Shipping to the Military
For military families, being separated for weeks, months or even years at a time is the norm. Thanks to the USPS and the APO/FPO shipping system, it’s possible for friends and family to send packages to loved ones serving far away. This guide is to assist anyone shipping items to servicemen overseas, or anyone receiving items at military bases. We’ll cover the APO/FPO system right down to proper packaging and labeling. It’s easier and more affordable than you might think, for a little piece of home to reach a loved one serving our country.
How Military Shipping Works
APO/FPO/DPO/MPO shipping is the system of mailing your packages to a military destination box. These boxes exist for the use of military and government personnel. Each APO box is assigned to service personnel as a domestic address. They make it possible for servicemen and women to send and receive packages from friends and family members.
The military mailing system operates like a hub. Mail is shipped from three main points, from which routes flow to many bases. Packages shipped APO/FPO will first arrive at one of three bases in California, Florida, or New York, before being shipped out to overseas military post offices.
These hubs are located in cities which receive and forward mail to and from Military States.
From these locations, mail is shipped to three types of “City” equivalents.
Important: Carriers like FedEx and UPS offer delivery to countries where military personnel can be stationed, but the USPS is the only carrier that can deliver mail and packages to APO/FPO/DPO locations. Due to security restrictions, military boxes cannot accept mail or packages from any other carrier.
The USPS promises to provide mail service to military personnel and their families worldwide. Many who serve us wait months for these precious packages, for a small connection to the homes they have left to serve and protect. A drawing from a child, a card from their wife, a special treat from their mother- all of these can make a huge difference. This shipping system helps make mailing these important items as secure and efficient as possible.
Even if these boxes are in foreign countries, APO/FPO/DPO addresses are not considered international addresses by the USPS. It provides the same service to those serving overseas and those living in the U.S, and keeps the price of overseas mail postage the same as that of domestic postage. APO/FPO/DPO mail will be delivered to military personnel across the globe as long as the military service member has an assigned ZIP code or APO/FPO number. Both of these policies are intended to make it easier and affordable to ship needed and valued items to a loved one in the military, and to receive them from your family.
Get Free Supplies!
As another way to help, the USPS actually offers free shipping supplies to send care packages. To help save on the cost of sending servicemembers a little touch of home, the USPS created the “Military Care Kit” or the “Mili-Kit.” This kit contains:
- Two large priority flat rate boxes (12 x 12 x 5-1/2)
- Two medium priority flat rate boxes (11 x 8-1/2 x 5-1/2)
- Two medium priority flat rate boxes (13-5/8 x 11-7/8 x 3-3/8)
- Priority mail tape
- Priority mail address labels
- Customs forms and envelopes to attach the forms to the package.
These are all free of charge– how cool is that? Just call the USPS Package Supply Center at 1-800-610-8734. When prompted, say “order supplies,” and ask a live representative about their Military Care Kit. Kits take about 7 to 10 business days for shipping and delivery. Orders are limited to 10 kits per phone call.
Shipping & Labeling
Although USPS-provided supplies are free, you still have to cover the cost of actual shipping. When shipping to APO/FPO/DPO addresses, you only have to pay domestic postage rates. The USPS price calculator for these costs is here.
Always make sure that you label your package carefully to avoid loss. A sample military mail label should look like this:
Postal Service Center + Identifier
APO, AP ZIP
Postal Service Center + Identifier
FPO, AE ZIP or ZIP+4
In addition, always take the care and time to make sure your item is securely packaged.
- Place the mailing address inside the box.
- Evenly distribute items’ weight.
- Add packing material on the inside if any sagging occurs.
- Use packaging tape for the outside of the box.
- Cross out or cover extra markings to prevent your box from misdelivery.
- Use a leak-proof container for liquids, and wrap them in an absorbent material.
Shipping APO/FPO to a loved one serving in the military is fairly easy. This shipping method means packages no longer take months to arrive, and that equals a reliable connection between those protecting our country and their families here at home. The USPS is committed to providing our military and the families who support them with the tools to safely transport packages as quickly as possible. If you have further questions for us about this system, you can always refer to our previous APO/FPO blog series for additional information. Or, feel free to contact us through the comments section below!