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6 Tips for Shipping Your Gifts Like a Pro this Holiday Season

Holiday Cards Social

holiday shipping mailbox empty

13 million gift packages may be lost, misdelivered, or delayed this holiday season.

That doesn’t even take into account the 15.5 billion Christmas cards and letters expected to be delivered by the US Postal Service this Christmas season.

Picture your perfectly selected gifts sitting in a warehouse somewhere.  On a truck or in a plane.  Will they arrive in good condition?  Will they get to you in time for your family’s holiday celebration?

Or, like many others whose packages get delayed, will you be scrambling at the last minute to find a replacement gift?

Well, not this year!  We’ve got you covered!

The US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx combined anticipate shipping 1 billion, 345 million packages in December alone.  With an error rate around 1%, 13 million gifts may be lost, misdelivered, or delayed this holiday season.

This year you’ll shop early, ship early, take care to send just the right gift and send the perfectly written Christmas card.

Put the headache medicine in the cabinet where it belongs.

Reduce shipping time, money, and stress this Christmas by using these simple tips and online tools.

Tip #1 – Forget the grammar and punctuation to improve address reliability

Yep, weird huh?

Before electronic scanning and package routing logistics, punctuation marks and sentence structure was expected.  This was also back in the day when penmanship was a practiced art and mail was hand sorted by a human.

Today, punctuation marks, spelling, even proper sentence capitalization have all gone by the wayside.

All mail shipped today gets scanned and router by a computer.  Computers are programmed to read and process only a specific set of address rules and structure.  Put a comma too close or write too scripted for the computer to decipher and your package may get delayed, or worse, lost altogether.

Follow these updated writing rules to make sure your gift package gets scanned and correctly routed to its final destination.

  • Forget punctuation marks.  Leave off commas, periods, and number signs.
  • Use UPPERCASE letters only.  This increases the reading accuracy of the scanner.
  • Use the abbreviation, in all capitals, for each of the eight standard directionals: N, S, W, E, NE, NW, SE, SW.
  • Spell out city names entirely.  No shorthand here.
  • When your mail-to address contains a number in the street name, write it as a number.  Don’t spell it out.  Example: Use “7th ST” versus “Seventh ST”.
  • Make sure to use the official abbreviation for each State or the correct shorthand for types of streets or building unit.

Most importantly, think legibility.  You are not writing for a person who can decipher your handwriting.  You are now writing so a computer can read it.  The more legible your writing, the more likely your packages will arrive safely and on time.

 Holiday Address Examples

Shopping Online? Follow these tips when typing address information into shopping cart form fields. This will help the retail store get your packages to the correct house on time.

Address format is just the beginning.  Keep reading for a new address part that is just a crucial.

Tip #2 – Use the new and improved ZIP+4 code to speed package routing and delivery

The standard 5-digit zipcode is no longer the official standard.

Most people don’t realize that the updated zipcode standard, called the ZIP+4, is now the official addressing standard used by the US Postal Service. UPS and FedEx now also use the ZIP+4 code for more precise routing.

Improve the routing accuracy and decrease handling time for packages by using the USPS ZIP Code Lookup Tool to find the specific ZIP+4 code for your package’s destination.  Hint: If you don’t know your own ZIP+4, simply look at any piece of your mail to find it.

You should also write the ZIP+4 code on the same line as the city and state.  Stay away from dropping the ZIP+4 down to the next line when addressing an envelope or package.

Anatomy of ZIP+4

Note: In the case of the ZIP+4 code, the hyphen is a required and necessary punctuation mark.

Address format, check.

Zip+4 verified, check.

Now you just need to know how many days it will take your package to ship.  Then you can make sure you ship in plenty of time.

Tip #3 – Ship like a pro by knowing your packages’ transit time

Never have a package arrive late again.

Know exactly when to ship so your package gets there on time.

No need to guess.  All you need is the destination zipcode and your zipcode.  Find the exact number of days it will take your packages to arrive by mail.

Then, mail on time.  Be the hero.  Get your gifts there before the festivities begin.

