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Shipping deadlines looming for sending holiday packages


Make sure you get your packages loaded onto Santa’s sleigh in time

By Ralph Hardin

Santa may be able to deliver gifts to all the good little boys and girls all in one night on Christmas Eve, but the rest of us have to rely on the shipping business to get our packages to loved ones during the holiday season.

Fortunately, even lacking a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, those playing Santa to friends and relations this year have a number of options at their disposal.

FedEx, UPS, Amazon and others will all handle their share of holiday packages, but, even here in the age of two-day delivery promises and plenty of shipping options, the Postal Service is still the king of the Christmas present delivery services.

Despite competition from other shippers, the USPS still sees in excess of 20 billion parcels during the runup to Christmas. Post offices around the country are inundated with Christmas cards, care packages and gift boxes.

Gift-givers need to be aware of fast approaching deadlines, especially those with an eye on sending packages overseas. Rick Carter, USPS Customer Relations Coordinator for the Little Rock hub, offers some advice.

“The earlier the better,” he suggests. “Sometimes people don’t realize how long it takes to get something to someone, especially around Christmas.”

While traditional U.S. mail service is on the decline, the postal service and other shippers are expecting more people to ship gifts this year.

Therefore, if you want your gifts to make it before the holiday – you might consider shipping them earlier, especially these days as stories of shipping delays and labor shortages left over from the pandemic have lingered into 2023.

So, while it’s still Thanksgiving weekend, it’s time again to prepare for the peak season holiday shipping rush. While it seems the holiday season starts earlier every year, gifts always need to be delivered by the 25th of Deccember.

Shipping company ShipStation recently conducted a survey to gauge consumer and merchant demands for the 2023 holiday season and found that shoppers begin searching for deals in September and will continue their efforts well into late December.

So come December 23, the postal service and UPS and the like will still have workers shipping out orders and customers ready to buy for Christmas morning. If you want your package to make it before Christmas, FedEx, USPS and UPS have different deadlines for you to ship your gifts.

2023 USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

• For the 2022 shipping calendar, the deadline for USPS Retail Ground Service, is Dec. 17.

• For regular First-class Mail you also have until Dec. 17.

• Priority Mail the deadline is Dec. 19.

• If time is a greater factor than cost, there’s Priority Mail Express, and the deadline is Dec. 23.

• Alaska and Hawaii offer their own logistical issues.

The First-Class Mail dealine for those states is Dec. 17.

The same goes for Priority Mail. For Priority Mail Express the deadline is Dec. 21, and for USPS Retail Ground Service (Alaska only) the deadline is Dec. 2.

For those with loved ones serving overseas in the military who wish to send a little holiday cheer, the last day to send letters and cards via Priority Mail Express Military Service mail is a little earlier.

• The general deadline is Dec.

13 for certain regions, including Europe, Mexico and the Middle East.

A costlier but faster route, Global Express Guaranteed Service, will give you until Dec. 20 (Dec. 21 for Asia, the Pacific Rim and Australia), or Dec. 22 for Mexico and Canada.

For First Class and Priority International Mail, the deadline is Dec. 6. Carter said even with the heads up on deadlines, he expects the week of Dec. 19-23, the seven days before Christmas, to be their busiest days leading up to the holidays. He said correct packaging is an important factor to consider when shipping gifts.

See HOLIDAY, page A2

Photo courtesy of USPS HOLIDAY

From page A1

“Everyone wants their package to look like a Christmas present,” he said.

“But we recommend clear plain wrapping, preferably one of our own boxes.”

Simple wrapping is the simplest and best way to ensure easy shipping and delivery.

“Print the address completely and clearly,” Carter added.

Senders also need to be aware of what can and can’t be shipped via U.S.

Mail. Even during the holidays, the same rules that always apply to the mail still apply. There are restrictions and regulations on perishable items, live animals, electronic and magnetic items, and other materials, such as tobacco and firearms. Check with your local post office or visit for more detailed guidelines on mailable items. If it is questionable, just take the item unwrapped to the post office or your shipper of choice, and if it can be shipped they will give you your best options.

As for the competition, Carter says the post office definitely has felt the impact of shippers like FedEx and UPS.

With online shopping becoming so prevalent, shipping companies often get consumers “coming and going,” shipping the item to the giver, who in turn ships the item to its ultimate recipient.

Online shoppers may want to use “drop shipping,” which will deliver the item in question straight to the final destination. As long as the buyer doesn’t have the need to inspect the quality of the item first, such as an item bought on eBay, this method can save time and money.

In the age of Amazon Prime and other online retailers, UPS and FedEx have carved their share of seasonal business, with competitive pricing and ontime guarantees, and both carriers offer Christmas Eve delivery on packages shipped on Dec. 23. Online retailers like Amazon have had to scale back their 2day delivery guarantees due to shipping delays. The post office says they can deliver on Christmas Eve or even Christmas Day in many cases. The post office offers shippers a few other conveniences as well.

“Online,” said Carter, “you can buy postage, schedule at home pick-up, all without leaving your house.”

If it becomes necessary to venture out, though, Carter had praise for the staff at the West Memphis Post Office.

“They know what people need this time of year. And we’ll do lobby sweeps to help customers as well.”

He said West Memphis is one of the state’s busiest locations, so consider your options this holiday season to ensure your gifts reach the hands of those intended.

More Deadlines to Know

• FedEx (excluding Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico) FedEx Ground – Dec. 15 FedEx Home Delivery Dec.

15 FedEx Standard Overnight – Dec.

23 FedEx Priority Overnight Dec. 23

• UPS Ground – Dec. 15

• UPS 3-Day Select – Dec. 21

• UPS 2nd Day Air – Dec. 22

• UPS Next Day Air – Dec. 23 Regardless of which carrier you choose, consider insuring packages and give them enough time to get there. With December 25th falling on a Monday this year, Saturday delivery may be utilized for some express, daydefinite services. So 2-day and nextday services will require you to pay extra for the specified Saturday delivery option for the carriers. The Post Offices and many other shipping options are likely to be unavailable on Christmas Eve, Sunday, Dec. 24.

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