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November 20, 2020

Send holiday packages early to avoid mail delays, U.S. Postal Service instructs

USPS sets cutoff dates for delivering cards, gifts by Christmas

Usps Holidays
USPS mailboxes Ethan Hoover/

The U.S. Postal Service urges people to send packages early to ensure they make it to their destination in time for the holidays.

It's been a tough year for the U.S. Postal Service. 

Concerns have swirled around mail-in ballots for the election and general pandemic-caused delays. Now, many people are worried whether their holiday deliveries will show up in time. 

On Friday, the USPS instructed customers to keep their mentality from the past few months and send holiday gifts and cards early. 

In light of the rising COVID-19 cases and strong recommendations to shrink Thanksgiving plans, it's likely that winter holiday celebrations will be held virtually or in smaller numbers. That means more deliveries and less in-person gift giving.

The last two weeks before Christmas is peak-package-sending time, according to the Postal Service. That's also when most of the last minute shopping starts.

This year, USPS is offering virtual shipping services so consumers can skip the trip to the post office. Instead, they can visit or use the Click-N-Ship feature to send gifts, order free priority mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postal stamps and request free next-day package pickup. 

Starting Nov. 29, Sunday deliveries will be expanded to locations with high package volumes, though most major cities already get package deliveries seven days a week. Christmas Day deliveries will be made in select locations for an additional fee.

To get gifts delivered by Dec. 25, the Postal Service recommends consumers send packages by:

• Dec. 9 — APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 only) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail

• Dec. 11 — APO/FPO/DPO (all other ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail services

• Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service

• Dec. 18 — APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service

• Dec. 18 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)

• Dec. 18 — First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)

• Dec. 19 — Priority Mail service

• Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express service

The Postal Service is notoriously busy during the holidays. It begins planning for its peak season every January, ensuring there's enough equipment to sort, process and deliver the mail and package volume.

USPS has 644,000 employees working to get gifts and greeting cards delivered in time for the holidays – though seasonal workers are hired when needed.