It’s hard to believe, but I’m rounding the corner to my five year anniversary living overseas here in Japan. I will state with full disclosure that my stay overseas has been somewhat of an “expat lite” experience, as I live in an area with a huge American military population, complete with access to the American grocery stores and exchanges on the bases and, very conveniently, an “American” address. Having an APO address has been especially nice for me being a. tall with giant feet (Japanese stores rarely carry clothing I can fit, and never carry shoes that do) and b. having an ugly Sephora habit.
But, not every company, or every thing, will ship to an APO address. Even Amazon and Sephora, which are in general amazing with their (free) shipping policies and speed, have items that won’t ship to overseas military/diplomatic addresses. Sometimes they make sense (item is too large to ship USPS, flammable, etc) and sometimes you will have an item denied for reasons you cannot fathom. But, c’est la vie. Or, in my adopted home, shikata ga nai.
There are a few items that I have seen a zillion times come up, either in forums and Facebook groups, or just among friends, that people have a hard time sourcing if you need something shipped stateside. Outside of using a forwarder (and paying additional fees), here are a few tricky items that I’ve found ways to get shipped when living overseas.
Note: this post contains affiliate links, dude.
Living Overseas: the Double BOB Jogging Stroller
Things that you never see in Japan, outside of Americans using them: double jogging strollers. This is simply something you cannot purchase on the economy, at least not that I’ve seen. To compound matters, it is a huge item that many retailers (including, almost always, trusty Amazon) won’t ship to an APO/FPO/DPO address.
These strollers are mammoths. They are also what can end up being a lifeline; being the difference between sanity and not. Some exchanges have started to sell them, but they sell out fast. Being hard to get and in demand, the resale value of them is somewhat ridiculous for a used item. But putting a price on sanity is a tricky thing.
Anyway, if you haven’t ordered from them, Nordstrom is a terrific source for getting things shipped quickly and packed well. This includes … Double BOB strollers. Will you get a deep Amazon-type discount? Probably not (though I would check during their larger sales for markdowns because you never know!). Will you get a double jogger shipped to you overseas? YES.
Living Overseas: the Car Seat Conundrum
Car seats are, of course, available on the local economy. In Japan, they also can range into the $600 range (many of which are designed to go in the front passenger seat, if you can believe). If you aren’t quite at car seat baller status yet, or you will be moving back to the states and want a seat from the states, this can also be tricky due to the super bulky size of a lot of the more tricked out ones. If you have access to a base exchange you can find a very small selection of seats, and Amazon will ship some of their dinkiest seats, but generally even retailers with free shipping to APOs won’t extend that to car seats because of the huge costs incurred from USPS on big crap.
Again, Nordstrom has a selection of nicer American-market seats that they will ship anywhere, for free. Just like with the double BOB, you probably aren’t getting anything close to a fire sale price for it … but if there’s a specific model that you’re after, they are definitely worth checking.
If there’s something you live and die for, or just want to try, and you don’t know a local alternative, there are tons of good options for cosmetics that will ship to your APO. Sephora is a good option for higher-end stuff. Even Sephora won’t ship everything though (perfumes and aerosols/dry shampoos can be problematic). Ulta is a total crap shoot on if they will ship, and whether it will come quickly or by slow boat. Beautylish is an excellent source for, again, higher-end items and their packaging and whatnot are amazing. If Sephora or Ulta won’t ship, I would definitely check into Nordstrom and Macy’s (make sure to use ebates if you shop from Macy’s or Sephora!) … they both ship fast and free to your APO address and make living overseas a lot easier. Specifically on self-tanner: of my two favorites, St. Tropez will NOT ship APO and Bondi Sands, from Australia, will (super fast too!). Finally, Amazon is also a good bet for all kinds of cosmetic-type stuff, including K-beauty (Soko Glam will also ship K-beauty quickly to APOs). Many brand websites, like Tarte Cosmetics and Zoya, will ship but it will come slow boat.
Living Overseas: Scooby Snacks, or, Food
Is there a food/ingredient you love that is either crazy expensive or not available where you live? If it’s a perishable item, if you don’t learn how to make it yourself you might be SOL. But for non-perishables, you can get tons of stuff mailed right to your FPO! Living overseas is extra easy when you have some of the comforts of home with you, especially when it’s food. Vitacost (and Amazon too of course!) is a great source (use ebates with Vitacost, too!) for tons of (mostly healthier type stuff) foods and non-foods. Expensive crap like quinoa, maple syrup, coconut oil, specialty diet items (vegan, keto, paleo, etc), prepared/packaged healthy-type snacks as well as supplements and (some) essential oils will all come quickly and free to your APO.
Well, those are the tips and tricks I have for now for shipping stuff when living overseas. Having a few comforts of home go a long way towards easing what can otherwise be a tough transition. What items and retailers have you found great or crappy when shipping to an APO address? Let me know in the comments!