Christmas is less than three weeks away, which means time is running out for those interested in preparing and shipping holiday packages through the United States Postal Service (USPS).
Parcel Post Service packages must be postmarked by Friday, Dec. 14 in order to be delivered before Christmas. First class mail must be postmarked by Thursday, Dec. 20, and priority mail should be sent by Friday, Dec. 21.
USPS expects to deliver 365 million packages this holiday season. This is a 20 percent increase over the number of packages delivered in 2011. In total, nearly 18 billion cards, letters and packages will be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
"This is one of the most exciting and busiest times of the year for the Postal Service, whether you're sending a holiday card to Kentucky or military care package to Afghanistan, our employees do what it takes to process and deliver every single one," said Patrick Donahoe, postmaster general and chief executive officer.
The busiest mailing day for holiday cards and packages is predicted to be Monday, Dec. 17. The busiest delivery day for letters will be Wednesday, Dec. 19, and the busiest delivery day for packages will be Thursday, Dec. 20.
USPS customers are encouraged to use the following suggestions when shipping holiday packages and cards:
* Print addresses clearly in all caps and be sure to include all address elements, such as apartment numbers, suite numbers and directional information for streets.
* Include both to and from information on packages and only on one side.
* Never guess a ZIP code. Visit usps.com to find all ZIP codes.
* Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents, and leave space for cushioning inside.
* Do not reuse mailing boxes. Previously used boxes can weaken in the shipping process.
* Purchase ReadyPost boxes or obtain free Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes, envelopes and tubes at the local post office or online at usps.com.
* Cushion contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Plain air-popped popcorn, which is inexpensive and environmentally friendly, is also good for cushioning.
* Pack contents tightly to avoid shifting during transit. Shake boxes to confirm items are packed properly.
* Always use tape that is designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced craft paper tape or glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape.
* Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, duct tape or cellophane tape.