  • Use the quick USPS tool to find out how long it will take your Priority Mail package to arrive at its destination.
  • FedEx also has a similar shipping time map for its FedEx Ground service, or use their Rates and Transit Times tools to get a more accurate delivery date for your specific shipping address.
  • View the UPS “Will it get there by…” page to see if you still have time to get your package to its destination before Christmas.

Now you can relax.  You know exactly when to ship and how long it will take.  Your packages have the best chance of arriving to the correct house on time.

And now a Christmas gift.  Want FREE stuff?  Keep scrolling.

Tip #4 – Get FREE holiday shipping boxes delivered to your house

“Free”, as in you don’t pay extra.

Delivered to you.  To your house.  No standing in line.

But, you do need to think in advance on this one.  Plan ahead.  Order early.  Save time.

Get FREE Priority Mail and Flat Rate holiday shipping boxes from the US Postal Service.  These are great for those smaller, heavier items.  “If it fits, it ships.”  They even deliver them to your house, free of charge. Tell them what you want and how many.  They do the rest.  Free of charge.

free holiday shipping boxes


Hate long lines at the post office?  Don’t stand in line.  Your mail carrier will pick up your Priority Mail Flat Rate holiday boxes from your house.  Just schedule a free pickup, and let your postal carrier do the work (Hint: you’ll need an online account to prepay shipping.  See Tip #5 below for help).

Are you buying online and having items shipped directly to you?  Have a busy schedule, but still want to make sure you don’t miss any package deliveries?

Keep reading for a set of tools to keep your shipping schedules in check, even on the go.

Tip #5 – Get your own incoming gifts on yourschedule

Your schedule is hectic during the holidays.

Don’t add one more thing to your list by missing package deliveries to your own house.

Create and verify a free online My account.  Setup custom package notifications to email or text you.  Always know a package is en route and when it’s expected to arrive.  Even schedule a redelivery.

Help the US Postal Service keep to your schedule this year.

Don’t want to create an account?  Simply text your USPS tracking number to 28777 (2USPS) to get the latest package delivery status when you’re on the go.

UPS offers a similar service.  Some features require the upgraded paid account.  FedEx also has a tool called FedEx Ship Manager with similar features, but a little harder to use and navigate.

If you do need to the post office or local shipping center, just make sure you avoid the busiest shipping days of the year.  We’ve got those for you next.

Tip #6 – Don’t get stuck trying to ship on these busiest shipping days of the year

The race is on!

To get your business.  To offer the best services.  To get all your packages there on time.

The US Postal Service, UPS, and FedEx are all competing for your business this holiday season.

Starting December 17th and running through Christmas Day, the US Postal Service will be delivering your packages seven days a week.  Wait.  What?  Did you read that right?

Yes!  Seven Days.  The USPS will even be delivering on Christmas Day!

How’s that for service?

Here are the expected “busiest shipping days” of the holiday season.  Whatever you do, try to avoid going to the post office or standing in line on these days (2014):

  • UPS – December 22nd
  • FedEx – December 15th
  • US Postal Service
    • Dec 15 – Busiest total volume.
    • Dec 17 – Most cards and letters mailed.
    • Dec 18 – Busiest ship day for packages.

Now It’s Up to You!

Let the stress and anxiety go.

Even if you get to your Christmas shopping a little late, there’s still time.  Shipping companies will make sure of that.

Put these little tricks into action and save yourself the headache and stress that comes with shipping during the holidays.  To recap:

  1. Pick a date.  A date when it will all be done.
  2. Go ahead and order your free holiday shipping boxes now.
  3. Use an online transit tool to plan out your deliveries.  Get them there on-time.
  4. Create an online shipping account.  Get notified of shipments.  Never miss a delivery again.
  5. Lookup your own ZIP+4.  Write it down.  Use it with your online orders.
  6. Drop punctuation and use ALL CAPS when writing mailing addresses.

Then, head over to Facebook or Google+ and let us know how your holiday shipping is going.


Flickr creative commons image courtesy of Josh McGinn.

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