For some, seeing loved ones and friends during the holidays is not an option. Instead, we carefully wrap our love in packages for shipment. But what do we need to know for hassle-free shipping this holiday season?
According to the United States Post Office, Thurs., Dec. 20, is the last day to ship first-class mail for Christmas arrival. Sat., Dec. 22, is the last day for most Express Mail to arrive by Christmas. Find other USPS holiday deadlines here. You can also find out other holiday information at the USPS Holiday Blog.
FedEx has also announced its holiday shipping deadlines. The last day to ship items for FedEx Home and Ground delivery by Christmas Eve is Mon., Dec. 17. Express Saver packages must be shipped by Wed., Dec. 19; 2Day - Thurs., Dec. 20; and Overnight service available for Christmas Eve delivery until Sat., Dec. 22. Find the complete FedEx holiday shipping calendar here.
The last days to ship packages by UPS for Christmas Eve delivery are Thurs., Dec. 20 for UPS 2nd Day Air, and Fri., Dec. 21, for UPS Next Day Air. Find out how UPS prepares for holiday shipping at the UPS blog.
(Related: Holiday Package Shipping Deadlines for Christmas 2012)
When preparing packages, follow these guidelines from the USPS:
- Use a sturdy box and allow space for cushioning inside the carton.
- Obtain Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes, envelopes, and tubes for free from your post office or shipping store. Check out our roundup of local places to ship goods.
- Cover up or black out any old labels and markings.
- Cushion with shredded or rolled newspaper or bubble wrap. Plain air-popped popcorn also works and is environmentally friendly. Close and gently shake the box. Add more cushioning if you hear things moving around.
- Stuff glass and fragile hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.
- Remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place them next to the toys in the mailing box.
- Use tape designed for shipping. Reinforce seams with 2-inch wide tape. Do not use wrapping paper or string as it can get caught in mail processing equipment.
- The weight of your package cannot exceed 70 lbs. If you’re planning to use Express Mail or Priority Mail services for faster delivery, length plus girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) can’t exceed 108 inches. When you use Parcel Post, the total can’t be more than 130 inches.
- PRINT addresses clearly.
- Include all address information, including apartment numbers, suite numbers, directional information.
- Include both "to" and "from" information on packages—and only on one side.
- Make sure you use the correct ZIP code. Use ZIP Code + 4 when possible.
- Packages weighing more than 13 oz. should be delivered to your local Post Office for mailing. Do not drop them into a blue collection box, lobby drop or other unattended location.
- Don’t send alcohol. And, in most cases, don’t send prescription drugs, cigarettes, smokeless tobacco or handguns.
- Don’t mail hazardous materials. Here’s a list of hazardous materials.
To make sure your packages arrive safely and on time, make sure to ship early. With a little care, those packages can be the next best thing to being there in person.
What are your best tips for holiday shipping? When do you usually ship your holiday packages?