Holiday shipping: Make sure your gifts arrive on time

By Paul EngLifestyle and BudgetConsumer Reports

If you plan on shipping gifts from home or online retailers to arrive by Christmas this year, you'd better hurry because you're running out of time. In fact, the deadline for sending packages via the U.S. Postal Service's ordinary parcel post was Dec. 14.

So, don't miss these deadlines for other shipping options if you want presents to arrive by Wednesday Dec. 25:

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USPS deadlines

  • Global Express Mail packages to Canada: Dec. 19
  • Letters and cards (within the U.S.): Dec. 20
  • Priority Mail packages (within the U.S.): Dec. 21
  • Express Mail packages (within the U.S.): Dec. 23

In most cases, it's too late to ship gifts to other countries or to members of the military serving overseas. But you still may be able to send Christmas gifts via Global Express Mail service to some areas of Europe and Central and South America. That is, if you get to your local post office by today, Dec. 18. For more details, go to

FedEx deadlines

The deadline to use FedEx's basic FedEx Home and FedEx Ground services was yesterday, Dec. 17. But for more expensive shipping options within the U.S.:

  • FedEx Express Saver: Dec. 19
  • FedEx 2Day and FedEx 2Day a.m.: Dec. 21
  • FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight and FedEx First Overnight: Dec. 23
  • FedEx Same Day: Dec. 25

For deliveries to Canada, Mexico, and other international destinations, go to

UPS deadlines

  • UPS 2nd Day Air: Dec. 19
  • UPS Next Day Air: Dec. 20
  • UPS 2nd Day Air (if packed at and shipped from a UPS retail store): Dec. 21
  • UPS Next Day Air (if packed at and shipped from a UPS retail store): Dec. 23

For more details, go to

Other shipping tips to keep in mind

If you're planning to do some of your holiday shopping online, check retailers' specific deadlines. suggests that items with standard or free shipping U.S. should be ordered no later than Dec. 18. The cutoff ordering date for two-day shipping is Dec. 22.

If you're sending gifts to Alaska, Hawaii, or international destinations, you're out of luck. Amazon's deadlines for shipping those packages have already past. For more information, check out Amazon's Christmas Ordering Deadlines and Holiday Returns Policy page.

You'll find similar holiday shipping information at:

  • (deadlines vary, depending on product ordered)
  • (3 p.m. on Dec. 20)
  • (Dec. 19)
  • (Dec. 21)
  • (Dec. 19)
  • (Dec. 19).

Free Shipping Day and free two-day shipping

Dozens of merchants, from Bass Pro Shops to, are participating in Free Shipping Day on Dec. 18, with offers of items that will purportedly arrive by Christmas Eve., offers free two-day shipping service at more than 80 online partners, ranging from American Eagle outfitters to Toys "R" Us. But you'll have to order by Dec. 19 for guaranteed Christmas Eve delivery. And unless you have an eligible American Express credit card, you have to pay ShopRunner's $79 annual membership to use the service.

For other holiday shopping tips, visit Holiday & Gift Guide.

—Paul Eng

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