Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

When to mail packages so they will arrive in time for the holidays

When do you need to ship your gifts out to make sure they get there for the holidays? The deadline depends on the carrier, and how much you're willing to pay for the service.

Packages are going to take more time than usual to deliver this year. Make sure to get yours shipped on time.
Packages are going to take more time than usual to deliver this year. Make sure to get yours shipped on time.Read moreJohn Minchillo / AP

The holiday season has officially arrived, and like every other time in 2020, it’s set to be unlike any other, thanks to pandemic precautions against indoor gatherings, travel, and even going out.

But we can still spread a little yuletide cheer to friends and family safely by sending cards and gifts, and there’s time left to have them arrive before Christmas, too. Deadlines, however, are approaching fast, so it’s best to not procrastinate on getting your gifts out.

After all, this holiday season will be a particularly busy one for shipping companies. According to a recent survey from professional services company Accenture, about 43% of us plan to do all of our holiday shopping online, and that means a lot of packages in the mail. In fact, customer relationship management firm Salesforce estimates that the total number of packages could exceed the capacity of delivery companies by 5% globally, meaning that upward of 700 million packages may arrive late.

But here’s what matters: when do you need to ship your gifts out to make sure they get there for the holidays? It depends on the shipping carrier, but here is what you need to know:


If you’re shipping within the continental United States, the deadlines to get your packages to their destination by Dec. 25 via the United States Postal Service are as follows:

  1. USPS Retail Ground Service: Dec. 15

  2. First-Class Mail Service: Dec. 18

  3. Priority Mail Service: Dec. 19

  4. Priority Mail Express Service: Dec. 23

Those dates change a little if you’re shipping to Alaska or Hawaii, internationally, or to military addresses. For more information about shipping times to those locations, check the USPS’s holiday shipping deadline page online.


FedEx offers a wide variety of shipping services, and if your package is staying within the United States, deadlines haven’t yet passed for any of them. Keep in mind the closer you get to Dec. 25, the more expensive the service. Here is a breakdown of when to get your holiday packages out via FedEx for delivery by Dec. 25:

  1. FedEx SmartPost: Dec. 9

  2. FedEx Home Delivery or Ground: Dec. 15

  3. FedEx Express Saver or 3Day Freight: Dec. 21

  4. FedEx 2Day, 2Day A.M., or 2Day Freight: Dec. 22

  5. FedEx 1Day Freight, Extra Hours, Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight or First Overnight: Dec. 23

  6. FedEx SameDay, SameDay City Priority, or SameDay City Direct: Dec. 25

FedEx warns that the deadlines may change “as this record-breaking holiday season progresses,” so remember to check in before you ship. And those deadlines are a little different if you’re sending a package to places like Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, or other international destinations.

» Here are Philly’s current COVID-19 guidelines:


UPS is also working to get holiday packages delivered by Dec. 25 and suggests the following shipping deadlines for gifts to arrive on time. Like other services, the longer you wait, the more it will cost you.

  1. UPS Ground: Dec. 15

  2. UPS 3 Day Select: Dec. 21

  3. UPS 2nd Day Air: Dec. 22

  4. UPS Next Day Air: Dec. 23

While UPS is generally closed on Christmas Day, its UPS Express Critical service will be available. For more information, check out the UPS holiday schedule page online.


Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer, so many folks will likely end up shopping there (even though you can and should support small businesses right now). The company hasn’t yet released a holiday delivery deadline schedule. Last year, deadlines ran between Dec. 14 and Dec. 24, depending on your chosen delivery option.

Additionally, Amazon is encouraging customers to use “alternative delivery locations” this season, such as at an Amazon Hub Locker (a contactless package pickup location). You can find the one nearest to you via Amazon’s website.


DHL has also not yet released a holiday delivery deadline calendar. However, the company’s normal shipping time calculator for international packages, which is a little slower than normal because of COVID-19, is online here.

» READ MORE: How to do everything better right now: A collection of our most useful stories