As shoppers and stores begin to recover from Black Friday sales, the United States Postal Service is gearing up to handle the swarms of people looking to ship holiday gifts.
According to the postal service, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, 17.9 billion letters, cards and packages are delivered.
Local post offices are estimated to help more than 240 million people in-store during the holiday period.
But there are ways to avoid long lines and make sure presents arrive on time, especially when shipping internationally.
The latest date to ship internationally this year, at the highest shipping rate, is Dec. 18-20, depending on the destination of the package.
Priority or first-class mail, however, needs one to three weeks to arrive.
“I had a daughter in Iraq and it took one week to get there, and it was awesome,” said Linda Dickerson, lead associate for Gainesville’s West Side post station. “But sometimes that works out and sometimes it don’t.”
But, she said, those shipping gifts should aim to get them in the mail as soon as possible to avoid any mishaps and unopened presents on Christmas day.
“If they’re pushing the deadline, it is better to go ahead and try and get it in the mail before those deadlines,” said Dickerson. “If not, your items may not arrive on time and will push past Christmas.”
Domestic shipping generally takes one to three days, but Dickerson said senders should allow for that third day just to be safe.
“Always allow that third day just to be on the safe side, especially around the holidays,” she said.
The last day to ship Christmas gifts domestically is Dec. 22 through express service. The first-class service deadline is Dec. 20.
And as lines get longer, both at the stores and post offices, some will have already shipped gifts.
Marianne Grammer, a visitor to Gainesville by way of Key West, shipped her Christmas presents to Illinois and Hawaii on Wednesday. Shipping deadlines for her have never been an issue.
“I always try to get my Christmas presents done early so I don’t have to wait in the long lines,” she said. “I usually get my packages off by the first week of December. I feel like I’m late if it’s after that.”
But for those who shop and ship last minute, post offices are likely to get more crowded, so officials urge prep work before going to the post office.
Filling out labels correctly, knowing the packing limits and what package to ship in before stepping into the post office could save patrons time, stress and money.
“If they want to come in and see what their options are ... then they could save some money,” said Dickerson.
During the holiday period, post offices sometimes use more help, including “lobby sweepers” to answer questions before reaching the help desk.
“We’re trying to assist customers and make them aware the packaging is available,” said Dickerson. “We have great customers and they’re very patient.”