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Mail Early, Pack Carefully for Gifts to Arrive as Intended

By Staff Sgt. Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 6, 2000 – Everybody has good intentions when selecting and sending gifts, but good intentions will carry one only so far if packages arrive too late or damaged.

To assist people in sending gifts out on time, Military Postal Service Agency experts each year publish deadlines to get cards and packages in the mail. To ensure cards and packages arrive at their destination by Christmas, experts recommend the following guidelines.

  • Packages going to military APO and FPO addresses sent standard mail must be shipped by Nov. 6.
  • Space-available mail, or SAM, must be sent by Nov. 27.
  • Parcel airlift mail, or PAL, must be sent by Dec. 4.
  • First class letters and cards and packages sent by priority mail should be mailed by Dec. 11 to ensure on-time delivery.

SAM packages are first transported domestically by surface and then overseas by air on a space-available basis. SAM parcels must be less than 15 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined.

PAL service is space-available air transportation for parcels up to 30 pounds and 60 inches in length and girth combined.

Different fees apply for standard mail, SAM, PAL and priority mail.

For mail sent to civilian international addresses, the following guidelines apply:

International mail addressed to:

                     Air letters    Air Parcel    Surface
                       and cards        Post 
 Africa                 Dec. 4         Dec. 4      Oct. 27
 Asia-Pacific Rim       Dec. 11        Dec. 11      Nov. 3
 Australia/New Zealand  Dec. 11        Dec. 11      Nov. 3
 Canada                 Dec. 15        Dec. 15     Nov. 24
 Caribbean              Dec. 11        Dec. 11     Nov. 11
 Central/South America  Dec. 4         Dec. 4       Nov. 3
 Mexico                 Dec. 11        Dec. 11     Nov. 11
 Europe                 Dec. 11        Dec. 11     Nov. 11
 Middle East            Dec. 11        Dec. 11     Oct. 27

Packaging can affect whether or not a gift arrives unscathed. Follow these U.S. Postal Service guidelines:

  • Outer wrapping: If a box itself is adequate for mailing, don't use wrapping paper. If wrapping paper is necessary, paper as strong as a regular large grocery bag is recommended.
  • Cushioning: Cushioning is important to absorb and distribute shock, pressure and vibration. Cushion each individual item above, below and on all sides. Examples of cushioning include plastic "popcorn," corrugated cardboard and shredded newspapers. Slightly overfill the mailing container with cushioning material to minimize settling and shifting.
  • Several items, fragile items: When several items are packaged together, they should be protected from one another as well as from external force. The items can be individually wrapped in paper or foam and boxed separately. The boxes can then be placed in the external container and again cushioned on all sides.
  • Tapes: Cellophane and masking tapes aren't strong enough and should not be used in mailing.
  • Address: Each package must show a complete delivery address on the container or on a label attached to the container. A return address must be placed in the upper left corner of the container or the label. Postal experts recommend placing the names and addresses of the sender and recipient and a description of the contents inside the box as well. This can aid in delivery if the address on the outside of the container should become unreadable or the package is damaged. Markings from all previous mailings should be obliterated.

For more extensive information, visit the U.S. Postal Service's Web site at www.usps.gov.

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