28 February 2013

Sending Mail to an APO

I've recently sent my friends and family our mailing address here and thought it would be useful to post some information about sending things to an APO.  I had to look up most of this information when I got our new address, so I'm sure it's bound to help someone!
Congrats on your PO address!  But wait, I want to mail you guys amazing things from back home.  How do I do that?
It's easy!  If you are mailing an envelope that weighs less than 1lb, is less than 3/4" thick, and only contains paper...you just slap a stamp on that sucker and throw it in the mail.  If you want to mail a package, you'll need to fill out a customs form, and which one depends on how much your package weighs.  If it's under 4lbs, you'll fill out 'CN-22 PS Form 2976', if it's over 4lbs, you'll fill out 'CP-72 PS Form 2976A'.  That one is a bit longer, but not impossible.  You can fill this out either at the post office or online and print it out.  Hopefully your postmaster isn't a grump and is willing to help you.  Oh, and you'll still need a separate address label with the address and the return address. More information (and online forms) can be found at https://www.usps.com/ship/apo-fpo-guidelines.htm

Yay! That doesn't seem too hard. Since you are in another country, how much is it going to cost me to send you amazing things from back home?
You'll love this answer. Because it's an APO address (Army & Air Force Post Office), it's going to cost you the same as sending something to California!!!  When you send something to us, it goes to a military mail center in San Francisco, where the military & state department handle getting it to us.  The "AP" in our address stands for Armed Forces Pacific.  It might be smart to add insurance since it's going to me man-handled so much (usually about 1% of package value).

How long will it take?
Your postmaster probably won't tell you this...because they aren't handling it to it's final destination.  The typical times are as follows:
Parcel Post (Normal Mail = Cheapest) 30-45 days.  It's sent by boat.
Priority 7-12 days, sent by plane.
Express Mail (Um...don't send us express mail, that will cost way tooo much) 2 days.  Sent by an important fast plane.

Are there anythings I CAN'T send you?
Asides from the normal things you can't mail anyway: alcohol, drugs, weapons, paints, matches, etc...you also cannot mail us any type of porn or seminude articles.  Not even as a joke, sorry guys.  I would hope you wouldn't send that stuff anyway, but it really wouldn't be cool at all to send that to another country and to a military base.  And yes, they can check by x-rays and opening the packages if something suspicious is in there.  You also cannot mail money to us. I know, you guys were running to the post office to do that.  Well, I think technically you can, but then you have to declare it and I don't think you want to write on the outside of the package that you have $1,000 cash inside.  So, if you wanted to send us $1,000, you'll just have to wire it.

Do I have to mail you things in a special box?
Nope! Just do what you do when sending things back home.  I would recommend you use those flat rate priority mail boxes, even if half of it is just shoved with packing paper.  If you are sending something with any sort of weight to it, you'll definitely want to use these boxes.  I think they can hold up to 70lbs or something ridiculous like that, not to mention it will only take about a week to reach us, unlike a month or two sending it slow boat.  Because it's traveling around the world, I would definitely take extra time to make sure the box is tightly packed and taped up really well, more so than back home.  These boxes take a lot of abuse, and I've seen tons here that are practically ripped to shreds or looked like it was run over.  The ones that were packed well look like they are brand new.
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