If you plan to send gifts to family or friends during the upcoming holiday season, the time to start thinking about when to mail them is now.

The U.S. Postal Service has announced deadlines for various types of mail in order for them to be received by Christmas.

These are the mailing and shipping deadlines to domestic addresses and Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office addresses:

  • Nov. 6: APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 9: APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 only) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 11: APO/FPO/DPO (all other ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail services
  • Dec. 15: USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 18: APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service
  • Dec. 18: First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • Dec. 18: First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 19: Priority Mail service
  • Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express service (not a guarantee)

The Post Service, however, says, “Dates are for estimated delivery before Dec. 25. Actual delivery date may vary depending on origin, destination, Post Office acceptance date and time, and other conditions. Some restrictions apply. For Priority Mail Express shipments mailed Dec. 22 through Dec. 25, the money-back guarantee applies only if the shipment was not delivered, or delivery was not attempted, within two business days.”

The Post Office said it expects its busiest online day will be Dec. 14. You can use the website to ship a package.

“It’s estimated nearly 500,000 consumers will use the Click-N-Ship feature and other online services on Dec. 14 to order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and even request free next-day Package Pickup.”

The Post Office expects customer traffic to be busiest in the two weeks before Christmas. The uptick in traffic is expected to start the week of Dec. 7.

The Post Office offers these tips to help ensure your mail gets there before Christmas:

  • Use free Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes. They are available at local Post Offices or online at usps.com/freeboxes.
  • Make it easy with Click-N-Ship. You can create shipping labels and pay for postage online at usps.com/ship.
  • Schedule a free Package Pickup when the carrier delivers your mail. It’s free regardless of the number of packages. Or, pickups can be scheduled at usps.com/pickup.
  • Mail and packages that weigh more than 10 ounces and/or are more than a half-inch thick using stamps as postage cannot be dropped into a collection box or left for a carrier to pick up. Instead, take them to a window clerk at a Post Office.

— Deb Kiner/PennLive/Tribune News Service