A panic-free ‘I can’t believe the holidays are here’ gift shipping guide

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There are some big deadlines to know to make sure your holidays gifts get where they need to be and don't arrive in 2020.

WASHINGTON — We don’t want you to stress, but we are stressing to you that you need to get familiar with these holiday shipping deadlines if you want your gifts to friends, family and others to arrive by December 25. 

What we once knew as busy days for the United States Postal Service is now essentially a thing of the past. These days the USPS now experiences its busiest time about two weeks before Christmas, beginning on December 9. The busiest part of that time for mailing, shipping and deliveries you ask? That is said to be December 16 – 22.

So be sure to heed these deadlines and be kind to your delivery drivers. They are working hard this holiday season to make sure your gifts get to where they need to be this time of year. 

As of Nov. 19, we’re still waiting on Amazon to release its shipping and order deadlines to ensure gifts will arrive by Christmas. Those dates are set to be released Dec. 1. So keep checking back here for updates.

Online shipments

USPS offers options to get your shipments started online, or to complete the entire process from home depending on your situation. Dec. 16 is expected to be the USPS’ busiest day for online shipments with millions of customer visits expected. Hundreds of thousands of packages are expected to be shipped using the USPS Click-N-Ship feature, so get started early. Free next-day package pickup is possible. 

New stamped package drop off guidelines for USPS

Click-N-Ship customers will not be affected by new changes to how stamped packaged are handled.

The USPS is citing safety reasons and says that as of October, USPS customers can no longer drop off boxes that have postal stamps on them if they are either over 1/2-inch thick or weigh more than 10 ounces, or a combination of both. These drop off scenarios include placing these items in blue USPS collection boxes, putting them in building mail chutes or in post office mail slots.

Customers must instead go in person to the post office counter and speak with a postal worker to drop off the item or use one of the self-service kiosks that the USPS offers in post offices.

If customers don’t abide by these new stamped package drop off rules, their items could be returned to sender, possibly causing your packages to arrive late.

If you’re planning to head down to the post office to get your gifts out, USPS listed the following shipping deadlines on its website.

USPS says, for holiday cards and gifts for holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas “or other holiday traditions,” your recommended domestic, international and military shipping deadlines are as follows:

  • For service via First-Class mail you need to get your items shipping out by Dec. 20.
  • For service via Priority Mail, you’ll have an extra day according to USPS: Dec. 21.
  • For service via Priority Mail Express, get those items out by Dec. 23.
  • But be prepared when choosing service via USPS Retail Ground. Make sure you get to the post office early as this service calls for items to be shipped out by Dec. 14.
  • For Alaska and Hawaii, the dates are a bit different. Items going First Class need to be out by Dec. 18 (Alaska) and Dec. 19 (Hawaii).
  • For Priority Mail service, get your items out by Dec. 19 (Alaska and Hawaii).
  • For Priority Mail Express Service, get over to the post office by Dec. 21 (Alaska and Hawaii).

For Military recipients, the key USPS dates are as follows:

  • PO/FPO/DPO (only for ZIP code 093), if you’re choosing Priority Mail and First-Class service, get your items shipped out by Dec. 9.
  • APO/FPO/DPO (for all other ZIP codes), if you’re choosing Priority Mail and First-Class service, get your items shipped out by Dec. 11.
  • USPS Retail Ground service: Dec. 14
  • APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service: Dec. 18
  • First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards): Dec. 20
  • First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces): Dec. 20
  • Priority Mail service: Dec. 21
  • Priority Mail Express service: Dec. 23

What about UPS?

The first rule is to not confuse UPS with USPS, it happens more than you might think.

UPS has listed the shipping deadlines on its website as well.

  • UPS is suspending their “UPS Service Guarantee” on Dec. 2. This means that all UPS Ground shipments, including those to Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico will have the guarantee suspended if they are picked up or scheduled for pick up between Dec. 2 – 24.
  • UPS also says that the last day to ship some packages using UPS Ground service will be Dec. 13. That is if you want the package to arrive by Dec. 24.
  • Dec. 23 will be your last day to ship via UPS Next Day Air if you want your package to arrive by Dec. 24, and you can expect this late planning to cost you a pretty penny. That also goes for UPS’s Christmas Eve Limited service, which you’ll need to prearrange by Thursday, Dec. 19.

UPS will not have pickup or delivery service available on Dec. 25. If you do need to contact UPS Express Critical service for more details you can do so by calling 1-800-714-8779 or visit upsexpresscritical.com.

Choosing to use FedEx?

Here are the important dates that you need to stick to if you want those important packages to arrive by Dec. 25. 

For shipments made within the U.S. to destinations within the U.S. here are the FedEx shipping method options along with the dates you need to ship by:

  • FedEx SmartPost: Dec. 9
  • FedEx Home Delivery: Dec. 16
  • FedEx Ground: Dec. 16
  • FedEx Express Saver: Dec. 19
  • FedEx 2Day: Dec. 20
  • FedEx 2Day A.M: Dec. 20
  • FedEx Standard Overnight: Dec. 23
  • FedEx Priority Overnight: Dec. 23
  • FedEx First Overnight: Dec. 23
  • FedEx SameDay: Dec. 25
  • FedEx SameDay City Priority: Dec. 25
  • FedEx SameDay City Direct: Dec. 25

With a little planning and scheduling you should be able to have one less thing to stress about this holiday season. 

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