Tips for mailing:
1. US Post Office limits package size according to destination.
2. There is no more surface mail. Everything must go airmail, priority mail, express mail, or by courier.
3. US has priority and express flat rate boxes. If you are sending especially heavy items (some books, car parts, etc), then it is good to try these boxes. Sometimes it is a big savings on postage.
4. It is generally cheaper to send one large box rather than two small ones; however….
5. Smaller packages attract less attention with the customs officials overseas.
6. Also some countries pay more attention – and charge more customs- when it seems the sender values the package highly. Some countries charge a percentage of the postage as part of the customs.
7. Postage prices are different for different countries. Often there are different services available (International Express, Priority, 1st class). Trial and error is always needed to learn what works best for each country.
8. For many countries, it is best to have small packages that will fit in their box. Things that fit in smaller padded envelopes usually get through with minimal trouble.
9. Packages under about 2 lbs often get to use the smaller (green) custom form when mailing. Larger packages always use a larger form. The larger form just takes longer to fill out and seems like it requires more detail.
10. Customs value declarations should be the resale value, such as at a garage sale. All items should have any new tags removed, possibly clothing could even be washed. Items could be gently used. It is very helpful if the designation “used” can be on the customs form. Just think: if an item has been opened and all the tags are gone, you are unlikely to be able to return it to a store, because it is considered used. For most countries, used clothing has little customs value.
11. Another advantage to opening everything is that it ships in much less space. Packaging here is very bulky and not really needed. If the toy doesn’t need the box and it will be thrown away on the other side, then I take it out here. If there are instructions or something useful printed on the box then I cut that part out and send it. Often I am sending clothing items that can be used for padding. Be careful not to send boxes that ‘sing’, ‘talk’, or rattle. Remove batteries and pad noisy items.
12. Food items can be problematic with some countries' customs. So be sure and just send things that are processed (no meats, fresh fruits, etc.) and factory sealed. The word 'food' conjures up 'fresh' in customs officials minds. Think of other descriptive words. Some countries don’t care.
13. On customs forms, I never use the words computer, CD, DVD, video, electronic or other such words that would attract theft. (We knew a church that mailed a computer. On the outside with a big black marker they wrote “FRAGILE – COMPUTER” and then could never understand when it never arrived.) I try to be honest but a little more creative in my descriptions. When I send CDs, I try to think of some other description like Bible lectures or church music, depending on what it is.
15. Some items we send may need to be charged customs, but we need to be sure our missionary would like to have those items enough to pay the customs (or send them the money to pay the customs.) Just remember they have to pay the customs before they even open the package or know if they want the item.
16. Items sent directly from a store will almost always be charged customs.
17. Plan on two months for delivery of a package and a month for delivery of a card or letter. I have seen airmail to Africa in 5 days and also seen it take up to 6 mo. One to two months is more standard.
18. I try never to send a package with a total value stated as more than about $25. If more valuable, then put in separate packages.