SOURCE: U.S. Postal Service

November 04, 2014 13:01 ET

Holiday Shipping 101

MISSION, KS--(Marketwired - Nov 4, 2014) - (Family Features) If one of your holiday tasks is shipping gifts to family and friends across the nation, knowing a few tips and tricks will ensure your packages get to them in time for the festivities.

From shipping deadlines to packaging, there are many factors to consider when sending gifts, especially during a busy time like the holiday season. Fortunately, there are dozens of resources available to help make shipping holiday gifts more convenient than ever.

"Priority Mail is a convenient and affordable shipping option for holiday gifts," said John Budzynski, consumer advocate at the U.S. Postal Service. "It offers features like package redirect, free package pickup and text update alerts."

Budzynski offers this advice to help make your holiday shipping simple and stress-free.

  • Take advantage of services that make shipping more convenient. For example, the U.S. Postal Service lets you order free Priority Mail shipping supplies from usps.com and delivers them right to your door -- from boxes to envelopes and stickers.

  • Be informed about policies for handling fragile gifts or items that may be hazardous, such as perfume, cologne and other liquids.

  • Always include a return address. It tells the shipper where to return the package if it can't be delivered.

  • Pack smart. Pick a strong and sturdy box, cushion contents with packing peanuts, newspaper or bubble wrap, and tape it closed with strong packing tape.

  • Print postage at home using Click-N-Ship from the U.S. Postal Service at usps.com/clicknship. It not only saves time, but money too; you can receive up to an 11 percent discount by buying postage online.

  • Don't get caught in the holiday rush. Schedule a free package pickup from your home or office.

  • Stay updated on the status of your package. Use Priority Mail to receive tracking to monitor your package's progress toward its destination. You also can sign up for text and email alerts through my.usps.com to help you track package delivery.

  • Check key shipping dates to ensure your package arrives in time for the holiday. The U.S. Postal Service provides these deadlines to help you plan ahead for delivery by Dec. 25:

Dec. 2 - International First-Class Mail
Dec. 2 - Priority Mail International
Dec. 10 - Priority Mail Express International
Dec. 15 - Standard Post
Dec. 17 - Global Express Guaranteed
Dec. 20 - First-Class Mail
Dec. 20 - Priority Mail
Dec. 23 - Priority Mail Express

Note: Priority Mail Express postage refund eligibility is adjusted for shipments mailed December 22-25.

"The U.S. Postal Service prepares all year for the holidays," Budzynski said. "This is our season. We are ready to help customers ensure their packages are packed, tracked and delivered with ease."

For more shipping tips and online tools, visit usps.com.

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