Make your list, check it twice—and don’t miss these shipping deadlines.


Every holiday season, finding the perfect Christmas gifts for everyone on your list can take a substantial amount of time—but even once you have your gifts picked out, purchased, and wrapped, you have to figure out how to get your holiday presents and seasonal care packages to their recipients. If you’re traveling to be with family, you can usually pack gifts in your suitcase, though you risk oversized bags (and fees) or airport security unwrapping your gifts to inspect them. The next best alternative is shipping gifts to friends and family—but this can take some serious planning ahead.

Every year, the U.S. Postal Service releases its holiday shipping deadlines to help people plan when to send their Christmas gifts to make sure they arrive before December 25 (Christmas Day). Of course, sending presents and holiday cards as early as possible is the best way to avoid any issues, but not everyone plans ahead like that—for those deadline-driven people, the USPS holiday shipping deadlines 2020 can help.

This year, USPS recommends that anyone shipping gifts through USPS Retail Ground service put their items in the mail by December 15, 2020, to ensure they arrive before December 25. (Anyone mailing or shipping to Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office addresses should do so by November 6.) Retail Ground is the most affordable method of shipping through the Postal Service, but anyone able to pay more (or anyone running behind on their holiday prep) can ship or mail items by December 18 through First-Class Mail or packages services or by December 19 through Priority Mail Service. The Priority Mail Express service—the most costly option—has a December 23 deadline. You can see the full list of USPS holiday shipping deadlines for 2020 below.

USPS holiday shipping deadlines 2020 (for estimated delivery before December 25)

  • November 6: APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) USPS Retail Ground service
  • December 9: APO/FPO/DPO (ZIP Code 093 only) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • December 11: APO/FPO/DPO (all other ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail services
  • December 15: USPS Retail Ground service
  • December 18: APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express service
  • December 18: First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • December 18: First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • December 19: Priority Mail service
  • December 23: Priority Mail Express service

When you’re making your to-do list for the holiday season, keep these deadlines in mind—but also plan ahead. Mail and shipping services in the U.S. (and around the world) have experienced huge delays during the COVID-19 pandemic; you’ve probably experienced more than a little frustration with lost or delayed packages and mail over the last several months. Remember that frustration, and then remember that the holidays are the busiest shipping season of the year and many people are unable to travel to be with family, so they may be shipping or mailing more items than ever. There’s a good chance there will be more delays and issues in December. With that in mind, it’s best to get your Christmas cookies and presents shipped (or ordered, if you’re ordering gifts straight to the recipient’s home) far, far ahead of December 25 or the USPS shipping deadlines.

Also remember that delivery dates are not guaranteed unless you pay top dollar for an express service. All the dates above are for estimated delivery—if you’re shipping to a remote area or a very busy urban center, delivery may take more time than usual, so ship a few days in advance of the deadline (at least) to ensure everything arrives by Christmas.

In its announcement of the 2020 shipping deadlines for arrival on or before December 25, the Postal Service also shared a few tips for making holiday mailing and shipping easier. First, you can use the USPS website to ship packages with Click-N-Ship or other services that don’t require a trip to the post office. December 14 is predicted to be the Postal Service’s busiest day online, so if you plan to use online services and at-home features, try to do so in advance of December 14 to avoid the digital rush (and any potential site outages).

Second, though holiday shopping is bound to be different this year than in years past, the Postal Service still expects to have its busiest time of year starting two weeks before Christmas. Customer traffic to post offices is expected to increase starting December 7, with the week of December 14 through December 21 predicted to be the busiest mailing, shipping, and delivery week. If you need to mail or ship your holiday goods from a post office, try to do so before December 7 for the best chance of avoiding crowds (and lowering your risk of COVID-19 exposure) at your local post office.

As you prepare for this holiday season, hold tight to your holiday cheer—and don’t take any of your holiday stress out on hard-working Postal Service workers, even if packages are delayed or post office lines are long. A smile and a “thank you” can help improve everyone’s holidays.