Stacking Pkgs
USAG Schinnen Postal Operations Supervisor, Tony Allen sorts one of many packages arriving during the holiday season. Postal officials advise customers to mail early this year to make sure packages arrive on time.

SCHINNEN, Netherlands -- Christmas comes early this year-and Hanukkah even earlier-for those sending holiday packages through the mail. To ensure packages from Europe reach their destinations in time for Christmas, postal officials recommend mailing packages by these deadlines:

AcaEUR"A? Nov. 12 for parcel post (least expensive, but slowest)
AcaEUR"A? Nov. 20 for space available mail (SAM) to contingency locations (APO/FPO/DPO AE Zip 093); Nov. 26 to all other locations
AcaEUR"A? Dec. 1 for parcel airlift (PAL) mail to contingency locations; Dec. 3 everywhere else
AcaEUR"A? Dec. 4 for priority mail and first class letters to contingency locations; all others by Dec. 10
AcaEUR"A? Dec. 18 for express mail (not available to contingency locations)

Hanukkah begins Dec. 1 this year, so subtract 24 days from each deadline to get it there in time for Hanukkah. Many Postal Service Centers offer extended hours throughout the holiday season to help customers send and receive mail during their busiest time of the year.

Starting Nov. 15, USAG Schinnen's Postal Service Center will stay open a half hour later Tuesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. These extended hours are in effect through Dec. 17. The Center also adds Saturday hours for parcel pickup from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and postal finance from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 4, 11 and 18. However, the Center will be closed on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31 for federal holidays.

USAG Schinnen's Postal Service Center on JFC Brunssum offers extended services starting Nov. 15 by adding Tuesdays and Thursdays to its operating hours, making its hours of operation 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays until Dec. 17.

To ensure packages arrive by Christmas, mail them early, officials said. The longer you wait, the longer the lines will be at the post office, and the more expensive the postage to ensure the package arrives by Christmas. In addition, postal officials say improper packaging is the biggest problem they encounter during this season of high volume holiday shipping. Improper packaging may cause items to be damaged during shipping, so officials offer these tips to ensure your gifts arrive intact.

The maximum weight allowed for any package shipped through the military postal system is 70 pounds. The combined length and girth (the circumference of the item at its widest point) of the package must not be more than 130 inches. In addition, all box seams should be sealed with tape to prevent water or moisture from damaging the contents. Put the address of the recipient directly on the box so it can still be visible in case exterior wrapping is damaged.

Some items are not allowed in the U.S. mail, regardless of the packaging, such as alcohol and controlled substances. Lithium batteries may not be mailed, which means customers must remove batteries from toys, laptops, and other electronic devices before mailing.

Aerosol cans are also prohibited. Sharp objects, such as knives, must be sheathed or placed in some other type of protective covering to prevent damage to other packages and to postal workers handling packages. Anything that uses flammable materials, such as cigarette lighters, must be drained before being packaged for shipment.

Postal Service Centers offer packaging materials (many at no cost) suitable for most items. Check with your local postmaster if in doubt about what can or cannot be shipped in your holiday packages.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16