2015 recommended holiday season mailing dates and tips

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- The 2015 recommended holiday season mailing dates for postal customers assigned to the European theater are:

Space Available Mail (SAM) - 25 Nov 15
Parcel Airlift (PAL) - 3 Dec 15
First Class/Priority Mail - 10 Dec 15
Priority Mail Express - 17 Dec 15

These dates are for mail originating in Europe and destined to locations in the United States.  Mail originating in the U.S. and sent to European APO/FPO/DPO addresses use similar mailing dates.

"U.S. Air Forces in 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 Mr. Lionel Rivera, HQ USAFE-AFAFRICA postal operations branch.

Customers can avoid long lines at the post office when they mail early and can take advantage of using the cheaper, although slower, space available mail service military post offices offer in Europe.  "Space available mail service takes longer to arrive to end destination and moves on a space available basis once it arrives in the states," said Mr. Rivera.  "If you want faster service, consider using priority mail or priority mail express service.  It costs more but these classes of mail get preferred and or expedited service. 

Most mail accepted at military post offices in Europe is flown to the United States on commercial aircraft.  Once mail arrives in America, depending on the service you selected, it's transported based on the service you paid for.  Costumers should keep in mind, packages transiting through the mail stream are handled numerous times, and therefore 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.  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" wide tape.  Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape. 

Size
The weight of your package cannot exceed 70 lbs.  If you're planning to use Priority Mail Express or Priority Mail services for faster delivery, length plus girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) can't exceed 108."  When you use Space Available Mail, the total can't be more than 130."  Parcel Airlift Mail (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.  

Customs Declaration Form
Customers can avoid waiting in line longer at post office finance windows if they complete an on line 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 the USPS.com website. 

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 on the USPS website without establishing an account and then pay at the postal finance window when presenting their parcels and packages for mailing.  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 on line and complete a customs declaration before presenting mail pieces at the postal finance window.

Patrons who do not present articles for mailing with an on line declaration can mail their packages using the hard copy 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.