Everyone loves getting a package delivered to their door. And if it's a Christmas or Hanukkah gift, all the better.
Here are some quick tips and deadlines to help you make sure packages get there on time.
The good news is shipping companies such as the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx and United Parcel Service have made it easier than ever to make shipping labels, schedule pickups and track packages online.
And many online retailers offer their own shipping deals and allow you to send gifts directly to recipients.
The website Ship Gooder (shipgooder.com) is useful for direct mailing rate comparisons between USPS, FedEx, UPS and DHL. Just plug in your information and check the results.
But planning ahead is still a must because shipping volume spikes the closer we get to Christmas and Hanukkah, said Lynette Olsen, supervisor of customer service at the Bakersfield office of the USPS.
"Historically, our heaviest mail day for cards and letters is this Monday," Olsen said. Sooner is always better.
Olsen also offered some perennial packing advice:
• Double-check the addresses and make sure you put a return address on your package. USPS sees a lot of Christmas cards that never reach their destinations because addressees have moved during the year. "Especially double-check the ZIP code," Olsen said. "One transposed number can send the package to who knows where."
• Sturdy cardboard boxes designed for shipping are your best bet. Don't use boxes or packages that have hazardous material markings. Old bleach boxes, for example, are not shippable.
Other holiday shipping tip standards:
• Seal baked goods in airtight containers and, for obvious reasons, you may want to avoid frosting.
• Though they may be among Maria von Trapp's favorite things, brown paper packages tied up with string are a no-no. Go with packing tape and at least two inches of professional-grade bubble wrap or packing peanuts surrounding fragile items.
• "Insurance is always a good idea," Olsen said. "And it's a good bargain for the price."
United States Postal Service
For detailed information about holiday shipping visit www.usps.com.
To make sure domestic packages arrive by Dec. 25, USPS recommends sending first-class mail by Dec. 19. Priority mail should be sent by Dec. 20, and express mail can be shipped by Dec. 22. Both can be picked up through the USPS Click-N-Ship program.
Free flat-rate shipping boxes are available at any post office.
Avoid lobby lines by using self-serve machines after hours at the Camino Media Station and the Stockdale Station.
United Parcel Service
Visit UPS's year-end shipping resources at http://compass.ups.com
The site says a good rule of thumb is to allow at least seven business days for ground shipments during the last two weeks before Dec. 25.
According to the shipping company's website, FedEx Ground will not deliver on Saturday, Dec. 23. Check out FedEx Ground Service Maps to determine the day-definite transit time of your shipments.
FedEx Home Delivery will deliver on Saturday, December 23 at no additional charge. With FedEx SameDay service and other expedited services, you can ship on Christmas Day or any other day of the year. FedEx SameDay is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year for urgent shipments.
To prepare shipping labels and schedule a pickup, go to www.fedex.com/us.
International shipments made through DHL have varying transit times, depending on the destination country. The company offers several express international shipping options, including same-day shipments.
For more information, visit www.dhl-usa.com.