Millions of packages are headed out for the holidays as shipping companies and the U.S. Postal Service handle their busiest season yet.
The Postal Service will deliver 365 million packages between Thanksgiving and New Year's; add cards and letters, and they're handling 17 billion pieces of mail. FedEx was expected to set a record Monday, its busiest day of the year, by delivering 19 million shipments in one day — up 10 percent from last year.
Consumers' preference to avoid packed stores and shop online is contributing to the increase in volume of packages each holiday season, shippers say.
“A lot more people are shopping online. Cyber Monday has taken over Black Friday, so there are a lot more packages in general,” said Dionne Montague, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service in Oklahoma.
If they prefer, customers can avoid lines at the post office, too. Shippers can go online, pay for postage, print it out and request a carrier pick up from their home or office, Montague said. But the last day to do so in time for Christmas delivery is Dec. 20.
Because Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, last-minute shipments will need to be not so last minute.
Both FedEx and the Postal Service require overnight parcels to be shipped by Dec. 22, to arrive by Christmas Day. UPS next day air packages will need to be shipped by Dec. 21, to be delivered by Christmas Eve.
FedEx hired 20,000 seasonal workers nationwide to handle the onslaught of seasonal packages.
“We plan several months out going into this peak season,” said Tom Compise, operations manager for the Oklahoma City FedEx facility at 4220 N Santa Fe. “People are going to procrastinate, I'm sure. With the shortened delivery span, we are expecting heavy volume on the Monday before Christmas.”
A handful of drivers even volunteer to work Christmas Day, to deliver any lingering packages that may have missed their destination on Christmas Eve.
Metro area post offices won't offer extended holiday hours, but two facilities already offer customers extra time. The facility at 6500 Air Cargo Road is open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Center City Station at 305 NW 5 is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.
Use technology. The Postal Service website allows customers to schedule a package pick up, print out postage and order stamps and shipping supplies.
UPS offers “My Choice,” which gives customers the ability to sign up for text message or email alerts about their shipments, as well as reroute or reschedule deliveries.
Don't reuse a box, seal it with packing tape (not wrapping tape) and cushion the contents with packing peanuts or newspaper.
Never guess a ZIP code. Look it up at www.usps.com.
If you are mailing battery-operated items like toys, remove the batteries and ship them separately (but in the same box.) If an item inside a package starts ticking or rattling, it could require additional screening, causing delays.
Print the recipient's address inside the box as well as on the outside, in case the label falls off.
Source: The U.S. Postal Service and UPS
At a glance
Busiest holiday shipping days
• Postal Service: Monday, Dec. 17
• UPS: Thursday, Dec. 20.
• Postal Service: Dec. 20 for first-class, Dec. 21 for priority and Dec. 22 for express.
• UPS: Dec. 19 for 3-day select or Friday, Dec. 21 for next day air, delivered on Monday, Dec. 24.