Shipping those holiday gifts to friends and family this year? Don't miss the deadline. The U.S. Postal Service offers the following mail-by dates.
Dec. 4 (That's tomorrow, folks!) — Military mail destined for Iraq or Afghanistan
Dec. 15 — Parcel post
Dec. 20 — First-class mail
Dec. 21 — Priority mail
Dec. 22 — Express mail
To avoid any problems when shipping, USPS also offers these tips:
• Print addresses clearly and in all caps. Include all address elements — apartment numbers, suite numbers, directional information for streets.
• Include both "to" and "from" information on packages — and only on one side.
• Mark packages "Fragile" in large print on the outside of the box when shipping materials that might be likely to break.
• Never guess a ZIP Code. NO ZIP is better than a WRONG ZIP.
• Select a box strong enough to protect the contents. Leave space for cushioning inside.
• Cushion contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Plain air-popped popcorn is also good for cushioning. Pack contents tightly to avoid shifting during transit.
• Always use tape that is designed for shipping, such as 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 mailing box. Customers should include the new batteries in the manufacturer's packaging.
• Stuff glass and fragile hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.