When to Mail All of Your Holiday Gifts So They Arrive on Time, According to Postal Officials
Make note of these important deadlines in November and December.
Is there anything worse than learning that a special holiday gift you sent to a loved one arrived the day after Christmas? Picking out the perfect present is only half the work, after all: You'll also need to plan ahead to ensure your gift reaches the intended recipient on time, too. Though Christmas falls at the end of December, mail carriers have cut-off deadlines that are established weeks beforehand—and they're even more pressing for Hanukkah, which is celebrated earlier this year.
Nearly all of the leading mail services in the United States will share recommended shipping deadlines in the weeks leading up to November. To ensure that your holiday gifts arrive at their destination intact and on time, we asked representatives from each major shipping service for the need-to-know mailing dates for 2019, including the United States Postal Service (USPS), FedEx, and the United Parcel Service (UPS). 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.
United States Postal Service
Since Hanukkah often begins before Christmas, most mail carriers are operating normally as this is not considered a federal holiday. But since Hanukkah falls between December 22 and 30 this year, you'll need to pay attention to the following deadlines if you want your gift to reach its destination on the first day of Hanukkah. If you plan ahead and can package your gift more than 10 days in advance of Christmas, you'll be able to take advantage of USPS's ground shipping options, which are often much more affordable than similar options with other carriers. According to Kim Frum, a senior public relations representative for USPS, the cut-off date for all customers wishing to have their gifts delivered by December 25 via ground shipping is December 14 (this includes domestic addresses anywhere in the United States, including Hawaii and Alaska).
USPS offers First-Class postage on packages weighing up to 16 ounces (like very small trinkets that are virtually weightless such as jewelry), and those need to be sent by December 20. If you miss the ground shipping date, then your next best bet is Priority Mail, which has a firm deadline of Saturday, December 21. 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 6, or send it by Priority or First-Class Mail by December 11 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. Like USPS, you can choose to send items via ground transportation at a reduced rate, and gifts should be on trucks by Monday, December 16 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 Monday, December 23. See more FedEx options and their holiday schedules here.
United Parcel Service
UPS retail locations operate on a limited schedule on 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. While some ground packages need to be in transit as early as December 13, gifts can be flown internationally using UPS' Air packages by scheduling pickups through December 19—and the absolute last day for scheduled delivery on Christmas Eve for UPS packages is December 20. For more information on UPS' holiday schedule and shipping options, click here.