APO stands for Army Post Office, FPO stands for Fleet Post Office, and DPO stands for Diplomatic Post Office. These are designations for USPS delivery points which serve our Military men and women around the world, as well as our diplomatic community. Most of these locations are in foreign countries (although some constantly move around — like the ships of the US Navy!)
Because these destinations are generally in foreign lands, a customs declaration is required. On the other hand, the USPS offers domestic rates for these packages and they are never actually handled for foreign posts. So these shipments are a very strange hybrid of domestic and international.
Sometime back, I had the pleasure of working with Ms. Christine Bailey of the USPS to create an integrated shipping label for APO/FPO/DPO package deliveries — similar to the purely international integrated labels. It took over a year to get a design that everyone liked and met all the requirements.
Here are some unique features of an APO/DPO/FPO shipment:
Whereas many custom form configurations require multiple copies of the form, an APO/FPO/DPO shipment needs only the first (top) copy!
There is a postage discount of $1.50 if you use a Priority Large Flat Rate Box to mail to an APO/FPO/DPO. You can mail up to 70 pounds in a box like this for the same low rate.
It is difficult to obtain a ZIP+4 for APO/FPO/DPO addresses using an address lookup engine. This is because the “street” line of the address is often filled with military abbreviations and not standard street address components - often it’s something like "123/456 Unit 4403 ARFC”. The military regularly provides these addresses to the USPS for inclusion in address matching software, but you must input the address exactly as it appears in the USPS address database to get a match.
For security purposes, be sure you have a persons name on each shipment. While you might feel like sending gifts randomly to our troops, there is concern that a “To Any Soldier” address could be used by bad players to mail dangerous goods. There are a number of groups that regularly ship to our troops and they often have a pool of names and addresses that have been vetted. Check out https://www.operationgratitude.com for example.
Remember, you are only paying domestic rates for a shipment that might end up on the other side of the world!