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Marc Saltzman, Special to USA TODAY
It’s not too early to think about when to ship Christmas gifts.
The nation’s three largest carriers – FedEx, UPS and the United States Postal Service – have released their 2021 holiday shipping deadlines, which are the recommended last day to ship gifts. The dates are almost identical to 2019 and 2020 deadlines.
But consumers should brace themselves for late packages and possible disappointment even if they meet the cutoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic and with widespread supply chain disruptions.
According to a RetailMeNot survey of nearly 1,100 consumers, 37% of shoppers began their holiday shopping between August and September if not earlier. Another 22% said they’d start shopping in October and 24% planned to start in November ahead of Thanksgiving.
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The Postal Service also started implementing changes Oct. 1, which further slows the speed of the service and added a temporary holiday price increase.
Postal Service spokesperson Kim Frum told USA TODAY that the service’s peak season is between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
“Every year, we urge customers to plan ahead and ship their holiday gifts early, because the longer you wait, the more limited your choices of shipping options become,” Frum said.
Holiday shipping deadlines 2021
The following are the deadlines for the three major carriers.
UPS deadlines for Christmas Eve delivery
The following are the recommended last days for shipping gifts domestically for Dec. 24 delivery:
- Ground: Check the UPS website for a quote.
- 3-Day Select: Dec. 21
- 2nd Day Air: Dec. 22
- Next Day Air: Dec. 23
Note: UPS says its service guarantee is suspended on most packages but that starting Oct. 18 and until further notice, it is has made some “operational adjustments,” which includes extending delivery commitment times for UPS Next Day Air from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
FedEx shipping deadlines for holiday packages
The following are the last days to ship gifts within the U.S.:
- FedEx Home Delivery, FedEx Ground: Dec. 15
- FedEx Express Saver, FedEx 3Day Freight: Dec. 21
- FedEx 2Day: Dec. 22
- FedEx 1Day Freight, FedEx Extra Hours: Dec. 23
- FedEx SameDay: Dec. 24
New USPS service standards mean slower holiday mail delivery
The USPS says new service standards for First Class mail and periodicals are coming, which means the service is about to get even slower.
Staff video, USA TODAY
USPS Christmas deadlines
Here are the United States Postal Service’s recommended “send-by dates for expected delivery” before Dec. 25 in the 48 contiguous states:
- Retail Ground: Dec. 15
- First-Class Mail: Dec. 17
- Priority Mail: Dec. 18
- Priority Mail Express: Dec. 23
Note: Ground shipping deadline to Alaska is Dec. 2, First-Class and Priority deadline is Dec. 18, and Priority Mail Express is Dec. 21. For Hawaii, Dec. 17 is the deadline for First-Class and Priority Mail, and Dec. 21 is the deadline for Priority Mail Express.
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Contributing: Lindsay Schnell, USA TODAY
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