2020 Holiday Shipping Deadlines & How To Avoid Shipping Delays

Posted in Shipping on Nov 09, 2020, tagged with holiday shipping

A wrapped present being shipped in a brown box with peanuts

The shipping landscape has shifted in 2020—with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more people are sending things by mail than they have in years past, and online shopping is expected to be the go-to shopping method for the holiday season. With so many more packages on the road, common parcel carriers like USPS, UPS, and FedEx are expecting significant delays getting deliveries to their destinations on time.

Regardless of how you plan to give gifts this year, you will almost certainly need to ship some of them instead of hand-delivering them as you usually would, especially if your loved ones live out of state or across the country. Depending on what you are sending, the best shipping method will vary:

USPS, UPS, or FedEx is ideal for: Consolidated freight & less-than-truckload shipping is ideal for: White glove shipping is ideal for:
Small parcels
Small boxes of gifts
Boxes that are too large for USPS, UPS, or FedEx
Car parts
Family heirlooms
Bulky or oddly-shaped items, like golf clubs

While many shipping cutoff dates remain fairly close to what they have been in years past, holiday shipping in 2020 will look much different than in previous years:

  • Some companies have removed their service guarantees
  • There is an increased likelihood of delays
  • Some services are looking at surge pricing to help cover the high demand and increased costs.

If you want to make sure your gifts arrive on time, the best thing you can do is send them as soon as possible.

If you fall behind on your gift planning and packing (it happens!), here are this year’s shipping deadlines for USPS, FedEx, and UPS.



Shipping Cutoff Date

APO/FPO/DPO Retail Ground™ Service Friday, November 6
APO/FPO/DPO Priority Mail® and First-Class Mail (ZIP Code 093 only) Wednesday, December 9
APO/FPO/DPO Priority Mail® and First-Class Mail (all other ZIP Codes) Friday, December 11
USPS Retail Ground™ service Tuesday, December 15
USPS Retail Ground™ service Tuesday, December 15
APO/FPO/DPO Priority Mail® Express service (except ZIP Code 093) Friday, December 18
First-Class Mail® service (including greeting cards) Friday, December 18
First-Class Mail® service (including greeting cards) Friday, December 18
First-Class packages (up to 15.99 oz) Friday, December 18
Priority Mail® service Saturday, December 19
Priority Mail Express® service* Wednesday, December 23
*not a guarantee
APO/FPO/DPO: Air or Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office addresses
Source: USPS

If you’re a business shipping packages to customers, you should also be aware that the USPS is adding a holiday surcharge to commercial shipments this year for the first time ever to help them deal with the deluge of packages. It began October 18 and lasts until December 26, 2020:

Image Source: USPS



Shipping Cutoff Date

FedEx SmartPost® Wednesday, December 9
FedEx Home Delivery® Tuesday, December 15
FedEx Ground® Tuesday, December 15
FedEx Express Saver® Monday, December 21
FedEx 3Day® Freight Monday, December 21
FedEx 2Day® and FedEx 2Day® A.M. Tuesday, December 22
FedEx 2Day® Freight Tuesday, December 22
FedEx 1Day® Freight Wednesday, December 23
FedEx Extra Hours® Wednesday, December 23
FedEx Standard Overnight® Wednesday, December 23
FedEx Priority Overnight® Wednesday, December 23
FedEx First Overnight® Wednesday, December 23
FedEx SameDay® Friday, December 25
FedEx SameDay® City Priority Friday, December 25
FedEx SameDay® City Direct Friday, December 25
Source: FedEx  



Shipping Cutoff Date

Ground® Tuesday, December 15
3 Day Select® Monday, December 21
2nd Day Air® Services Tuesday, December 22
Next Day Air® Services Wednesday, December 23
Source: UPS  

Consolidated freight and white glove shipping services

For larger or specialty packages such as large packed boxes, furniture, antiques, or family heirlooms, you’ll want to work with a shipping partner who specializes in transporting these items. USPS, FedEx, and UPS are capable of carrying oversized packages, but there may be added fees and surcharges depending on the size and weight of your package. In this case, consolidated freight or white glove shipping is your best bet:

  • Consolidated freight - Consolidated freight is when multiple shipments from different people or businesses share space on a truck heading in the same direction. This method may be a little slower, but it's cheaper than other options, and is ideal for boxes that are too large for USPS, FedEx, or UPS, car parts, and other durable items.
  • White glove - White glove is a higher tier of service within the freight shipping family. With white glove shipping, everything is taken care of for you—your items are packed and prepared by professional movers, and are then shipped, delivered, and placed exactly where you want them by the moving team. This method is ideal for antiques and other fragile shipments. All furniture shipped with TSI is transported using white glove services.

These methods may not be the traditional approach for holiday parcel deliveries, but things are a little different this year. Most holiday-related shipments that employ these methods are shipments of furniture such as antique tables, family heirlooms, and other furniture or specialty items, but consolidated freight is also suitable for larger boxes packed with gifts.

TSI is not currently experiencing delays with LTL shipments, but some White Glove shipments to less-travelled areas may experience some slow downs. Consolidated freight and white glove shipping can be slower than other shipment delivery services by design—it can take up to 15 days for pickup and an additional 20 days for delivery—so anything shipped via these services should be sent off as soon as possible.

TSI TIP: Our flat rate box shipping service is a great way to consolidate presents for grandkids, cousins, and friends living at the same address and get them all sent out on time for holiday celebrations. With this service, you tell us how many boxes you’ll need to ship and select a level of service that works for you. We deliver the boxes right to your door, typically within 4 business days of your order and payment. Then, all you have to do is pack your boxes and give us a call so we know to come pick them up. After we pick up your boxes, it usually takes about 5 business days or less for delivery, depending on the delivery location.

Learn more about our box-and-ship solutions.

4 tips for avoiding shipping delays

October through December are typically busy months in the postal and shipping industry, and 2020 is shaping up to be an exceptional year in terms of the sheer quantity of mailed and shipped items. Because of the expected barrage of boxes and envelopes, this year it is more important than ever to take precautions to ensure your packages don’t experience unnecessary delays:

  1. Confirm the address is correct: Make sure everything is spelled and numbered correctly and that you have included the right ZIP code.
  2. Write addresses legibly or print labels: Make sure both your return address and the recipient’s address are easy to read. If you are handwriting your addresses, take care to make your 1s and 7s, 3s and 5s, and 4s and 9s easy to identify.
  3. Confirm shipping documentation is correct: Double check that your bill of lading is correctly filled out, and that there are no typos or spelling errors on any of your shipping documentation.
  4. Ship earlier than ever before: Avoid holiday-ruining-delays by shipping items early. This way, even if the package does get held up, it will still arrive on time. If you are worried about the surprise being spoiled, you can wrap the gift before boxing it up and include a note on top with instructions for when the gift can be opened.


Preparation and precaution are key to timely deliveries this year, so try to get ready as soon as you can and remember:

  • For cards, small parcels, and boxes, consider USPS, UPS, or FedEx.
  • For larger, bulkier items or pieces that are too valuable or fragile to ship using these services, opt for consolidated freight and specialty shipping companies.
  • Make sure the address is correct.
  • Have an easy-to-read shipping and address label.
  • Correctly fill out the bill of lading and other documentation.
  • Send your shipment early!

Need help shipping holiday gifts?

We can help you transport boxes of gifts, furniture, and other items to their holiday destinations—anywhere in the continental USA. 

Learn more
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