This is just a quick, not at all comprehensive, list of tips for shipping items to deployed troops overseas. I just got home from the post office and wanted to get down my thoughts while they’re fresh.
USPS FLAT RATE PRIORITY MAIL SHIPPING
The Large Flat Rate box is a nice size and fits quite a bit. It would be perfect for shipping books. I filled it with canned goods. It is $12.50 to ship no matter what weight so you want to fill it up with all the heavy items you’re sending. If you are sending lighter stuff, use regular shipping.
5-Part Customs Forms
To ship overseas you need to fill out a 5-part Customs Form. Go in advance and ask for a few to take home with you. I had a surprise when I arrived at the Post Office–there are new forms out since the last time I used them nearly 2 years ago so throw out any old forms and get the new ones.
Tips for filling out the form:
- Be as general as possible. I listed simply “SNACKS” on my form, not the individual items. You can get into trouble with shipping restrictions if you get too specific. That said, there are restricted items so make sure in advance you’re not shipping anything that’s not allowed such as porn, is dangerous to transport by air such as aerosols, or is not going to make it such as chocolate in summer. Also, never ever ship anything scented such as toiletries with food in the same box. The food will pick up the scent and ruin the flavor no matter how you wrap it.
- Make your contents sound as undesirable as possible on the form to anyone who might want to steal it. Such as, if you are shipping a brand new iPod, I would write “Used electronics” and say its value was $10. Of course, this won’t work if you want to insure the package BUT I’m not sure you can insure it for delivery to an APO so check with your PO. Otherwise, always undervalue. You won’t go to customs jail for lying and it might insure the item actually gets to the intended recipient. In fact, list everything possible as USED. Say “Used Books” even if they’re new. List “Used Media” for new CDs. You get the idea. Undervalue everything in the $ area. Cut it at least in half if not less. These are all tips I got from shipping veterans who have been doing this a lot longer than I have.
My next stop today will be Amazon.com. Items listed for FREE Super Saver shipping will ship to APO military addresses also for free. Given the high cost of shipping, it might be worth it to purchase and drop ship direct to the troop member from Amazon rather than trying to save a few dollars on the cost of the items at a bulk store but then having to ship at your own expense.
That’s all I have for you for now. If I think of more, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, my military muse is always in need of support. Feel free to email me if you’d like his list of needs and shipping address.