Now that we’ve covered What To Send in a Care Package in Part 1, today in Part 2 we explain HOW to send it.
Without a doubt the best way to go is USPS. They have priority flat-rate boxes (pictured) made specifically for those who are sending mail to APOs and FPOs. Flat-rate means you pay the same amount every time, regardless of the package’s weight or destination. These boxes are FREE- they will even send them to you for free in packs of 10 or 25! You can order them here. Of course, you can always go to your local Post Office and pick up however many you need.
These APO/FPO boxes cost $12.95 to ship- which is $2.00 less than normal domestic pricing for the same sized box. Additionally, they have the APO/FPO addressing block.
The Army and Air Force use the abbreviation APO (Army or Air Force Post Office) while the Navy and Marine Corps use FPO (Fleet Post Office). It will be followed by two letters (the “state” code) AE, AP, or AA, depending on where your loved one is located and the carrier route used for sorting the mail. Then there will be a zip code.
The purpose of these acronyms is to protect your loved one. At no time should you find yourself writing “Afghanistan” on the package or forms!
If you send one of these packages you will need to fill out customs declaration form 2976-A. On your next trip to the Post Office, grab a bunch of these so you can fill them out at home. In addition to the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, you will have to fill out a description of what’s in the package. Stick with simple things: candy, snacks, socks, books, etc. You will have to assign values to the items: socks $5, candy $15, and so on. Do not advertise that the box contains anything of serious value. Theft is an unfortunate reality in the armed forces.
How long does it take to get there?
A package sent to the Middle East can take between 7 and 20 days to arrive, with 2 weeks being about average. During the holidays, count on it taking 3 weeks.
A Note on “Any Soldier”…
The Department of Defense mandates that all mail and packages must be addressed to a specific service member, not to “Any Soldier” or “Any Serviceperson”.
Amazon.com will ship certain items directly to APOs and FPOs. Their shipping rules and restrictions can be found here. Shipping is free if you have their Prime membership.
At a certain point during deployment, there is a cut-off date beyond which you cannot send any packages to your loved one. Usually it is about six weeks before they leave the combat zone, but it can vary. Be careful- you don’t want to burden your service member with extra stuff and possibly get them in trouble.
Please feel free to leave your suggestions and questions in the comments!