Although the United States Postal Service recommends that you mail your Christmas letters and parcels early, there is no need to worry if you've fallen behind. The Service is making every effort to keep to its every day service standards for domestic mail, says spokesman Joseph L. Breckenridge. This means that packages can be sent to some destinations as late as Christmas Eve and still arrive for the holiday.
The Postal Service has several types of mail delivery. The type you choose depends mainly on how quickly you need to get the package delivered. You should also base your choice on the value or uniqueness of the parcel's contents.
The most economical way to mail your package is fourth-class mail (parcel post), said Breckenridge. Parcel post has a two- to nine-day turnaround, he says, and is for customers who are sending their packages well ahead of time.
For faster deliveries, you may want to consider using first-class mail. Letters weighing under 12 ounces should reach their destination in no more than three days, with overnight delivery available for some locally designated cities.
All first-class mailings weighing more than 12 ounces automatically go by first-class/priority (zone rated) mail. This type normally has a two-day turnaround, said Breckenridge. But like first-class letters, your parcel can be delivered to certain destinations overnight if you deposit it by 5 p.m. Consult the post office for more information.
For those who wait until the last minute, the Postal Service offers Express Mail Next Day Service. With this service you can send your parcel as late as 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and have it at its destination by 3 p.m. Christmas Day, said Breckenridge.
For packages of particular value, the Postal Service offers insurance that covers the total cost of a parcel's contents in the event of damage. The Service cautions its customers not to overinsure, however, because the coverage is only for the exact value of the package's contents.
If you are sending irreplaceable or one-of-a-kind items, the Postal Service recommends that you send it via registered mail. Rates for this type of mail are based on both weight and value.
Overseas mail has earlier deadlines than domestic mail, but you still have time to send letters and parcels to many foreign destinations. For information, call the post office.
Though the Postal Service is doing everything it can to expedite Christmas mail deliveries, it's still important to mail as early as possible. In addition, you should drop off your mail early in the day.
"If you can drop off that piece on your way to work, that will give us a tremendous jump on it," said Breckenridge. Most people have a tendency to drop off their mail at the end of the workday, he says, lumping most of the workload into the evening hours.
Also, you can purchase stamps for your Christmas cards through Stamps by Mail. All you need to do is fill out a special order form, enclose the total amount and drop it in the mail. The stamps you ordered will arrive in three days. Order forms are available through your letter carrier, by mail or at the post office.
To avoid waiting in long lines at the post office, the Service has numerous Self-Service Postal Centers throughout the county. These centers contain everything you need to send your packages via most types of mail. The only type not covered is registered, which you must take to a full-service post office.
During the holidays, the Postal Service is setting up booths in eight Orange County malls. The booths at the Brea Mall, Anaheim Plaza and the Orange Mall sell stamps and accept parcels in addition to taking all types of mail. Those at Huntington Center, Laguna Hills Mall, Westminster Mall, Newport Center Fashion Island, and Mission Viejo Mall sell stamps and accept first-class mail only. All are open seven days a week.
HOW TO PREPARE AND WRAP PACKAGES
When mailing Christmas gifts, proper packaging is vital to guard against damage. ThS. Postal Service offers the following tips on how to prepare holiday packages for safe mailing.
Use an adequate container, such as: corrugated or solid fiberboard, kraft board, chipboard (for small items), metal cans, tubes or boxes, wooden boxes or crates, fiber mailing tubes with metal ends, or sturdy envelopes.
An "average" parcel is defined as one with dimensions that do not exceed 34" x 17" x 17"and that weighs 25 pounds or less. For such
parcels, fiberboard containers (common boxes from the home or store) are generally adequate.
If you are mailing high-density items--such as hardware or automotive parts--you must use a stronger box. High-density items are defined as those that exceed 15 pounds per square foot.
Use filament or other reinforced tape to secure the package instead of string. Although twine and cord are permitted, they tend to catch and bind in mail-processing equipment.
Cushion the contents, especially if several items are packed together. Suitable cushioning materials include: polystyrene, shredded or