Postal service sets holiday mailing deadlines

COVINGTON -- Folks have been relying on the United States Postal Service to deliver holiday cheer for 237 years, and this holiday season, it will be no different.

USPS estimates it will deliver 17.9 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. The 528 million pieces of mail processed on a daily basis will increase to 560 million during that time, and the busiest mailing day of the year, Dec. 17, will see 658 million pieces of mail processed.

To make sure your cards and packages get to their destinations on time, the USPS recommends following these deadlines and guidelines:

-- For international priority mail, ship by Dec. 3; for international express mail, ship by Dec. 11.

-- First class mail should be sent by Dec. 20; priority mail by Dec. 21 and parcel post by Dec. 14.

-- Always include a return address.

-- Use a sturdy box large enough for packaging and cushioning.

-- Use pressure sensitive or reinforced tape to secure all box flaps.

-- Print address in all caps; eliminate all punctuation; spell out city names; abbreviate state names; include apartment numbers; use abbreviations, such as, AVE for avenue, ST for street, S for south, etc.

-- Include to and from information only on one side of packages.

-- Mark fragile in large print on outside of box when shipping breakable materials.

-- Never guess a ZIP code; find the correct ZIP at www.usps.com.

-- Select a box strong enough to protect contents; leave space for cushioning inside. Cushion with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Plain air-popped popcorn is also good for cushioning.

-- Do not reuse mailing boxes. ReadyPost boxes can be purchased at local post offices. Express and Priority mail boxes, envelopes and tubes are free.

-- Use pressure sensitive tape, nylon reinforced craft paper tape or glass reinforced pressure sensitive tape. Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape or cellophane tape.

-- Place an extra label or notice with the delivery and return address inside the package. This ensures the safe return of an item that could not be delivered should the outside label become damaged or fall off.

-- Remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place them next to the toys in the mailbox.

-- Stuff glass and fragile, hollow items like vases with newspaper or packing material.

-- For international packaging, complete customs forms, pay postage, print shipping labels and receive discounts at www.usps.com/clicknship.