Shipping Tips for the Holidays

Santa isn’t the only one moving packages this holiday season.


We asked a local expert, Jerry Kahn, general manager of PostNet in Lake Forest, for his advice on being a savvy shipper.

Bulk shippers get the better deals

Because online companies and large retailers are sending truckloads of packages a day, they will always get better pricing than an average consumer could get shipping packages herself. So if you’re okay not wrapping or personalizing your gifts, send them direct from the retailer and save yourself some dough.

Save cents on your holiday card

Anything out of the ordinary will usually cost you more postage. That includes square cards and envelopes, cards weighing over an ounce, as well as any envelopes that are extra thick due to embellishments or layers on the card inside.

Flat panel cards are the simplest and cheapest to print and mail.

You can send a holiday postcard for cheaper, but know that there are size limitations to getting postcard postage.

To calculate your postage cost, visit the United States Postal Service (USPS) website.

Don’t be a Scrooge when it comes to insurance

Typically when a package is insured, the shipping company will repair or replace any damaged, lost or destroyed item up to its declared value. FedEx and UPS automatically insure any package they ship up to $100, and you can purchase additional insurance in increments of $100.

If you use USPS, you will have to purchase insurance to cover the value of what you’re shipping (unless you use Express Mail which automatically includes insurance up to $100). The price of the insurance is based on the declared value.

Keep track of your shipments

If you plan on sending anything of value— be it monetary or sentimental—it helps to have package tracking, particularly during the busy holiday season. Kahn has found that UPS and FedEx keep stated delivery commitments. FedEx and UPS also offer real-time tracking, no matter what you ship. And while you can get delivery confirmation from the USPS, you will not be able to access the actual location of your package en route.

It’s all how you pack it

While you pay a small margin on packages shipped through an independent operator like PostNet, they can help you find the best shipping options and price to meet your specific needs. “Shipping costs are based on package size, weight, destination and speed of delivery,” explains Kahn. “Depending on what you’re shipping, sometimes it makes sense to put everything in one box or divide into multiple packages.”

For example, if you’re sending clothing and a few knick-knacks, it probably makes more sense to put the soft clothing into shipping envelopes and the smaller items into a flat rate box. If you’re sending an oversized Barbie kitchen along with smaller items, you’re probably better off sending the kitchen in one box, and grouping smaller items in another. Together, the two boxes might cost less to ship than one oversize box.

Remember that you don’t always have to buy a box or envelope. FedEx and UPS offer free boxes and padded envelopes in standard sizes at no additional cost.

The USPS now offers Priority Mail flat rate envelopes and boxes. Packages are not weighed or calculated, and regardless of what you can fit in the box, it’s the same price. But don’t always assume this is your cheapest option. Depending on what you’re sending, you might be able to get away with an envelope.

Keep it safe

If you want your wares to arrive safe and sound, Kahn urges customers to stick with bubble wrap or peanuts, particularly if you’re sending breakables. Don’t use newspaper or towels to cushion your valuables, and avoid using shoe, liquor or gift boxes as they’re made with a softer cardboard not meant for shipping. Remember that any package can be inspected and shipping alcohol is illegal, unless you’re a licensed retailer or vineyard.

Need to know when to ship? The USPS has an online calendar available with all the important “must do by this time” information.