When should I mail holiday cards and gifts? Here are the 2021 deadlines for U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS

Hannah Rodriguez
Des Moines Register
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If you're thinking about ordering holiday gifts online or going to the post office to mail presents, don't delay. 

The U.S. Postal Service, United Parcel Service and FedEx are urging shoppers to mail gifts as soon as possible to ensure packages arrive on time for the holidays amid COVID-19 pandemic-related shipping delays.

Slower shipping has plagued the postal service since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it indefinitely extended Priority Mail’s two- and three-day services to three and four days. 

More:USPS mail delivery is about to get permanently slower and temporarily more expensive

Through Dec. 26, it also has temporarily increased its prices on domestic commercial and retail packages. The increases range from 25 cents to $5.

The postal service's busiest time of the year begins two weeks before Christmas, so it's best to make sure anything truly time-sensitive is mailed before then.

The private delivery services, meanwhile, are getting ready for the rush. This weekend in the Des Moines metro, UPS is looking to hire around 400 seasonal workers during the company's annual "Brown Friday" holiday hiring event

More:Supply chain issues could impact your holiday shopping. Here's how Des Moines shop owners are preparing

Packages await sorting at a U.S. Postal Service facility.

"Many of those who attend one of our job fairs through Saturday will be hired by Monday, and many of those hired will be offered permanent jobs when the holidays are over," UPS Chief Human Resources Officer Darrell Ford said in a statement.

Here's a guide to when to mail to ensure packages are received by Dec. 25.

More:Closed on Thanksgiving: Des Moines metro malls, retailers skip early in-person Black Friday shopping hours for second year

U.S. Postal Service

  • Retail ground service: Dec. 15
  • First-class mail: Dec. 17
  • Priority Mail: Dec. 18
  • Priority Mail Express Service: Dec. 23

Postal service deadlines for international military posts 

  • USPS Retail Ground Service: Nov. 6
  • First-class letters and cards: Dec. 9
  • Priority Mail: Dec. 9
  • Priority Mail Express Military Service: Dec. 16

For other international mail and shipping deadlines, visit usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates.htm

More:Will holiday mail be on time? Why is mail getting more expensive? Your USPS questions, answered


  • 3-Day Select: Dec. 21
  • Second-day air services: Dec. 22
  • Next-day air services: Dec. 23

For ground shipping deadlines, orto calculate international shipping timeframes or view other shipping deadlines, visit ups.com 


  • Ground Economy: Dec. 9
  • Ground and home delivery: Dec. 15
  • Express Saver: Dec. 21
  • Two-day and two-day a.m.:  Dec. 22
  • Overnight services: Dec. 23
  • Same day: Dec. 24 

More:Rekha Basu: After the post office lost track of my overseas mail, there was only one place I could get answers

Hannah Rodriguez covers retail for the Register. Reach her at herodriguez@registermedia.com or on Twitter @byherodriguez.

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