Here is a great Marines website for care packages and more detailed mailing info: http://www.usmchangout.com/troopsupport/carepackages/



HOW TO MAIL:


The APO (Army Post Office) address you get is for a military base located in the USA. You are not actually mailing overseas, and hence, you only have to pay DOMESTIC POSTAGE RATES. The military flies it from the USA to its destination. The soldiers can mail back letters for FREE.
Cards and letters therefore cost the normal First Class postage rate (currently 41 cents).
  • Use LOTS OF TAPE on packages. These boxes travel a long way and are handled many times. Tape also helps reduce theft. Wrap tape in both directions around a box, cover all seams, edges, and corners. Keep it neat and professional looking. Use packing tape (clear or brown preferred) rather than duct tape or colorful tape.
  • Print the name and address VERY clear. If not, the package could get thrown out.
  • Print your name and return address VERY clear. If not, for security reasons, your package will not be delivered nor returned.
  • I highly recommend using US Postal Service PRIORITY MAIL. The packages are handled quicker at both ends, and, the boxes are FREE from the post office.
  • Priority Mail FLAT RATE boxes can save you a lot of money (over regular Priority Mail). The postage is $8.95 regardless of the weight. Try to pick them up ahead of time, as your post office may run out this time of year. Make sure you see "FLAT RATE" printed on the boxes. There are only two sizes and they are about shoe box size for volume. http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10152&storeId=10001&categoryId=13359&productId=11697&langId=-1
  • Parcel Post is cheaper, but can be slow. (and not recommended for holiday shipping)
  • Shoe box size packages are best and seem to arrive quicker than large boxes. Mail smaller packages more frequently, rather than a large box.
  • Don't decorate the boxes with cute stickers or holiday wrap that could attract the eyes of potential thieves. Make it look neat and as business-like as possible.

CUSTOMS DECLARATION FORMS:

You will need to fill out a U.S. Customs form for anything other than a card or letter. Under 1 lb is a simple form. I think anything over 1 lb requires the form shown at the bottom of this post.

You will be required to list the contents, so make notes BEFORE you seal the box! ...A hint from my own experience. :-)


The approximate value of the items will also be necessary.

You can be creative when labeling contents as, again, you want to reduce chances of theft. For instance, I never list "12 Christmas Stockings". Instead, I write "12 socks". Much less interesting, eh?

The USPS can now (for a small fee) provide delivery confirmation (not insurance) for almost all military destinations outside the United States!

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE:
LETTERS: Basically, it can take 7 to 14 days for a First Class letter if your troop is located near an airport or military base; 21 or more if they are in a forward operating base.

PACKAGES: can take as little as 10 days or as long as 6 weeks.

Your soldier may be out in the field and away from the base for days or weeks at a time. Only about half the soldiers send a reply.

MILI-KITS: If you mail often there is a great "Mili-Kit" available from the USPS. It includes boxes, address labels, and Customs forms. You may call 1-800-610-8734 for orders. They deliver! The kit does NOT include FLAT RATE boxes. I have not found a place to order "Mili-Kits" online.

MAILING LOTS OF CARDS OR LETTERS TO ONE UNIT? There ARE large, durable, mailing envelopes for military/APO use which you can order online. I find these great for mailing a bunch of letters or cards to the troops...Perfect for school and Scout group cards. Check out:
http://shop.usps.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/ProductDisplay?catalogId=10152&storeId=10001&productId=21408&langId=-1

MAIL OFTEN! Even if you don't get a response, send another note of cheer and support. Your letter might be the only positive part of his or her day. These men and women are working very long, hot, days and often 7 days a week.


U.S. Post Office Mailing Dates (recommended):

Military Mail Addressed To Express Mail® Military Service (EMMS)1 First Class Mail® Letters/Cards Priority Mail® Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL)2 Space Available Mail (SAM)3 Parcel Post®
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 090-092
Dec. 18
Dec. 11
Dec. 11
Dec. 4
Nov. 27
Nov. 13
APO/FPO AE ZIP 093
N/A
Dec. 4
Dec. 4
Dec. 1
Nov. 27
Nov. 13
APO/FPO AE ZIPs 094-098
Dec. 18
Dec. 11
Dec. 11
Dec. 4
Nov. 27
Nov. 13
APO/FPO AA ZIPs 340
Dec. 18
Dec. 11
Dec. 11
Dec. 4
Nov. 27
Nov. 13
APO/FPO AP ZIPs 962-966
Dec. 1
Dec. 11
Dec. 11
Dec. 4
Nov. 27
Nov. 13


And don't forget New Year's packages are fun too!


These should be mailed by the first week of December. Here are some ideas: http://www.mninternational.com/New-Years-Celebration/New-Years-Party-Kits/Catalog.cfm/iCatID/2056/blnFromPackView/0/iParentId/2021


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Here is a SAMPLE Customs form (it's an old version, but you'll get the idea.)