Vaughn Moore, Executive Chairman and CEO of AIT Worldwide Logistics, has a message on holiday shipping for procrastinators: “You’ll have a better experience this year than in years past.”
Indeed, after two years of pandemic-related supply chain issues, the shipping industry now has more capacity. Backlogs at U.S. ports are gone, and many retailers are now sitting in warehouses full of inventory. While there may still be hiccups, Vaughn predicts customers won’t experience the same shipping delays for packages and purchases as they have in years past.
Still, you’ll want to place retail orders and package mail before carrier deadlines to ensure delivery before the holidays. Avoid Christmas morning heartache by knowing your shipping options and when items should be mailed.
Shipping times for major carriers
Consumers who need to ship vacation packages can choose from several shipping companies. In most cases, standard and expedited delivery services are available.
While commercial flights are expected to be full of passengers in the coming months, there should be enough air capacity to handle the vacation packages to be delivered, according to Todd Pigeon, vice president of sales for PayCargo, a logistics payment platform. He notes that shipping companies operate dedicated aircraft fleets and may also contract with commercial carriers to transport packages.
As a result, Pigeon does not anticipate much difficulty getting packages to major airports of entry. However, once the items are out of the air and on their way for ground delivery to outlying areas, that might be a different story. “When freight goes beyond these gateways, I would be more careful about ordering (and shipping) ahead of time,” he says.
Despite competition from shipping companies, the United States Postal Service remains a popular choice for package deliveries. The agency reports delivering 7.6 billion packages in 2021.
To ensure packages arrive before Christmas, the USPS recommends sending packages on the following dates, depending on the service used:
- USPS Retail Ground Service: December 17.
- First Class Mail Service: December 17th.
- Priority mail service: December 19.
- Priority express mail service: December 23.
If you are shipping from the contiguous states to Alaska, ground service mail must be shipped by December 2, first class mail and priority mail by December 17, and express priority mail by December 21. Hawaii-bound packages must be shipped by December 17 for First Class and Priority Mail service, while Priority Mail Express can be shipped until December 21 for Christmas delivery.
Although Priority Mail Express gives consumers extra days to receive gifts in the mail, it comes at a cost. Retail Ground Service starts at $8.80, but Priority Mail Express has a starting rate of $27.25.
Delivery company FedEx offers more than a dozen shipping options, ranging from ground delivery that can take up to seven days to arrive in the United States, to same-day service available in all 50 states.
- FedEx Ground Economy: December 8.
- FedEx Ground: December 14.
- FedEx Express Saver: December 20.
- FedEx 2 days: December 21.
- FedEx SameDay: December 23.
As with USPS, you will pay a premium to use expedited service. Sending a 1-pound package from New York to Los Angeles currently costs $12.78 for FedEx Home Delivery. But if you want that package delivered by 8 a.m. tomorrow morning, it will cost you $176.36 for FedEx First Overnight delivery. If delivery can wait 12 hours, the price drops to $125.87 for FedEx Standard Overnight.
Another popular shipping carrier is United Parcel Service, known for its iconic brown trucks. The company will not be making any regular deliveries on Christmas Day, so you will need to adhere to the following deadlines to ensure packages arrive by December 24th.
- UPS Grounding: Varies by location.
- UPS 3 Day Select: December 20.
- UPS 2n/a Day air: December 21.
- UPS Next Day Air: December 22.
Shipping rates depend on package size, destination and service selected. Ground rates for a small package shipped within the 48 contiguous states start at $11.00 for UPS Ground service and go to $37.24 for UPS Next Day Air. For shipments to Alaska and Hawaii, rates for a small package start at $44.51 for ground service or $92.89 for next day for destinations in metropolitan areas, or $57.41 and 95 $.89, respectively, for addresses in remote areas.
Although able to ship packages domestically, DHL Express specializes in door-to-door international deliveries to and from the United States. The company’s fast express service can deliver to 220 countries and territories, with packages arriving within 24 to 72 hours, depending on the destination. .
To ensure international delivery in time for Christmas, it is best to send packages via DHL Express no later than December 18th. The price of DHL Express deliveries depends on the destination.
Delivery times for major retailers
Some customers aren’t as worried about sending packages as they are about receiving them in time for the holidays. For in-stock items, Moore doesn’t expect retailers to have trouble meeting promised delivery times.
“Consumers should see how long it takes to have an item shipped to their doorstep rather than shipping the item to the store and picking it up,” advises Bryan Palma, Director of Industry and Solutions Marketing at Kinaxis, a supplier of supply chain planning software. In some cases, this may result in a faster delivery time.
Walmart shoppers have access to free shipping on online orders of at least $35. Purchases costing less than this amount incur a $6.99 shipping charge. Depending on the item and your location, shipments may be shipped by any of the following methods:
- Shipping in two days.
- Shipping in three days.
- Standard delivery over three days.
There is also an express delivery option to have items delivered from a local store within two hours. This service may not be available in all areas and costs $10 plus a delivery charge of $7.95 or $9.95. Certain shipping and delivery charges may be waived for Walmart+ members.
Many items sold on Walmart’s website are from third-party sellers, and depending on whether those goods are shipped by Walmart or the third-party could impact delivery times.
Customers shopping for holiday gifts on Target.com this year should expect a standard shipping time of three to five days. Some items are also eligible for two-day shipping, and if you pre-order a product, there is an express delivery option to have these items delivered within one business day.
Shipping is free for customers paying with a Target RedCard or making a qualifying purchase of at least $35.
The reception deposit
Purchases of $45 or more qualify for free standard shipping from The Home Depot. Customers should allow three to five business days for ground package delivery in addition to order processing time, according to the company’s website. There are also 158,000 items that can be shipped to Alaska and Hawaii for free.
Many products are eligible for two-day shipping. Customers should verify their account for order status and expected delivery date. Free curbside or in-store pickup is also an option at Home Depot, although you cannot pick up items on Christmas Day.
With a fleet of 110 planes and its own delivery trucks, online retailer Amazon appears to be in a unique position to ensure packages arrive on time during the holiday season. The company offers the following delivery options within the contiguous United States:
- Standard delivery in four to five business days.
- Shipping in two days.
- One day delivery.
- Same day shipping.
Same-day and same-day shipping may be restricted to certain areas, and one- and two-day shipping reflects business days, not calendar days. For deliveries to Alaska and Hawaii, expect purchases to take three to seven days for standard shipping, two to five days for expedited shipping, and one to four days for priority shipping.
Depending on their location, Macy’s customers may be able to shop through December 24 and still get items in time for Christmas. The department store has the following recommended shipping times for orders delivered to the continental United States:
- Standard and Premium Shipping: Dec. 21 at 5 p.m. EST.
- Express Shipping: December 22 at 12:00 p.m. EST.
- Same day delivery (select regions only): December 24 before 10am local time.
- In-store or curbside pickup: December 24 before 3 p.m. local time.
Premium shipping costs $10 more for orders with a pre-tax total of at least $49, while express shipping is a $15 upgrade. Purchases must be made by December 15 for standard shipping to Alaska and Hawaii, or by December 16 for express shipping to destinations in those states.
Of course, deliveries from any retailer could be delayed by inclement weather, natural disasters or other events. So before you get too comfortable with the idea of last-minute shopping and shipping this year, consider that sooner could always be better.
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