2016 Recommended Holiday Season Mailing Dates and Tips

  • Published
  • By Lionel Rivera
  • Postal Operations, Headquarters, U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa
U.S. Air Forces Europe, Air Force Africa postal patrons should plan ahead and mail early to ensure letters, cards and packages arrive to intended U.S. destinations in time for the holidays.
Customers can avoid long lines at the post office when they mail early and can take advantage of using the cheaper, although slower, space available mail service military post offices offer in Europe.  

The 2016 recommended holiday season mailing dates for postal customers assigned to the European theater are: 

  • USPS Retail Ground / Space Available Mail – Nov. 25, 2016
  • Parcel Airlift Mail – Dec. 2, 2016

  • Note:  This service is only available for customers’ stateside mailing to customers overseas.

  • First Class/Priority Mail – Dec. 9, 2016

  • Priority Mail Express Military Service  – Dec. 16, 2016

These dates are for mail originating in Europe and destined to locations in the United States.  Mail originating in the United States and sent to European APO/FPO/DPO addresses use the same mailing dates. 

USPS Retail Ground/SAM service takes longer to arrive to end destination and moves via ground once it arrives in the states. If you want faster service, consider using priority mail or priority mail express military service if available.  It costs more but these classes of mail get preferred and/or expedited service.

Most mail accepted at military post offices in Europe is flown to the United States on commercial aircraft.  Once mail arrives in America, depending on the service you selected, it's transported based on the service you paid for.

Customers should keep in mind, packages transiting through the mail stream are handled numerous times, and therefore proper packaging is very important.  

The following USPS mailing tips are provided to help ensure packages arrive safely and undamaged:

The Box

Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents.  If you’re reusing a box, cover up or mark out any old labels and markings.


Place cushioning around your items.  Close and gently shake the box to see whether there is enough padding.  


Tape your box shut and reinforce the seams with two-inch wide tape.  Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape.


The weight of your package cannot exceed 70 pounds.  If you’re planning to use Priority Mail Express Military Service or Priority Mail services for faster delivery, length plus girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) can’t exceed 108 inches. When you use USPS Retail Ground/ SAM, the total can’t be more than 130 inches. 


Correct Address

Using a complete and correct address is critical for timely delivery.

Customs Declaration Form

Customers can avoid waiting in line longer at post office finance windows if they complete an on line customs declaration using the USPS website when presenting parcels and packages for mailing at the APO.  Customers have several options available to them when completing required customs declarations using the USPS.com website. 

Option 1:  Customers can chose the USPS Click-N-Ship feature to establish an account, complete their customs declaration and pay for their mailing using one of several USPS approved credit cards.

Option 2:  Customers can also print a customs declaration at home on the USPS website without establishing an account and then pay at the postal finance window when presenting their parcels and packages for mailing.

Option 3:  Customers can use the customer work station (if available) at the APO to go online and complete a customs declaration before presenting mail pieces at the postal finance window.

Contact your local installation postmaster for additional information on how mail is dispatched and received at your location, and for advice on the best service to use based on your mailing needs.