Between Thanksgiving and December 25, Americans will send more than 16 billion letters, packages and postcards to friends and loved ones. It’s no wonder the holiday season is the busiest time of the year to send anything by mail.
The U.S. Postal Service, or USPS, is the federal agency tasked with delivering mail to all U.S. households. Below you’ll find a roundup of some of the services it offers, the mail-by dates for shipping at home and abroad for 2011, and tips for sending your packages safely.
Services available online
Did you know you can send a package without leaving your home? It’s one of the many things you can do online at USPS.com. The Postal Service recently has added several services in Spanish and Chinese, including tracking packages and finding zip codes if you only have a partial address.
Other services available online:
- Print labels for domestic and international shipping.
- Schedule a pickup of your shipment from your home (free when using certain services).
- Find the closest post office.
You can find more services with the U.S. Postal Service App for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry mobile devices.
Be Aware of the Mail-by Dates
If you want your letter or package to arrive by a certain date, be sure to find out the mail-by date.
For example, if you’re mailing something to Europe and you want it to arrive by December 25, you need to send it by December 9 if you are using First Class Mail, your cheapest option. Or you can send as late as December 20 by using Global Express Guaranteed, the most expensive of the services.
The mail-by dates for Mexico extend from December 9 to December 21; for Central and South America the dates span from December 2 to December 20; and for Asia from December 9 to December 19. The dates depend on the type of service you use.
You can view the complete mail-by date calendar at USPS.com and also read tips on how to prepare international shipments.
Tips on Avoiding Mistakes
There are several things you can do to avoid problems with a shipment, the most important is to clearly write the complete destination address of the package or letter as well as the sender’s address. In addition, be sure to:
- Write the correct zip code on the package or, if you don’t know it, don’t include one at all. The Postal Service prefers having no zip code to an incorrect one.
- For your package, be sure to use a box that’s sufficiently strong to protect the contents. If you think the content inside can break, be sure to write the word “FRAGILE” on the box.
- Protect the contents of your package with paper, newspapers or air bubble plastic bags. Make sure the contents are secure so that they don’t move around during the trip.
- Take the batteries out of the toys, wrap them up and place them next to them.
- Inside the package include another label with the destination address and the sender’s address in case the box is damaged during the trip.
Besides USPS.gov and the local postal offices, you can always get more information by calling the USPS free hotline, 1 (800) 275-8777.