Holiday happenings

Best practices for the holiday season

By David Walton

The holiday season is upon us again. Whether you’re a planner or a procrastinator, when it comes to sending gifts the Postal Service offers a variety of options for getting those festive packages delivered in a timely fashion.

SUGGESTED MAILING DEADLINES


MILITARY

First-Class & Priority Mail: Dec 9

Priority Mail Express: Dec 16


DOMESTIC

First-Class: Dec 17

Priority Mail: Dec 19

Priority Mail Express: Dec 23

California resident Lisa Mazerlev has always used the Postal Service for all her shipping needs, particularly during busy December. “I am Jewish, and so for me, I ship both Hanukkah cookies and Christmas cookies out to friends and family in Philadelphia and on the East Coast.” The middle school teacher says she starts preparing her edible gifts in November.

Mazerlev has made a tradition of using Priority Mail flat-rate boxes for her gifts. “I always go to one of those dollar stores beforehand and purchase food storage trays that line up inside the box perfectly, giving my cookies an added measure of protection,” she explains.

Marilyn Jones, a freelance travel writer in Henderson, TX, also uses the Postal Service exclusively. “I trust them,” she says. “I've never had any issues with deliveries from USPS. I send out lots of greeting cards for all the major holidays – Valentine’s Day, Easter, Halloween, Thanksgiving and New Year’s. I send out at least 50 Christmas cards and a dozen packages on December 1st to friends.

“The holiday to me is also the build-up to the 25th, so I like people to have their cards and gifts earlier so they can enjoy them during the month of December.”

Lisa Mazerlev prepares a shipment of cookies for drop off at her local Post Office.

Jones takes full advantage of usps.com, the 24-hour Post Office. “I can order stamps for a minimal service charge, and I get Priority Mail boxes for free,” she says. “I also use Click-N-Ship. It tells you the amount, and you print out a label. It’s so easy: you weigh your package and then answer a handful of questions.

“You can request package pickup when your letter carrier delivers your mail and tell them where the package is going to be,” she added. “It's so safe and convenient.”

Priority Mail supplies are free for the asking and come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including Military Care Kits. They are available at Post Offices, or you can have them delivered right to your home or office when you order online at usps.com.

Mazerlev enjoys the personalized service of walking into a Post Office and handing her packages to a clerk. “My shipments are perishable. I don't want the package to sit in the sun waiting for the letter carrier.”

Mazerlev said she also mails holiday cards. “I still go and get them printed and write out the envelopes,” she said. "I do about 125 every year. I have a small family, but my wife has a great big family. My family is Jewish, hers is not, so I always get a combination of stamps — generic holiday, Hanukkah and Christmas.”

USPS offers a variety of holiday Forever stamps, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Virgin and Child, Holiday Elves, Diwali and Eid. They can be purchased at your local Post Office, from your letter carrier or online at usps.com.

When it comes to shipping tips, Jones encourages the use of packing. “Use cushioning material,” she said. “It's also a good idea to put a copy of your shipping label inside the box. I always include a greeting card inside my boxes with the address on the front of the envelope.”

Marilyn Jones never leaves home to mail her Christmas cards and packages.

SHIPPING TIPS

  • SELECT A DURABLE BOX
  • DO NOT REUSE BOXES
  • PROPERLY ADDRESS PACKAGES INCLUDING THE “TO” AND “FROM”
  • PRINT ADDRESSES CLEARLY
  • NEVER GUESS A ZIP CODE
  • PLACE A CARD INSIDE THE PACKAGE WITH DELIVERY AND RETURN ADDRESSES
  • USE QUALITY SHIPPING TAPE WHEN SEALING BOXES
  • MAKE SURE THE BOX WEIGHS NO MORE THAN 70 POUNDS

“Shipping with the Postal Service has been my system for many years. I haven’t changed it because it works well,” said Mazerlev. “I use Priority Mail Flat-Rate boxes because they have the same price for up to 70 pounds, so it’s a reasonable price.”

Mazerlev says she applies clear mailing tape over the top of her shipping label to protect it from the outside elements. She also recommends shaking your box to be sure nothing inside is moving around. “If the item you are shipping is delicate, you may need to add more cushioning material.”

“It’s like sending love during the holidays,” says Jones.

For packaging and shipping tips, including how to order free boxes and address a package, visit these sites:

USPS Postmaster van illustration.