Holiday Shipping Guide - Shipping Christmas Gifts

December 4, 2017

The holiday season can be hectic and even overwhelming with so much to do and prepare, including shipping Christmas gifts to those you love. Gift buying requires such thoughtful planning and yet the excitement of giving the perfect gift is often tainted by the hassle of shipping a package at Christmas.

Choosing which shipping carrier to trust with your packages can be difficult, but having information available to help you better coordinate timing and pricing can be helpful.

While the United States Postal Service (USPS) seems to be one of the most popular shipping options, at least from a cost-effective standpoint, there are other options for getting packages to their intended destinations. UPS and FedEx are two of the largest shipping carriers, making them also viable options. Deciding on which shipping carrier to use this holiday season will depend on the specifics of your holiday packages, such as weight, size and when you need them delivered by. Thankfully, most delivery services have a high on-time delivery percentage for overnight shipping right up until Christmas Eve. So whoever you choose, you can be sure your packages will get where they need to be.


What Determines Price?

Pricing for shipping  Christmas gifts during the holiday season is influenced by several factors. The size, weight, and dimensions of the package will be the first thing to affect cost. The distance your package will need to travel will further influence cost. Each carrier offers different security options, insurance, and delivery guarantees, which often come at an additional fee. USPS is generally found to be a more cost-effective option, ranging between 30-70{ec1d25302c0c3e829886c092caa623e779a888dbf9e1057900a08c9ab9a85bb1} cheaper than it’s competitors depending on the level of service used (i.e. standard vs. priority).



USPS is typically the most affordable way to go. They deliver anywhere in the U.S. and globally as well. USPS offers varying priority options, giving you more opportunity to save depending on the size of the package and how quickly you want it delivered. With USPS, holiday gifts can be sent via Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, and USPS Retail Ground. Priority Mail will get your package delivered within 1-3 days. However, it will cost more. With First-Class Mail, your package is delivered in an estimated 1-3 days and costs significantly less. Retail Ground also is cost-effective but entails an estimated 2-8 days delivery window. Shipping globally, however, will take longer for each option.

USPS also offers the benefit of multiple flat-rate options that allow you to select from 3 different size boxes and then pay one flat rate to ship regardless of weight or destination. Flat rate pricing is automatically shipped as Priority Mail, which gets your package delivered sooner.

USPS also provides the convenience of Print & Ship, which allows you to pay for postage and print a shipping label from your own printer. You can even schedule a pickup from your home.

However, all USPS packages are subject to a maximum weight limit of 70 lbs. Dimensionally, packages can’t have more than 108 inches of combined length and girth. To calculate this, measure the length of the four shortest sides and add them up. This is the girth. Then, add this number to the length of the package’s longest side.


USPS Shipping Options Compared


Standard Mail

If you’re trying to keep shipping costs as low as possible, your deadline for shipping is December 14th. That’s the last date to safely ship by standard USPS mail and have your packages still make it to their destination on time. Standard mail is the best option for shipping packages that are too large dimensionally to be shipped by Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express.

First-Class Mail

All prices for First-Class mail are based on size/shape and weight. This is a great, affordable option for envelopes and lightweight packages weighing under 13oz. If you’re shipping anything larger than this, you may consider Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express instead.
Be aware, USPS First-Class Mail holiday deadline is December 19th.

Priority Mail

This is a fast and affordable option, particularly for packages over 13oz. Pricing varies by weight and zone unless you opt for one of their flat-rate boxes or envelopes. Depending on where you’re shipping to, deciding between flat rate and by-weight rates are on a case-by-case basis. Thankfully, USPS has a very easy-to-use price calculator. Run your shipping details through their price calculator and compare the results to the cost of a flat-rate box of the appropriate size.

December 20th is your USPS Priority Mail deadline.

Priority Mail Express

Do you have a last minute gift to send? Priority Mail Express provides the best possibility for a quick delivery. For a higher rate, you can select overnight delivery and make sure your gift arrives just in time.

The deadline for Priority Mail Express guaranteed Christmas delivery is December 22nd.


FedEx And UPS


FedEx and UPS are comparable in many ways, with a few minor differences. Both offer overnight delivery, flat-rate shipping options, and similar dimensional limitations. FedEx and UPS are typically more expensive than USPS, but are a better choice for shipping heavier packages.

Holiday packages shipped via FedEx or UPS are, however, limited to a 150-pound weight limit. Also, the length plus girth measurement cannot exceed 165 inches, which allows for 57 more inches than USPS.

Both FedEx and UPS offer a variety of box and packaging options to fit whatever you may want to ship. Both shipping carriers also offer the convenience of on-site Packing Services in which a member of their staff will pack your gifts for you to ensure they’re properly packaged and safely delivered.
FedEx offers a simple online tool that allows you to obtain a rate quote and determine the expected delivery date and time for your package, helping you to make a decision on when to ship.



FedEx offers 2 common shipping methods, Standard Shipping with FedEx Ground and FedEx Express Shipping.

Standard Shipping is an affordable option that delivers packages in 1-5 days, with most arriving within 3 business days. With Standard Shipping, delivery is day-definite, meaning that delivery is made the end of the scheduled delivery day.

FedEx Express offers time-definite shipping that is fast and flexible. FedEx Express offers same-day, overnight, and 2-3 day delivery options.

FedEx will deliver on Saturday, December 23 if you select Saturday delivery for FedEx Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, or FedEx 2Day. They do however charge an additional $16 Saturday delivery fee per package.



UPS offers a range of shipping options including:

  • UPS Next Day Air Early: Provides delivery as early as 8 am the next business day
  • UPS Next Day Air: Provides delivery by 10:30 am the next business day
  • UPS Next Day Air Saver: Provides guaranteed delivery by the end of the next business day
  • UPS 2nd Day Air AM: Provides delivery as early as 8 am in 2 business days
  • UPS 2nd Day Air: Provides delivery by the end of the day in 2 business days
  • UPS 3 Day Select: Provides delivery by the end of the day in 3 business days
  • UPS Ground: Provides delivery within 1-5 business days depending on the destination.

UPS Ground is far more affordable than their other options, but UPS does offer a number of possibilities for getting holiday gifts delivered in time. UPS offers a Pack & Ship Guarantee that will reimburse you for an item’s values if it is damaged or lost, as long as you have the item packed by a UPS Store associate and shipped via UPS.

If you’re shipping UPS, the last day to ship via their 3-Day Select service is December 18th, with December 22nd being their last day for normal pick-up and delivery service.


Amazon and Amazon Prime

An alternative to the hassle of shipping Christmas gifts is to buy gifts from Amazon and have them delivered directly to your friends and family. Amazon provides a great way to ease the legwork of holiday errands and saving you lots of precious time. While Amazon is not a traditional package delivery service, they can be much more than that when you do your holiday shopping through them.

Amazon provides a Gift Order option, in which you can select to have gifts wrapped and delivered directly with a hidden price tag, gift receipt, and you can even include a personalized message. Amazon offers countless gift options at a wide range of prices, helping you to find the perfect gift without going store to store during the busy holiday shopping season. With Amazon, you can shop whenever you have time from the convenience of your computer or mobile device.


Amazon also offers their Amazon Prime membership through which you receive a number of benefits, including free two-day shipping on over 50 million items and even free same-day delivery on many of those items. Amazon Prime costs $99 per year or you can pay $10.99 per month. Amazon will even let you Try Prime for free for a small period of time to help you experience the benefits and realize the true value.


For Prime members, the holiday deadline for Christmas delivery is December 18th for free standard shipping and December 22nd for free 2-day shipping.


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