Holiday Package Shipping Information

Important note: Information presented here is based on specific published information, rate guides and our own experiences. Information may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate. Use this as a starting point. For more specific information visit the local office of a carrier or go to their web sites, which are listed at the bottom of this article....

These days a lot of people in a lot of places have a lot of choices when it comes to shipping packages. We can group these so-called "common carriers" into two distinct categories: Dedicated air express carriers and multi-level service carriers.

Dedicated air carriers are companies like DHL, TNT and Airborne Express. These carriers deal almost exclusively in overnight domestic and two day overseas air express. Some even offer same day service to many areas within a given country.

Multi-level carriers include your government postal service, Federal Express (Fed X) and United Parcel Service (UPS). These carriers offer low cost ground services within a given country (and sometimes between neighboring countries, such as the U.S. and Canada or Mexico) plus they also offer one and two day air express, just like the dedicated air carriers.

There are some common factors you need to consider when making a shipment:

First all Middle Eastern and other Muslim nations have their "weekends" on Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday.

Most of the carriers have a length, width and weight limit. Maximum weight for most packages is generally 150 pounds (although in some areas it could be around 75 pounds, while foreign parcel post can be either 20 or 40 pounds maximum). The maximum size is generally 108 inches in length and no more than 130 inches in length and girth combined (which means your 108 inch long package cannot be more than 5 inches thick).

The price of ground shipments via UPS and RPS (Federal Express ground service) are virtually identical for commercial deliveries but a few pennies more with RPS/Fed X to a residence (the surcharge is $1.10 extra with UPS and $1.50 extra with RPS/Fed X). Also take note, there is a rural delivery surcharge for locations outside of the city areas -- this can add up to $3 extra per package!

All ground shipments made between December 10th and January 1st may take up to 7 working days to go from coast to coast in the United states and an extra day longer for the two and three day air shipments. This means if you are shipping a ground package via UPS or Fed X/RPS from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine or Miami, Florida to arrive on Christmas Eve (Monday December 24th) you need to ship this no later than Thursday December 13th. Remember, weekend days don't count with either UPS or Fed X!

For their more expedited 3 day service you should ship it on Tuesday December 18th. Wednesday December 19th for their 2 day service and Thursday December 20th for their overnight service. Overnight packages shipped on Friday will more than likely arrive by Monday the 24th, but they may not warranty the service, which means if it does get delivered on Wednesday the 26th they may not refund or adjust the charges!

Also take note that delivery times are warranted for commercial business in towns and cities. Very rural, residential address may take an extra day for express delivery or can be delivered as late as 8 p.m. (commercial warranty is end of business day or 5pm). Also the time of day you hand over the package can have a bearing, especially with the U.S. Postal Service for Express Mail. Arrive at the post office too late in the day and what you thought was one day Express services becomes expensive 2 day Priority service because you missed the cut-off time!

One thing nice about most government postal services is that they may still offer 6 day delivery and mailing service, which means that using the U.S. Postal Service 2 day priority mail on Thursday December 20th may see delivery on Saturday the 22nd or Monday the 24th! Also the U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail rates are generally far lower in cost than any other carrier, except there is no insurance coverage at this price. With all other carriers you are insured to $100. For priority mail you have to ad almost $2 extra to the price for $100 of insurance.

For foreign shipment the more traditional "Air Parcel Post" (government post office packages) generally takes a minimum of 7 days to arrive at most locations and during the holiday season this can take twice as long. Delivery of parcel post has always been very iffy, so it is strongly suggested you insure each package for at least a minimum amount!

With private express carriers most foreign businesses tend to prefer Federal Express, DHL or Airborne Express. Rates for foreign express package delivery vary by only a few dollars from carrier to carrier, unless you have a special company contract with another carrier, which can drastically reduce shipping costs. Packages declared at a high rate of value (over $200) take longer to clear customs and there is generally a Value Added Tax (VAT or excise tax) on most packages valued higher than $50. Remember, virtually all private carriers insure packages to $100 automatically at the base rate for shipping (rates for additional insurance from UPS and Fed Ex Ground is 35 cents additional per $100). Shipments to most major cities take two or three days. Shipments to more distant locations, such as a rural area can take four or more days.

UPS, unlike the rest of the carriers, has made the day after Thanksgiving (Friday, November 23rd this year) a holiday and they also have limited service the day before both Christmas and New Years, which means that, except for 1 and 2 day air shipments, no packages are generally picked up at many locations, but there are deliveries of the 1 and 2 day air packages. This means a package sent for Thanksgiving in the U.S. that doesn't get delivered on Wednesday, November 21st will not be delivered until Monday November 26th, unless it is a priority air package.

Most carriers also have a surcharge on large packages that weight less than 30 lbs. If the package is bigger than approximately 1 1/2 square feet (17" on all sides or any equivalent combination) and weighs less than 30 pounds, the shipping charge will be that of a 30 pound package with UPS! Other carriers have similar "over sized" package weights and rates.

All the private carriers will deliver on Saturday in the U.S. for an extra fee (around $20), with the Postal Service (to selected delivery areas) there is no extra charge for Saturday service.

Note, the last time I tried to ship a package by Federal Express at one of their pick up sites they would not take my credit card. Cash or business check only. Not sure if this was a company policy or not, but in my case I walked across the street to a printing shop that offered UPS service and they took my card with no problems! The moral is: Bring cash with you when going out to a private drop-off location! Ask what form of payments they will accept when you call them up (they will come to your house for a nominal fee, you must arrange for this a day or two in advance).

