I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but the U.S. Postal Service expects there will be approximately 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages that need to be delivered in time for Christmas this year. As I stepped into our local UPS Store the other day and saw the lines of people ALREADY doing their holiday shipping I did get a little nervous and decided I needed to get serious about MY holiday shipping needs. So I turned to our friends at Chippmunk.com who are experts in ALL things shopping for some tips to ensure all of our holiday packages are packed, tracked, and delivered by the big day!
Here’s how to determine what shipping options will get your gifts to their destination safely, on time and without busting your budget.
Pick the right gift
- Not only do you want to buy gift that they will like, you need to buy something you can mail easily. Even with the right packing precautions, it’s always safer to buy items you know can survive a bumpy trip through the mail. Apparel, shoes and most toys are a safe bet. Also, remember some states restrict what items you can send in the mail.
- Also consider sending gifts purchased online directly to the recipient to save time and money. No need to wait for the package to arrive at your house, then wrap it, and then put it back in the mail. Many times merchants’ shipping fees are the same as, or less than, what a shipping company would charge. Check out Chippmunk.com to find the best deals on online gifts!
- If you choose to pack your items yourself, make sure you choose the proper type of box and that it’s in good condition. Using an old box can cause problems down the line. Make sure it’s free of torn flaps, holes, corner dents, or water-damage. According to UPS, a crease can reduce a box’s strength by as much as 70 percent. Use a new, sturdy box that’s a few inches larger than your gift on all sides to allow for plenty of cushioning. There should be very little movement when you shake the box.
- When packing your box, don’t use duct tape or string because they may get caught in the automated machinery that’s used to process mail. Also, when wrapping electronic items or gifts that have batteries, take the batteries out of the item and wrap them separately within the box.
- Finally, address the gift properly. Not only should the address of the sender and the recipient be on the outside of the package, but the U.S. Postal Service suggests that you put that information on an index card inside of the package in case the box is damaged or inadvertently opens during transit.
- Leftover shipping labels also can cause a lot confusion about a package’s destination, so if you need to reuse a box be sure to completely remove the old label. Simply placing the new label over the old one will not suffice.
Look for deals
- Bargain-hunting shouldn’t end when you buy your gift. If you have time, try to shop around, you could find a cheaper shipping rate. One of the best things about the Internet is that the largest shipping companies, including the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and The UPS Store, all let you figure out the cost of service from the comfort of your own computer. As long as you know how much your package weighs, you can find out how much it will cost to get your package to its destination in various amounts of time.
- If you have a lot of items to send a good distance away, look for flat-rate boxes. Flat-rate boxes come in a variety of sizes and can be a money-saver when shipping small, but heavy gifts. FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service both offer this option, which allows you to pack as much as you can into a box and pay one price. Weight doesn’t matter.
- One of the best deals happens on Dec. 18th. That’s Free Shipping Day, when online shoppers will get free shipping on purchases made at participating retailers. And all of the retailers guarantee delivery by Christmas day.
Consider the hassle factor
- Cost isn’t the only thing to consider. With so many obligations during the holiday season, it may be worth a little extra money to save you some time. Pack-and-ship companies, such as The UPS Store and FedEx Office, give busy shoppers a respite by actually packing the boxes.
- Even if you have enough time to pack items yourself, if you’re shipping fragile items, it might be worth the peace of mind of having the items packed by a professional.
Protect your investment
- Chances are, your gifts will arrive at their destinations. But what if they don’t? Know the consequences, should your gifts get lost or arrive damaged, before you have them shipped. Ask your shipper about insurance or a declared-value option.
- The post office includes $100 of insurance in its Priority Mail Express shipping and offers options for declaring a higher value, for a fee.
- FedEx does not offer insurance, but you can pay extra to declare a value on your package—up to $1,000—before you ship it.
- With UPS, liability for loss or damaged is limited to $100 unless a higher value is declared and paid for. UPS’ declared value limit is $50,000.
- Ask plenty of questions before declaring the value of your package. If your package ends up being damaged in transit, but the shipping company determines that you packed it improperly, or did not follow proper packing procedures, they may have grounds to deny your claim.
Avoid missed packages
- If package recipients miss delivery more than once, they may be forced to pick up the package at a shipping hub. To avoid the potential inconvenience, consider sending the gift to their place of employment. This also helps avoid unwanted snooping from children, or even neighbors.
- Also, keep your tracking numbers handy. This makes it easier to pinpoint the package’s destination and lets its recipients know when to look out for it.
Mind your deadlines
Ship your gifts by the dates below to get them there on, or before Christmas.
- USPS Dec 20 (First-Class) Dec 21 (Priority Mail) Dec 23 (Priority express)
- UPS Dec 21 (2nd Day Air ) Dec 23 (Next Day Air
- FedEx Dec 19 (Express saver) Dec 21 (2Day) Dec 25 (SameDay)
Finally, THE most important tip to remember……..
Get your items off as soon as possible. Shippers do so much volume during the holidays, the earlier you mail, the more options you have.
When it comes to shipping your gifts, there is no shortage of options. The U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and The UPS Store, all have various services available to get your gifts to their destinations on time. But the faster you need your items to get there, the more you’re going to pay.
We all know how stressful the holidays can be in general, hopefully these tips will help you get all your holiday shipping accomplished with time to spare so you can get back to enjoying this most wonderful time of the year. :-)