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Got Christmas packages? Ship them soon
Anita Bennett fills out a U.S. Customs form Monday at the Green Street post office before shipping her gift to a nephew serving in Iraq. The Postal Service warns people to get their packages in the mail early to avoid long lines and expensive shipping charges.

Mail deadlines

In order for your package to reach its holiday destination in a timely manner, the U.S. Postal Service recommends that you meet the following mail-by deadlines:

  • Thursday: Military mail for other overseas bases
  • Dec. 16: Parcel Post, the most economical shipping service
  • Dec. 20: First-class and Priority mail
  • Dec. 23: Express mail

Source: U.S. Postal Service

Anita Bennett knows the secret to stress-free holiday shipping.

"I always try to mail my packages early," said Bennett, a Gainesville resident, on Monday after sending a package to her nephew stationed in Iraq. "I like to beat the crowds."

If you are looking to have your loved ones receive their packages by Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service says you may want to consider taking a page from Bennett’s book.

"Once we get into the holiday season, which for us runs immediately after Thanksgiving through the end of December, it’s never too early to mail your packages," said Michael Miles, a spokesman for the Gainesville office of the U.S. Postal Service. "The closer we get to Christmas, the longer the wait times get at the post office. We project that Dec. 15 will be the busiest mailing day of the year."

Although the Postal Service handles more than 700 million pieces of mail on a daily basis, Miles says that number grows significantly during the holidays.

"In general, our mail volume increases anywhere from 20 to 50 percent during that time," Miles said. Mailing packages early has other advantages besides saving people from waiting in long lines — mailing early also can be cheaper. And saving money is important to many people in the current economy.

"Right now, people can still use the First Class Mail option, which is the least expensive method," Miles said. "Priority Mail starts at around $4 per package and Express Mail is even higher. By mailing your package early, you can not only ensure that it arrives on time, you can also save some money while you’re doing it."

With First Class Mail, packages generally reach their destination in three days, compared to the two-day delivery time for Priority Mail. Packages that are shipped via Express Mail usually reach their destination the next day. All delivery times are approximate and can be affected by mail volume.

While most customers are used to going to their local post office to mail packages, Miles says there is a way to skip that step.

"Among other things, our Web site,, allows customers to print mailing labels, pay for postage and arrange to have a package picked up," Miles said. "It’s a really great service that customers can use from the comfort of their own home, and there are no service charges added to their order."