As the holiday shopping season hits its stride, customers looking to ship gifts are encouraged to get their packages out early to ensure Christmas Day delivery.
The U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx are prepared for the holiday rush, but officials advise customers to think ahead to get their packages to their destinations safely and on time.
"Don’t wait too much longer after Thanksgiving, if you want to get in on ground rates," urged Steve Abshere, manager of the Fort Smith UPS center. "Start now, because the cost of priority shipping almost surpasses gift price for next-day delivery."
UPS and the Postal Service will accept packages for Christmas Eve delivery up to Dec. 23. For last-minute procrastinators, FedEx will ship packages up to Christmas Eve, and will provide same-day delivery on Christmas Day.
"Customers can count on FedEx for convenience," said Carla Boyd of FedEx media relations. "It’s important to note that FedEx offers an extensive FedEx same-day service. Customers can ship on Christmas Day or any other day of the year. It’s available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, for your urgent shipments."
Officials also offer tips for those looking to avoid long lines waiting to ship a package.
"We anticipate our busiest mailing day of the year to be Dec. 16, with the busiest delivery day for cards and letters Dec. 18 and the busiest delivery day for packages Dec. 19," said Leisa Tolliver-Gay, USPS customer relations coordinator. "Most of our lobbies are busier before work hours, during lunch, and after 4 p.m. Right now, there are no changes in operating hours for the holidays, but there will be no retail service, collection or delivery on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day."
Tolliver-Gay estimates the Postal Service will deliver 545 million pieces of mail daily to 152 million addresses between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.
Abshere said the afternoon and early evening hours are the most optimal time to avoid lines at UPS.
"For us, the best time is from 3-6 p.m.," he said. "Try to avoid the middle day, because it could really eat up your lunch hour. Early morning or mid-afternoon is the best to send out your packages."
Officials suggest printing labels at home to avoid lines and say the most cost-effective shipping dates is to ship no later than Dec. 17. The Postal Service offers standard post rates through Dec. 14, with FedEx and UPS offering standard ground rates up to Dec. 17.
Whatever shipping company you prefer, officials provide tips on packaging to ensure safe and accurate delivery, such as selecting a strong, sturdy box that is properly and clearly labeled; wrapping gift boxes inside larger boxes and cushioning more fragile items; removing all batteries from electronics; and placing an extra shipping label inside the box, so the item can be returned in case the box or label gets damaged.
Abshere reminds customers to be mindful of the shortened holiday shopping season.
"People may not realize that this year, there’s three weeks and then it’s Christmas, so there’s not much time," Abshere said. "With Cyber Week and Black Friday, get it in early. Even if you’re shipping nationwide, though, get it in early. I would definitely not wait until the last week before the holiday."