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Busy holiday shipping season gets started

Now that the turkey leftovers are gone, it's time to get those Christmas cards and packages ready to mail.

The busiest mailing day this year will be Dec. 17 because it's the Monday before the holiday, said Cathy Yarosky, U.S. Postal Service spokeswoman. On that day, more than 655 million pieces of mail are expected to be processed.

The busiest delivery date for letters will be Dec. 19, and the busiest delivery date for packages will be Dec. 20.

Another busy day will be Dec. 24, when customers will send packages by Express Mail with the intention that they will arrive the following day. While Express Mail will be delivered on Christmas Day, not all cities offer overnight delivery, she said. She advises asking at the retail window if your intended destination offers that service.

"This year we expect to deliver 17.9 billion cards, letters and packages between Thanksgiving and Christmas," Yarosky said.

Since 2006, the postal service has seen a decline in mail volume as more people choose to conduct business and send personal notes electronically. While there has been a decline in volume of cards and letters, there has been an increase in packages in the last few years, she said.

An estimated 365 million packages are to be delivered this holiday season. That is a 20 percent increase over 2011. Officials believe this is due to consumers' fondness for shopping online.

Customers may want to check out the new holiday website for information on mailing and tracking packages. Also, the site offers tips and information.

In a nutshell, the U.S. Postal Service emphasizes that mailing early is the key to avoiding the stress of wondering whether your cards and gifts will reach destinations in time for Christmas.

The following is a list of holiday mail-by dates:

Dec. 3: Priority Mail International

Dec. 10: Priority Mail Military

Dec. 11: Express Mail International

Dec. 14: Parcel Post

Dec. 17: Global Express Guaranteed

Dec. 20: First-Class Mail

Dec. 21: Priority Mail

Dec. 22: Express Mail

Meanwhile, United Parcel Service anticipates a busy holiday season and estimates 527 million packages will be delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas, up from last year's total of 480 million, said UPS spokesperson Tyre Sperling.

While shipping early is best, the company has set deadlines for getting packages to recipients before Christmas, he said. 

The last shipping date for packages in the United States is Dec. 21 for air packages to be delivered on Dec. 24. The deadline for second-day air is Dec. 20. For three-day ground service, the deadline is Dec. 19.

For information regarding deadlines for shipping overseas, check with the local UPS store.

Calls to media relations for Federal Express were not immediately returned. The website has a chart for various services and deadlines for shipping.


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