2021 holiday shipping guide: Deadlines for USPS, FedEx and UPS

Don’t let this year’s especially challenging hunt for holiday presents go to waste by forgetting that you still have to ship those goods to someone far away.

Even for those of you who started — and maybe even finished — your holiday shopping back in October, timelines for shipping vary depending on the carrier you choose. There are options for you to send your packages within the final days before Christmas and still have it arrive under the tree in time — as long as you’re willing to foot the bill for that decision.

Some prices have increased since last holiday season.

The U.S. Postal Service raised the price of a Forever stamp from 55 cents to 58 cents back in August, and is also implementing temporary price increases for its Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class Package Service, Parcel Select, USPS Retail Ground and Parcel Return services that will run through Dec. 26.

The USPS said it expects for shipping to pick up starting the week of Dec. 6, with the week of Dec. 13 to 18 being busiest mailing, shipping and delivery week.

If you want to avoid a trip to your local post office, USPS offers a Click-N-Ship feature where you can order free Priority Mail boxes, print shipping labels, purchase postage and request free next-day Package Pickup.

UPS’ basic Ground service also requires you to calculate your own shipping timeline by putting in where you’re shipping from and where the package is going.

As an example, WTOP entered it was shipping from D.C. to Los Angeles, which produced a 7-day turnaround. So if you want your gift to arrive at its destination before Christmas morning, and you plan to use UPS Ground, play it safe and get it out the door by no later than by Dec. 17.

All dates listed below are the last days you can ship to ensure your package will arrive by Dec. 24.

Dates represent shipping for the lower 48 of the U.S. Click the header of each shipping section for information on shipping to Alaska, Hawaii or abroad.

U.S. Postal Service

  • Dec. 9 — APO/FPO/DPO (all ZIP Codes) Priority Mail and First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 15 — USPS Retail Ground service
  • Dec. 16 — APO/FPO/DPO (except ZIP Code 093) USPS Priority Mail Express Military service
  • Dec. 17 — First-Class Mail service (including greeting cards)
  • Dec. 17 — First-Class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)
  • Dec. 18 — Priority Mail service
  • Dec. 23 — Priority Mail Express service


  • FedEx Ground Economy — Dec. 9
  • FedEx Ground and Home Delivery —  Dec. 15
  • FedEx Express Saver — Dec. 21
  • 2Day & 2Day AM — Dec. 22
  • FO, PO, SO, Extra Hours — Dec. 23
  • FedEx Same Day — Dec. 24


  • UPS Ground — Calculate your package (typically a 7-day trip door-to-door)
  • UPS 3 Day Select — Dec. 21
  • UPS 2nd Day Air — Dec. 22
  • UPS Next Day Air — Dec. 23
Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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