If you have no idea how to send mail to a military address, or it intimidates the heck out of you, you’re in the right place.
It can seem totally overwhelming, but the good news is you can do everything from the comfort of your own home.
About Sending Mail to a Military Address:
Mailing something to a military address overseas (APO/FPO/DPO) to a service member and/or their family is basically the same as mailing something within America. Packages and cards take regular stamps, and you can use the United States Postal Service.
Even though you’re about to sending some mail to a military address overseas, it does not cost more, so you won’t see any foreign monetary charges, and you don’t need any extra stamps.
For example: if you’re mailing something to Europe, the “hub” for APO mail is in New York, so you’re essentially mailing something to there. From NY, it will go through customs (which I’ll cover in a minute), and then on to its final destination—a military post office on base/post.
Fun fact: if you’re sending mail between two military post offices (APO to APO, for example), it’s free. No stamp/payment required (but you do still need a customs form)!
What’s Up With That Funny-Looking Address
An APO/FPO address may look a little silly the first time you see it, so let me break it down for you real quick.
First things first: Check with your service member and see if you need to include the rank. We’ve always been told to leave it off (because of OPSEC/security reasons), but officially, the USPS suggests including it.
For the address, the first line is the “street name,” followed by the “city” and the “state,” and then just a normal zip code.
What You Need for your Customs Form
It may seem intimidating to send mail to an APO address, but after you do it once, it’ll be easier every time after.
You need a few things to make this part go seamlessly, and make the process less of a headache.
What you need to fill out the custom’s form:
- A digital kitchen scale
- Everything going into the package
- The package/box*
- Piece of paper and pen
- Calculator (unless you’re awesome at math)
*Keep things simple and get free Flat Rate boxes from USPS. They’ll ship right to your door, or you can usually run in and grab some from a kiosk inside the post office.
Before You Fill Out Your Customs Form
When you’re ready to go and you have everything you want to mail, you need to weigh each item and give it a monetary value.
For example: if I’m mailing out cookies, candy, and some toys, my paper would look like this:
(Full disclosure: for my sanity I lump things together. If I’m mailing out three packages of Oreos and some homemade cookies I’ll do one category of “cookies,” and call it a day. If I’m sending a toy for my niece and a toy to my nephew, I’m going to just say “toys” and give the total weight/price. )
Keep in mind there are certain things you cannot send (aerosols, nail polish, alcohol, etc.). There’s a full list here, and if you have questions, ask your local post office for clarification.
Filling out a Customs Form Online
When you’re ready to make your label, here’s what to do:
First, make an account with USPS. Their system glitches—a lot—and you may need to go back to it. I’d say seven times out of 10 it’ll save my progress if I was logged in.
Here are your next steps:
- Go to the Click ‘n Ship feature
- Start filling in your info and the recipient’s info (steps 1-3)
- If you use a flat rate box you can skip figuring out the package’s dimensions.
- Not using a flat rate box? You’ll need to input the dimensions and include the total weight of the package.
- Within Step 4: Include the total package’s monetary value** (use the paper you made above and add up all the things you’re sending)
- **this used to be a mandatory answer, but USPS recently updated their system, and I’m not sure if they’re going to make it mandatory again. In the past, the exact amount had to match up with the amount you put in the next few steps.
- USPS insures packages up to $50; if your box is valued more than that you can purchase more insurance for an additional price.
- Step 5, pick your flat rate package type and your options in that section; press continue.
Enter your package’s contents
Step 7: Pick what type of contents your package includes. Nine times out of 10 I’m sending gifts. If it’s not a gift then I’m typically returning something. In the next box I’ll be somewhat vague: “christmas gifts;” “gifts;” “birthday gift.”
Here’s what you need to know about step 8: anything you enter in the “Quantity” section means the entire category will be multiplied.
So, if you’re sending three packs of Oreos (for example), and they were $3 each and weighed 1 pound, 2 ounces, it would show the total weight as 3 pounds, 6 ounces, and the total value as $9.
Just make sure that everything adds up to equal the correct dollar amount that you listed on the first set of questions. Otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of back and forth.
I’m also somewhat still vague here. “Cookies” instead of “Oreos;” “Toys” instead of “LEGOS,” or “Ornament” instead of “Super Special Awesome Glass, Handmade Masterpiece.”
I realize that real people look at these packages and porch bandits are a real thing, so somewhat vague works for me.
For step 9 I click that my package is under $2500 (if it is), and then I continue on to the billing info.
Print Your Label and Mail Your Package
Follow the prompts for the next steps. You’ll pay for your label, and then you can save them as a PDF (my preference), and print them out.
If you’re mailing from America here’s the best part: you can schedule a pickup (the option will be on the page after you pay or you can click here). You can skip going to the post office entirely, because they’ll pick the box up from your house.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to leave your box on your doorstep all day, you can run into your post office, tell them you already have a label on it, and ask where you can leave your box.
If you’re mailing from a military post office overseas, do the Click-n-Ship option and you can essentially just drop the boxes off. *I always still wait in line and physically hand them my box(es) to make sure everything is a-okay, but they’re always so incredibly thankful that everything is ready to go.
2021 Christmas Mail-by Dates
These dates were just announced in August, and I highly recommend you mail them out even a few days prior to the date mentioned just to make sure your package arrives in time.
Did This Help You?
I hope this post helps you send mail to a military address; I’d love to hear from you if it did.
And if you’d like to share this post to help others, that would be awesome, too!