This post is mostly for friends and family, or for people who've never shipped to an APO/FPO address. In today's world, most of us military wives have had a lot of experience with this. . .
But for those who haven't, I will start at the beginning. APO stands for Army Post Office, or mail service that goes to Army and Air Force personnel, and FPO means Fleet Post Office, or mail service that goes to Navy, and Marine Corps personnel. The letters and codes after the APO such as APO AE designate where in the world the mail is supposed to go. The US Postal Service is currently the only carrier that I know of who ships items to APO addresses. When we move to Okinawa, we will have an APO AP - meaning Army Post Office, Armed Forces Pacific.
There are several things to remember when you're shipping things overseas to APO's. No package can weigh over 70 lbs. and there are also restrictions on the dimensions of the box(es) being sent. This means that you may have to break a shipment down into several smaller packages to make weight. My best advice is to get several priority shipping boxes from the post office. Its easy, fairly painless, and you know your package will meet requirements.
Next, if you're shipping to any APO or FPO there are restrictions on what you can send. No fire arms (duh!), no perishable food items, no hazardous materials, basically just use your common sense. There are also more detailed restrictions depending on where you are shipping your package. You can check these further restrictions by the zip code following the "APO AE" part of the address.
Anything being sent to an overseas APO also needs a customs form stating what is in the box. A postal worker can assist you with this if need be. I would also recommend insuring the package because between here and Japan, Afghanistan, or wherever, there is a lot of room for that guy to get lost. In addition to the customs forms, and insurance, sending ANYTHING priority is the way to go. Priority will take a couple of weeks maximum, while parcel post being the cheaper option can take as long as 6 weeks or more for the package to reach its destination. (Meaning, mail all Christmas, birthday, anniversary gifts early!)
Finally, here are a few tips from a seasoned APO sender (me). Keep a stock pile of priority boxes, and customs forms at your house. You can ask for the boxes the next time you're at the post office. They are free. Customs forms can be obtained near all of the other confusing forms while waiting in the post office line. Have all your items boxed, and your customs form filled out before making your post office trip. Especially if you have more than one box. This makes it easier for the clerk and the people in line behind you. Depending on what you're sending, be prepared for it to be a bit pricey. And try to remember while you're standing in that long non-moving post office line, be patient! Once you've sent a couple of boxes, it becomes second nature! Good luck and happy sending!
Below I have included a few links for further information.
- All About APO/FPO - you can check your zip code restrictions here!
- How to use Customs Forms