Getting those gifts in the mail
The holiday season is nearly upon us and ‘tis the season when postal officials urge military postal service users to mail cards and presents as early as possible due to an expected increase in volume during the peak end-of-year season.
To assist customers in ensuring that packages are delivered in time, the Military Postal Service Agency has released its annual recommended mail-by dates for theaters around the world.
These dates are just guidelines, however, and people should carefully consider which type of mail service to use when they arrange shipments.
For example, space-available mail is a useful and cheap way to send packages, but there is no guarantee they will get to the desired destination in time.
So if you’re planning on shopping on Black Friday (Nov. 25), it is best to send your gifts priority mail to ensure the package will get there in time.
Ensuring that every card, letter, and package reaches its destination on time, people will want to plan and mail early for Christmas. And wrapping the outside of the package with wrapping paper is not advised, according to Staff Sgt. Justin Kiser from the Yokota AB Post Office.
“If the holiday paper rips, then the address and everything will come off the box and we won’t know where it need to go,” Kiser said. “So, it’s better not to use the wrapping paper.”
Customers must fill out an online customs form that allows them to track mail from origin to destination before they can send packages from an APO address. On some military instillations in the Pacific, computers have been installed at post offices to facilitate the process on site.
Check with local postal workers to determine if you can access online customs forms on site or if you must do so before arriving to mail packages. For details on the procedure, visit: www.stuttgartcitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/CUSTOMS-FORM-STEP-BY...
Make sure the customs form is filled out correctly. Simply listing the contents as “gifts” or “merchandise” is not sufficient. Specific contents must be listed. Customs can open and search packages if they deem it necessary, which can delay delivery.
If you’re concerned about things getting broken and if they are of significant value, insure them and do so for the amount you paid for them.
If you send perishables, make sure they are properly packed. Also, make sure the country you are sending them to accepts that type of food.
“Make sure packages are properly packed with padding so they won’t get crushed or damaged in the box,” Kiser says.
Alcohol CANNOT be sent through the military postal service.
“You can’t ship any alcohol or carbonated drinks,” Kiser said. “Certain places have other regulations, too. So, whenever you ship anything, we need to double check to make sure it’s OK.”
Make sure your packages are all taped beforehand. Post offices no longer provide packing tape. It might be good to bring some extra tape just in case.
Have the mailing labels and customs forms filled out before coming to the PO so that you don’t hold up the other people in line. And don’t use the customs form as an address label. Have a separate address label on the package in case the customs form is defaced or falls off.
Lithium batteries can be mailed only if the battery is installed in the equipment such as with iPods and iPads.
For toys with batteries pre-installed, batteries must be removed from toys prior to mailing. Toys that make sounds or move around during transit could flag the box as suspicious and may result in your mail being delayed or returned to the sender.
Mailing liquids are not ideal, because they could leak on other items, both in your package and on others. If you must send liquids, be especially careful when packing them.
The U.S. Postal Service delivers letters and packages to more than 500 military post offices worldwide. Many of them will extend their business hours or open for additional days during the holiday season, including remaining open later on Christmas Eve to make sure that everyone can receive the cards and packages that have arrived. Check with the post office on your base for information on holiday hours.