Package shipping pros are advising holiday shoppers not to dawdle on shipping gifts to family and friends living in other states, countries, or in the military.

Ann Coverstone, the owner of the UPS Store in Winchester, said her best advice is always to ship early during the holidays.

“That’s the number one thing — to try to beat the rush,” she said, noting that the high volume of holiday packages and potential weather problems can impact deliveries. “… so it is always best to ship as early as you can.”

Another tip is to let the pros package gifts that have to be shipped. She said there are two reasons for that. One is the store’s pack-and-ship guarantee.

“So what that means is that if anything were to happen to your packages, you get all your money back — you get packaging back, your shipping back and the value that you placed on your item back,” she said.

The other tip is to bring holiday gifts to the store and let an associate package them. Usually, she said, people bring in items that are already gift-wrapped.

“It’s fine to gift-wrap clothes or non-breakable toys or something like that, but if it’s breakable, you’ve got to make sure that you’ve packed it in Bubble Wrap or something within that box or let us know that it’s breakable,” she said, adding that sometimes people will pack things together with no cushioning in-between them.

“We’ll put Bubble Wrap on the outside, but if they’re not packed well within that box you had it in and if they’re against each other, they will break.”

As the holidays draw near, the lines at the UPS Store will grow, but Coverstone said not to worry. “Tell them not to be afraid about the lines out the door. It does move fast,” she said, adding that they will have extra stations and a place for people just dropping things off.

The store will also have extended hours on the first three Saturdays in December and it will be open on the Sundays of Dec. 11 and 18.

Coverstone said the store will be closed the Mondays after Christmas and New Year’s Day and will reopen on the next day.

“We’re almost just as busy after Christmas as we are before because everybody starts returning their stuff. That Tuesday after the holidays, we will be so busy,” she said, explaining that her store is an Amazon drop-off site.

The Postal Business Center in Front Royal is also ready for holiday packages that will be shipped via UPS, FedEx, or the U.S. Postal Service. Owner Donna Settle agrees that holiday packages should be shipped “the sooner, the better.”

“I would say the deadline for getting packages out for Christmas, depending on how far they are going, would be Friday, Dec. 16.”

She noted that her store has gift boxes, does gift wrapping and will also wrap packages for shipping.

Settle also suggests wrapping fragile gifts in Bubble Wrap.

“Some things that can’t really be broken, make sure it is (packaged) as small as possible to keep the cost down,” she added.

The U.S. Postal Service has announced this year’s shipping deadlines for Hanukkah, which is Dec. 18-26, Christmas and Kwanzaa, which is Dec. 26-Jan 11.

Retail ground and first-class mail service deadlines are Dec. 17.

The priority mail service deadline is Dec. 19 and the deadline for priority mail express service is Dec. 23.

Visit https://www.usps.com/holiday/holiday-shipping-dates.htm for deadlines for military, Alaska, Hawaii and international shipping.

Post offices will be closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, but priority mail is delivered 365 days of the year, according to Philip Bogenberger, a U.S. Postal Service communications specialist.

“Some post offices will extend retail hours or open additional days during the holiday season as an added customer service. We expect to announce which offices will have extended operating hours soon,” he stated in an email.

The postal service, he added, is hiring for full-time, part-time and seasonal positions in Virginia, “especially in growing communities.”

Visit https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-express.htm for more information on U.S. Postal Service shipping.

Contact Linda Ash at linda@nvdaily.com

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