Summer is barely over, but it’s time to start thinking about the holidays, especially when it comes to getting packages overseas in time for the troops.

The U.S. Postal Service helps with your planning. They’ve just announced recommended mailing deadlines to get those goodies overseas in time for Christmas. To get them there in time for Hanukkah, which starts on Dec. 22 this year, subtract three days from the deadlines.

The deadlines for various methods of shipping are the same for most APO/FPO/DPO (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/diplomatic post office) ZIP codes. The exception is mail going to ZIP code 093, which covers overseas contingency areas.

  • USPS Retail Ground mail (the slowest way to go, formerly known as Standard Post): Nov. 6.
  • Space Available Mail (SAM): Nov. 27.
  • Parcel Airlift Mail (PAL): Dec. 4.
  • First-Class and Priority Mail (letters, cards and packages): Dec. 11, except for ZIP 093, which is Dec. 9.
  • Priority Mail Express Military Services: Dec. 18. This service is not available for ZIP 093.

Plan to use the U.S. Postal Service’s Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes. The boxes themselves are free; you can stuff whatever you can fit into them, and they cost one flat fee to ship your goodies, regardless of weight. There’s a $1.50 discount per box for those going to APO/FPO/DPO addresses. For example, the largest box military discounted price is $18.45. The boxes come in various shapes and sizes.

The boxes are available at post offices, and at

The Postal Service has also created a “military care kit," which consists of the items most often requested by military families. It’s free, and can ordered by calling 800-610-8734.

The kit has:

  • two Priority Mail APO/FPO/DPO flat rate boxes
  • four Priority Mail medium flat rate boxes
  • Priority Mail tape
  • Priority Mail address labels
  • Customs forms

The Postal Service provides guidelines for packing, addressing and shipping items at

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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