SOURCE: UPS

November 29, 2010 08:00 ET

The Logistics of a Hassle-Free Holiday

MISSION, KS--(Marketwire - November 29, 2010) - (Family Features) The holidays are supposed to be filled with love and good cheer, but the logistics of shopping for gifts, sending out cards, taking family trips and shipping packages can leave even the jolliest of people in a Scrooge-like mood.

Fortunately, there are some ways you can take the hassle out of the holidays and make them a little brighter for yourself and those around you.

Shop Smart

Avoid long lines, crowded parking lots and out-of-stock items with these helpful hints:

Get Ready -- Before you head out to the mall, make a list of the gifts you want to buy and do some online price comparison. Use sites like BizRate, DealTime or Shopzilla, as well as check local ads to find the best price. You may want to call your local store to see if they have your item in stock, saving yourself a trip if they don't have it.

Shop Early -- Plan to shop early in the day, and early in the season. Morning crowds tend to be lighter and sales assistants tend to be more attentive first thing. And the earlier in the season you shop, the less you have to deal with long lines and frustrated shoppers. Plus, this year, while there are 29 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are only 20 shipping days.

Wrap It Up -- Pay a little extra and let a charity group at the store wrap your gifts for you. This saves you time later and frees you up to get other things done -- and you help a good cause.

If you do any online or catalogue shopping, avoid having packages left on your doorstep by getting a mailbox at The UPS Store. You get a mailbox with a real street address, which accepts packages from all carriers. And, you can choose to receive an e-mail or text when you have a package waiting, avoiding unnecessary trips.

No-Hassle Holiday Packing

Make sure your carefully chosen gifts get to their destinations intact with these helpful tips:

DO

  • Check with experts before shipping fragile items (or items that might be considered hazardous or illegal to ship, such as perfume or cologne).
  • Use materials the professionals use -- foam packaging peanuts, bubble cushioning and packaging tape -- to protect your gifts.
  • Include a label on the inside of the package with both the destination and return addresses.
  • Use a shipping option which provides a package-tracking number.
  • Take batteries out of toys, electronics, etc., before shipping.
  • Ship wrapped presents ahead to your destination, especially if traveling by air.

DON'T

  • Wrap boxes in brown paper or tie with string.
  • Use materials like newspaper or real popcorn to cushion items.
  • Use old boxes or gift boxes for shipping items.
  • Use duct tape, masking tape or cellophane tape to seal your boxes for shipping.

For even less hassle, let the certified packing experts at The UPS Store handle the logistics of getting your gifts safely to your loved ones for the holidays. Participating locations offer the Pack & Ship Promise, which will reimburse customers in the event a center-packed item shipped via UPS is lost or damaged. Details are available at www.theupsstore.com.

Don't Lug Your Luggage

Navigating airport security, crowded terminals and long check-in lines can be stressful enough. Add luggage and gifts into the holiday travel mix and things can get really unpleasant. One solution travelers are turning to is shipping luggage to their destinations.

"Traveling without a suitcase is a tremendous convenience, especially during the hectic holiday travel season. Having your luggage awaiting your arrival and tracking it along the way is even better," said Bryan Vial, The UPS Store franchisee from Phoenix, Ariz. "Ship your luggage as is or place it in a box for shipment. Or, at select locations, you can purchase a luggage box and avoid a suitcase altogether."

Some major airline baggage fees can add up to over $100. Vial says that a luggage box of comparable size shipped via UPS Ground service is competitively priced and saves you time and hassle at the airport. If you are a member of the Automobile Association of America, you can receive a 15 percent discount off the full retail price of eligible products and services, and 5 percent off domestic U.S. shipping costs. Visit www.theupsstore.com for more information.

Luggage Shipping Tips

  • Because of the duties and taxes associated with international shipments, The UPS Store does not recommend shipping luggage internationally.
  • Federal Aviation Administration restrictions prohibit shipping hazardous materials, including colognes and perfumes, aerosol sprays, nail polish and cigarette lighters via air.
  • Include packaging tape and a return shipping label in the luggage box for use when returning home.

Dreaming of a Green Christmas?

Participating The UPS Store locations offer holiday shippers the option to neutralize the climate impact of their packages for a small fee when shipping with UPS. And, many locations accept clean foam packaging peanuts for reuse.

Key Dates for Holiday Shipping

  • Monday is the busiest shipping day of the week.
  • The busiest shipping week of the 2010 season is expected to be December 13 to 17.
  • If you are shipping international or to military personnel overseas, contact The UPS Store location nearest you to determine the best date to ensure on-time delivery.
  • Most ground packages require five days or less to reach their destination, but if you're shipping coast-to-coast, it may take longer.

Last-Minute Shipping Dates:

  • Tuesday, December 21 -- Ship UPS 3 Day Select for delivery Friday, December 24.
  • Wednesday, December 22 -- Ship UPS 2nd Day Air for delivery Friday, December 24.
  • Thursday, December 23 -- Ship UPS Next Day Air for delivery Friday, December 24.

Happy Holiday Printing

Take the hassle out of printing holiday newsletters, programs and more. With online printing from The UPS Store, you can easily upload your documents, customize your printing and finishing options, preview the final project, and submit your project from the comfort of your home or office. Then, simply stop by to pick it up when you are shipping off holiday packages.

Photo courtesy of Getty Images

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