I'm about to reveal a well-guarded government secret! Better sit down! Hold on to your hats, folks! Here it is.
The postal service has "flat rate" boxes! This means that whatever you can stuff into one of these boxes, no matter how much it weighs, goes for $8! (Well, as of today - - Aug. 17, 2006 - - it's $8.10, but let's work with a rounded number!)
These boxes come in two sizes: 12 x 3.5 x 13.5 and 11 x 8.5 x 5.5. (I use the first one because it's a good fit for magazines. This size also holds 12 cans of soup, stew, pasta, etc. Yup….all that liquid….still $8!)
Not only is the postage a great price, but the postal service has the boxes themselves for FREE! Can you believe it? AND….(if you act within the next 30 minutes….), they'll ship a carton of them right to your home - - ALSO for free!
Order them here (ignore the link button that says buy - - the stuff is free.):
You'll need an address label and a customs form, too. Here are links to order these:
Label #228 customs from, Form 2976-A
Post offices have these labels and customs forms readily available in the lobby, but you'll have to go during the hours the lobby is open. Usually the boxes are not available in the lobby, and you must get them from a clerk (unless you order some).
You must go to the post office to mail the boxes - - yes, even the Postal Service boxes (duh....how much will it cost to mail one of these boxes?)- - rather than getting the postage online yourself. This couldn't be totally easy, right?!
You suspected paperwork was involved, didn't you?!
It's not too horrible. It's just a customs form. Not the terrible green one the size of a business card. This is a nice big one. The only thing of note is that you must declare the contents in detail. You can't write toiletries. You have to write shampoo, toothpaste, and boot powder.
Also, declare a value. I'm not going to take the trouble to tote up the cost of whatever I put in the box, so I just write $100.
The clerk will ask if the box is a gift. "Yes," you respond.
When packing, make sure the box is firmly packed. Otherwise, the contents will be squashed/broken, as well as shift around, which increases the chance of breakage or that - - gasp! - - the box pops open and all contents are spilled. Use newspapers, [clean] plastic grocery bags, etc. to fill in all the vacant areas. If your Marine is from your home town, use the local and sports sections of your own newspaper to provide even more "news from home."
Don't use popped popcorn, as it attracts critters! Packing peanuts are a real mess. Don't use these, either. Newspapers are best.
Tape the box well on all three dimensions. Even if you're sending a box of feathers, the sticky stuff on the boxes is nowhere near strong enough to take the box all the way to your Marine, especially if the box is bowing out and very heavy because you got so much stuff inside for your $8!! (I can get 20 pounds or more in one of these boxes, but I've been a military-family person for most of my life, and I'm an experienced packer. Can you beat 20 pounds?! Go for it!)
And how long can you expect it to take for your box? The clerk at my post office says 7 – 10 days. How accurate is this statement? Hah! Anyone's guess! Also, don't bother sending priority or overnight mail or UPS or FedEx fast delivery. All this will do is get your box to the military mailing facility and cost you more than $8. It won't get the box to your deployed Marine any faster than the $8 box.