What to know before shipping your holiday packages with USPS this year

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U.S. Postal service mail handler Barbara Lynn sorts boxes at the U.S. Postal service's Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center on Dec. 4, 2017 in Opa Locka, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

U.S. Postal service mail handler Barbara Lynn sorts boxes at the U.S. Postal service’s Royal Palm Processing and Distribution Center on Dec. 4, 2017, in Opa Locka, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

To ensure that gifts and cards arrive in time for Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service is urging shoppers to get their holiday packages shipped out early this year.

As the economy took a blow from the COVID-19 pandemic, shortages and price spikes have hit all sorts of products and goods, prompting retailers to also recommend consumers to shop early or risk not finding products they want to gift for the holidays.

On top of supply issues, the USPS has slowed mail delivery and cut post office hours nationwide. The new standards will increase delivery times by 39% for first-class mail and 93% for periodicals like magazines.

The adjustments are a part of “Delivering for America,” the postal service’s 10-year plan for achieving financial sustainability and service excellence, according to USPS.

Meanwhile, ongoing congestion problems at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach could impact supply over the next few months. 

Price increases

A temporary price increase is in place until Dec. 26 for both retail and business customers for popular shipping products, including for military shipping.

“These temporary rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with the revenue to cover extra costs in anticipation of peak-season volume surges similar to levels experienced in 2020,” the USPS said in a statement. “Even with the temporary increase, the Postal Service has some of the lowest mail postage rates in the industrialized world and continues to offer great values in shipping.”

Temporary pricing increases for Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, Parcel Select Ground and USPS
Retail Ground and First-Class Package Service are as follows:

• PM and PME Flat Rate Boxes and Envelopes – $0.75
• Zones 1-4, 0-10 lbs. – $0.25
• Zones 5-9, 0-10 lbs. – $0.75
• Zones 1-4, 11-20 lbs. – $1.50
• Zones 5-9, 11-20lbs. – $3.00
• Zones 1-4, 21-70 lbs. – $2.50
• Zones 5-9, 21-70 lbs. – $5.00
• First-Class Package Service – $0.30

A local zone pricing calculator is available online.

International products are not affected by the price increase.

2021 holiday shipping deadlines

The USPS recommends the following mailing and shipping deadlines for expected delivery to domestic addresses by Christmas Day, Dec. 25.

  • Nov. 6 — USPS Retail Ground (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office)
  • Dec. 9 — Priority Mail and First-Class Mail for (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office)
  • Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground
  • Dec. 16 — USPS Priority Mail Express Military (Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office)
  • Dec. 17 — First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 17 — First-Class packages (smaller, up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 18 — Priority Mail
  • Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express

Tips for shipping during the holidays

The busiest time of the season for the USPS begins two weeks before Christmas. It’s expected that customer traffic at all post office locations will steadily increase beginning the week of Dec. 6, with the week of Dec. 13-18 anticipated to be the busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week of the season.

Skip the trip to the post office and instead visit usps.com. The postal service anticipates Dec. 19 will be its busiest day online, with 12.5 million consumers predicted to visit the website for help shipping that special holiday gift.

The USPS estimates nearly 500,000 consumers will use the Click-N-Ship feature and other online services on Dec. 14 to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and even
request free next-day Package Pickup.

You can get free Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes at local post offices or order them online. There is also featured where you can schedule a free package pickup when the carrier delivers your mail.

And, holiday and winter themed stamps are available online or at any one of more than 34,000 post office locations.

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