With Thanksgiving now an almost distant memory, it's the time of year when people are scrambling to mail their letters and packages to friends and loved ones across the globe. Though the clock is ticking to beat the holiday rush, there's still time.
According to information provided by the United States Postal Service, postal customers have until Monday, Dec. 15, to ship packages standard parcel post in order to ensure delivery within the U.S. before Christmas. Those wishing for their letters and cards to reach their destination within the country have until Saturday, Dec. 20, via standard mail. Express Mail delivery, which guarantees next day service, is available up until the day before Christmas, though at a slightly higher cost.
In order for packages and cards to reach loved ones serving in the military overseas, postal customers have the option of sending items Priority Mail and First Class Mail until Thursday, Dec. 11. Express Mail delivery is still available until Thursday, Dec. 18.
In order to reach other destinations outside the U.S., postal customers have a few options with the U.S. Postal Service. The availability of First Class Mail International Priority Mail, Express Mail International and Global Express Guaranteed varies, depending on location.
Shipping with other parcel delivery services has a slightly different schedule. With UPS, in order to ensure delivery in-country by Christmas Eve, customers have until Friday, Dec. 19 to ship their packages via UPS 3-Day Select service. Customers also have the option of UPS 2nd Day Air and UPS Next Day Air if they get their packages to UPS by Monday, Dec. 22, and Tuesday, Dec. 23, respectively. UPS does not deliver on Christmas Day.
The last day to ship in-country via FedEx Ground and Home Delivery services - in order to be delivered by Christmas - is Dec. 17. Other options such as Fed Ex Express Saver parcels must be sent by Dec. 19, and FedEx 2Day and 2Day with Saturday delivery services have a Dec. 20 deadline. FedEx Overnight with Saturday delivery items must be sent by Dec. 21, while FedEx Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight and First Overnight items have until Dec. 22. Delivery service is available on Christmas Day with FedEx SameDay service.
Postmaster Brenda Munnik, with the Champlain Post Office, said regardless of how people wish to send their packages, letters and cards this holiday season, it's important to write legibly on all outgoing mail. It's also worth considering whether the item being sent is worth insuring, she said.
"Insurance is something they may want to purchase, depending on the value of the contents. It's really economical, especially if it's a Christmas gift," she said,
When mailing overseas, such as to a loved one serving in the military, Munnik said it is important addresses are correctly and clearly printed. It's also important to double-check the items you are sending are permitted in the destination country, she added.
"We take it for granted you can send your son a box of Slim Jims or beef jerky, but a lot of beef and pork products are not allowed in some countries," said Munnik. "We have specific guidelines as far as what is mailable to [the military] because ultimately, they are in a foreign country. We have to honor their rules and regulations."
Packages sent out of the country also require a U.S. Customs form be filled out, listing the package's contents.
"You have to be very specific," she said. "If a customer calls, we can provide them with the specific restrictions based on where they're sending it."
It's also important for people choosing the U.S. Postal Service to plan ahead when visiting the post office, she added.
"In our office, we have a large base of Canadian customers and our locals wait in line on Saturdays for simple things such as a stamp," said Munnik. "My advice would be for them to buy their stamps in advance from their letter carrier rather than standing in line or buy their books ahead of time."
"The lines are only going to get worse as the holidays get closer," she added.
For more information, visit your local post office or parcel delivery service. Direct links to U.S. homepages for the U.S. Postal Service and other parcel delivery services are as follows - U.S. Postal Service: www.usps.com; UPS: www.ups.com and Fed Ex: www.fedex.com.