Let’s all go ahead and admit that we have the same question when it comes to mailing holiday packages: “What is the absolute latest date I can mail this package and still have it delivered in time?” Last-minute shopper by nature, or intimidated by the long and winding holiday lines at the post office, procrastination is something of a holiday tradition when it comes to mailing packages. This is especially true for those with family and friends serving in the military. We want to be sure that their gifts reach their destination on time and intact. These holiday shipping deadlines will help you be able to plan to get your gifts to everyone in your family- even the ones that are missing the holidays.
2017 Holiday Shipping Deadlines
When we do finally lug our stack of boxes the post office, we spend what seems like hours zigging and zagging through the line surrounded by folks of differing levels of patience and definitions of personal space. Then, we reach the counter and listen to postal worker read off the shipping options.
There is nothing worse than surviving the line only to get the bad news that a gift won’t make it on time, or — possibly worse — the gift can make it on time if we’re willing to pay shipping costs that far exceed the cost of the gift itself. What a moral dilemma that is.
Thankfully, as they do every year, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) released the 2017 Holiday Mail-By Dates, so we can all be responsible last-minute shippers.
This year, the last chance to ship to U.S. addresses for Christmas Eve delivery is Dec. 22, but it won’t be cheap. Instead, aim for the First-Class Mail deadline, Dec. 19, for lower shipping costs and a little wiggle room in case the cranky toddler in the backseat will not tolerate one more errand on Dec. 19.
If shipping to or from an overseas military address — those are the Armed Forces America (AA), Armed Forces Europe (AE), and Armed Forces Pacific (AP) addresses, plan to hit the post office a little earlier. Hey, maybe the lines won’t be as long, right?
Except for AE ZIP 093–, the USPS recommends the following mail-by dates for all Army post office (APO), fleet post office (FPO), and diplomatic post office (DPO) addresses:
- December 11 – First-Class and Priority Mail
- December 16 – Priority Mail Express
The odd duck, AE ZIP 093–, covers the Middle East, including Iraq and Afghanistan. If shipping to a service member or a civilian contractor in this region, your deadline for shipment is Dec. 4.
Now You Know When, But How?
For anyone new to APO, FPO, or DPO shipping, it can be intimidating. How does that weird-looking address fit on the customs form? What is a custom’s form? Where does the country go? Here are the basics.
- Remember that only USPS delivers to APO, FPO, and DPO addresses.
- When addressing a package, treat APO, FPO, or DPO as the city and AA, AE, or AP as the state. Don’t ever list the actual city or country where the package is headed; the United States should always be the destination country on the customs form.
- Handle the customs form ahead of time, either by picking a few up at your local post office or filling it out online.
- Keep in mind that these dates are only estimates for Dec. 24 delivery, and some military post offices may have special holiday hours that make package pickup on that date difficult. So, shipping a day or two before the deadline is ideal.
For more information, the USPS has a great little reference that breaks it all down and offers some packing and shipping pointers.
Standing in line at the post office isn’t anyone’s most anticipated part of the holidays. But, thanks to the shipping deadlines, the only surprises at the post office this year will be in “brown paper packages tied up with string” (or in white USPS boxes).
Kristi is the proud mom of two fantastic kids who have more energy than a double shot of espresso. She started writing in 2009 with a weekly newspaper column, and she never stopped — writing blogs, Department of Defense publications, and a streak of grad school essays. She’s a runner, travel addict, and always buys way more than she needs just to qualify for free shipping. In her perfect world, dishes would wash themselves, her kids would never get bigger, and everyone would be genuinely interested when she talks about grammar. Follow her as she powers through military life, motherhood, and career with a little multitasking and a lot of sarcasm in her long-running blog on Military OneSource’s Blog Brigade and on IG @kristi.and.co
Photo Credit: Lauren Lomsdale