Make note of these important holiday shipping deadlines in November and December.

After all that time you spent picking out the perfect present, is there anything worse than learning that your loved one received it the day after Christmas? To ensure that your gifts arrive at their destination intact and on time, we asked representatives from each major shipping service—the United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and the United Parcel Service (UPS)—for their need-to-know mailing deadlines. (Keep in mind that online retailers may have their own deadlines for holiday delivery that should be made available to you before placing your order.) Plan ahead now to make sure no one will be disappointed later.

Packing a gift box to send to family.
Credit: Bryan Gardner

United States Postal Service

While the peak mailing season for the Postal Service starts before Thanksgiving and lasts until New Year's Day, it ramps up the most around Christmas, says Kim Frum, the senior public relations representative for the United States Postal Service. "The busiest time of the season for the Postal Service begins two weeks before Christmas," she says. "It's expected that customer traffic at all Post Office locations will steadily increase beginning the week of December 6, with the week of December 13 to 18 anticipated to be the busiest mailing, shipping, and delivery week of the season." In turn, shipping as early as possible and consulting recommended deadlines will ensure your packages are delivered before December 25.

Mailing for Hanukkah and Christmas

Since Hanukkah falls between December 18 and 26 this year, pay close attention and send out presents accordingly so they arrive by the first night. As for Christmas? If you plan ahead and can package your gift more than 10 days in advance of December 25, you'll be able to take advantage of USPS's ground shipping options, which are often much more affordable than similar options from other carriers.

The cut-off date for all customers wishing to have their gifts delivered by December 25 via ground shipping is December 15 (this includes domestic addresses anywhere in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska).

Shipping Options

USPS offers First-Class postage on packages weighing up to 16 ounces or greeting cards, and those need to be sent by December 17. If you miss the ground shipping date, then your next best bet is Priority Mail, which has a firm deadline of Monday, December 19. Priority Mail packages are stored in standard boxes that are shipped at a flat-rate to zip codes across the country and you can load up to 70 pounds in a single box at the same rate.

Don't fret if you've waited until the very last minute to get a gift out to your loved ones; USPS offers a next-day shipping option with Priority Mail Express, which is more costly than other options, but it'll get your gift to its destination on Christmas Eve if you send it by December 23. 

Keep in mind that the USPS services all air, army, fleet, and diplomatic post offices abroad; you'll need to ground-ship your gifts by November 5, or send it by Priority or First-Class Mail by December 9 for on-time Christmas delivery. You can find all of USPS' shipping dates and options by checking the USPS' newsroom here


FedEx's full holiday shipping schedule is available here; notably, in some city markets, you can ship items on Christmas Day and have it delivered just a few hours later.

Shipping Options

Like USPS, you can choose to send items via ground transportation at a reduced rate, and gifts should be on trucks by Tuesday, December 15 in order to reach domestic locations by Christmas Day. If you're planning to send gifts to loved ones abroad in Canada, Mexico, or Puerto Rico, the carrier has guaranteed overnight delivery on gifts sent via FedEx International Priority Mail if they're sent by December 23. See more FedEx options and their holiday schedules here.

United Parcel Service

UPS retail locations operate on a limited schedule in the days leading up to Christmas Eve (and won't be delivering on Christmas Day), but customers can ship items around the world using their international services up to a week before Christmas arrives.

Shipping Options

While some ground packages need to be in transit as early as December 15, gifts can be flown internationally using UPS' Air packages by scheduling pickups through December 22—and the absolute last day for scheduled delivery on Christmas Eve for UPS packages is December 23. You can find out the last days to ship in order to get the delivery on or before December 24 on UPS' year-end schedule, says Matthew O'Connor, the senior manager of public relations for UPS.

Schedule a Package Pickup

It's worth checking to see if your carrier offers package pickups to avoid long lines at shipping centers, too. The Postal Service offers contactless pickups. "Customers pressed for time can schedule a free package pickup when the carrier delivers your mail. It's free regardless of the number of packages," says Frum. "Restrictions apply, please see the online FAQ on Package Pickup for more information. If customers can't get to a Post Office to purchase postage or drop off their packages, the Postal Service offers a free Click-N-Ship feature which allows customers to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and also request free next-day Package Pickup."


Be the first to comment!