Rates Originating Inside the United States (California) for a 10 lb. package
Carrier Local Coast to Coast Hawaii Canada England Australia
US Parcel Post Ground+ 15.26 15.26 19.33 18.25 47.00 52.10
Priority 2 day+ 16.20 23.45 23.45 ## 22.25 N/A N/A
Express 1 day ++ 34.15 34.15 34.15 31.75 47.00# 57.00#
Fed Ex Ground 6.37 8.51 N/A N/A N/A N/A
Fed Ex 3 Day 19.50 24.60 N/A 53.90 88.10 N/A
Fed Ex 2 Day 21.00 26.75 33.00 61.30 95.85# 111.25 #
Fed X 1 Day 42.00 47.00 51.00 N/A N/A N/A
UPS Ground 6.37 8.51 N/A 14.07 N/A N/A
UPS 3 Day 12.70 18.40 N/A 56.19 N/A N/A
UPS 2 Day 19.10 25.40 29.00 64.04 92.50 # 113.75 #
UPS 1 Day 42.50 47.50 49.00 N/A N/A N/A
DHL Express 50.61 50.61 60.61 88.40 123.97# 143.73#

# Express shipments to England take 2 - 3 days. Shipments to Australia take 3 - 4 days.

## Priority to Hawaii takes 3 days.

Except as noted below, all shipments include $100 insurance.
+No insurance included
++Includes $500 insurance

Prices shown are approximate U.S. Dollars, based on current book rates or web site information and should be used as a starting point. Some commercial shippers get preferred, discount rates from some of these carriers. Rates to business addresses might be cheaper. Not every address is served by Fed Ex ground, contact Fed Ex/RPS for details. Additional charges apply for pick-up service, oversized packages, delivery receipts, extra insurance and Saturday delivery.

Ground service: UPS and Fed Ex warrant 5 to 6 day delivery coast to coast (Some rural shipments might take 6 days) in the U.S. except for the period of December 10 to January 1, when it can take 1 - 2 extra days (up to 8 working days for ground).

Post Office Parcel Post takes 5 - 8 working days normally, several days more during December. Domestic shipments are made by surface. Foreign shipments are made by air.

Foreign Shipments

Every country requires shipping documentation for foreign shipments. Your local post office has standard forms for Parcel Post. If the package is notinsured, weights 4 pounds or less and is not longer than about 18 inches on any side you can ship this by "Letter Package" and use the Green PS 2976 customs form (CN22). If the package is larger, more than 4 pounds or requires insurance you must use their 3 part Customs Declaration 2976-A.

For private carriers, such as Federal Express and DHL, you must supply your own "Commercial Invoice" -- generally 3 to 5 copies of this document. You can find an on-line template at the Federal Express site for making these forms on some computer systems. Blank forms are also found at many stationary stores. The basic form includes the names and addresses of the shipper and receiver. The contents of the package, including quantity for multiple items, the weight and value. At the bottom you must generally sign and date a statement that says it is legal in your country to send these items to the country listed on the document and that you have complied with all export laws.

Packages valued over $50 generally require the receiver to pay a VAT (Value Added Tax or Gift Tax or Excise Tax) which can amount to as much as 25% of the value stated on the customs forms (insured value and value declared for customs must be the same amount).

Shipment Packing Tips

First many carriers offer a variety of free express service boxes. Just go to their local office and ask about them! These include Priority boxes in many sizes from the US Postal Service and smaller boxes from Federal Express, UPS and Airborne Express. While a majority of these boxes are size to fit small items like books and video tapes, some are bigger and can handle a package several inches tall, a foot wide and almost two feet long. Some carriers even have 18 inch square boxes!

Make sure to include packing material between the outer shipping box and the inside box. These include the environment safe "green" Styrofoam peanuts, wadded up newspaper and you can even empty your paper shedders and use that as stuffing! You want at least an inch or two along all sides, top and bottom of padding. The peanuts weight the least of all these materials. There is also bubble pack.

It is generally illegal to send liquids in bottle via a carrier until you full enclose these inside leak proof bags.

For glass or very fragile items clearly mark all sides of the box FRAGILE. Some shippers have stickers you can paste on the cartons.

Seal the box with filament tape around the girth (all four sides) and over the lids. Never use duct or gaffers tape (the silver cloth tape) as heat makes this curl. Clear plastic tapes are generally not very strong and can come apart. Use filament or paper tape for the main seals. Use the clear tape to help secure the lids and edges on all sides.

Make sure there is only one label on the box with addresses. Multiple labels can misdirect the shipment! Make sure the return address is smaller and in the upper left corner. Make sure the TO address is large, clear and written in waterproof ink. Place clear tape over the label to prevent water damage to double secure this to the box.

Never use string, these days companies like UPS charge an extra fee for string around the outside of boxes. Also make sure the package is square or rectangular, again, surcharges can apply to circular or odd-shaped packages, as all carriers are now using automatic loading machines. Unusual shapes require special handling and UPS charges up to $5 extra for this service!

DHL International

US Postal Service

United Parcel Service (UPS)

TNT Global Express

Federal Express (Fed Ex)

* * *

Our Holiday Special Issue continues with these offerings:

From this year (2002):
Holiday Festivals, Displays and Events - Bah Humbug! - Gift Ideas Under $10
Some Unique Mail Order Gifts - Staying In The Holiday Spirit
Holidays Around the World

From last year (2001):
Diwali - India's Festival Of Lights - Christmas Around The World
The Origin of Some Christmas Traditions - Picking and Trimming a Christmas Tree
Shipping Your Holiday Gifts - Oh Ye Disbelievers: The Fable of Saint Nick
Gifts She'll Love - Wreath - Stockings - Stollen -
Techno Gifts - CD Musical Stocking Stuffers from Then to Now - Every pick's a hit!


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