Important Shipping Dates and Advice for the Holidays

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Posted on 12/01/2011

Letter carriers’ loads are about to get a whole lot bigger. The US Postal Service says they’ll deliver a whopping 16.5 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Shipping dates sneak up quickly so if you’ve got gifts to mail keep reading for key dates and advice that will ensure your packages arrive on time and in perfect condition.


Go Flat Rate Save a trip to the post office by simply using flat rate boxes to ship your gifts. Not only does it skip the sometimes tedious step of finding a box worthy of holding your purchases, but you can easily print out postage at home without weighing them. Have your mail carrier deliver flat rate boxes to your door by ordering them online.


Schedule At-Home Pickup
Avoid long lines just to drop off your packages. Instead, schedule a pick up with a couple of clicks of the mouse. Just head to USPS.com to schedule a pickup. Consider it an early Christmas gift because this service is completely free. Prefer to ship FedEx? Look online for a drop off location near you.


Wrap Batteries Separately
Gadgets and toys often come ready to go with batteries, but the post office says it’s not a good idea to ship items with these installed. Instead wrap the batteries separately in the same box.


Write Clearly
This seems simple enough, but plenty of packages never make it to the destination because the address wasn’t legible. Put both the destination and the return address on the same side of the box.


Use Plenty of Cushion
If you’re shipping breakables make sure you take precautions. Use bubble wrap and tissue to protect those fragile items on their long journey. Experts even suggest taking the glass out of framed photographs and packaging them separately. If you’re really worried about your item making it to its destination in one piece you may want to take it to FedEx and have an expert pack it for you. You can also bring an item you already packed to them and they’ll confirm whether you did it correctly.


Use the Complete Address
Just in case you haven’t mailed anything since last Christmas, here is a refresher on what a properly addressed package looks like. Start with the recipient's name followed by the Post Office Box or street number, street name, and suffix on the next line. The third line should include a secondary address such as an apartment or suite number. The city, state and zip code belongs under that. If you don’t have the zip code, look it up using the USPS’s free online service.


Save the Date
When it comes to shipping, the longer you wait the more you will pay. Here are important dates for 2011 to remember when it comes to shipping those gifts:
Dec. 3 - Military mail destined for Afghanistan
Dec. 10 - Military mail for other overseas bases
Dec. 15 - Parcel Post, the most economical shipping service
Dec. 20 - First-Class Mail
Dec. 21 - Priority Mail
Dec. 22 - Express Mail


By Alison Storm


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