This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.
The holiday shipping season is upon us. Whether you're sending gifts direct from Amazon or another online retailer or shipping boxes of gifts yourself, you've got some important deadlines fast approaching. The combination of the holiday crunch and COVID-induced supply-chain challenges means waiting until the last minute to shop and ship is an even riskier proposition in 2020 than past years.
Read more: CNET's Holiday Gift Guide: Gifts they'll love, for every budget.
Christmas falls on a Friday this year, which means your packages will need to reach their destination by Thursday, Dec. 24. We've rounded up cutoff dates for guaranteed Christmas delivery from mail services such as USPS, UPS and FedEx, and retailers like Amazon, Best Buy and Target. Note that if you're in Alaska or Hawaii, dates will likely be earlier, and you should click through to each company's website for more information.
If you're shipping via USPS, you'll need to send your packages by the following dates in order to ensure they arrive before Dec. 25. USPS will deliver mail as usual on Thursday, Dec. 24, but no mail will be delivered on Friday, Dec. 25.
- Tuesday, Dec. 15: USPS Retail Ground
- Friday, Dec. 18: First-Class Mail
- Saturday, Dec. 19: Priority Mail
- Wednesday, Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express Service
If you're shipping via FedEx, you will need to send your packages by the following dates in order to ensure they arrive in time. Some FedEx services -- FedEx SameDay, FedEx SameDay City Priority and FedEx SameDay City Direct -- will deliver on Christmas Day but only in select cities and for a hefty fee.
- Tuesday, Dec. 15: Ground
- Monday, Dec. 21: Express Saver
- Tuesday, Dec. 22: Two-day
- Wednesday, Dec. 23: Overnight
- Friday, Dec. 25: FedEx SameDay
If you're shipping via UPS, you will need to send your packages by the following dates in order to ensure they arrive before Dec. 25.
- Monday, Dec. 21: UPS 3 Day Select
- Tuesday, Dec. 22: 2nd Day Air
- Wednesday, Dec. 23: Next Day Air
Ordering gifts online? Here are the shipping deadlines you'll need to meet for some popular online retailers. Order by these dates to ensure you'll get your packages by Thursday, Dec. 24.
Amazon has yet to announce its holiday shipping deadlines for 2020, but if past years are any indication, these are your deadlines for this year:
- Monday, Dec. 14: Standard shipping
- Tuesday, Dec. 22: Two-day shipping (free with Prime)
- Wednesday, Dec. 23: One-day shipping
Apple's holiday deadlines vary by product. You can order most iPhones and all Apple Watches, for example, up until Dec. 22. Today (Friday, Dec. 11), however, is the last day to order an iPad Pro or iPad Air, and the new iPad is already back-ordered until January. Most Mac deadlines have passed, but there's still time to order engraved AirPods.
Best Buy has yet to announce its holiday shipping deadlines, but, again, if past years are any indication, these are your deadlines for 2020:
- Friday, Dec. 18: Large home delivery items (appliances and TVs larger than 51 inches)
- Monday, Dec. 21: Most items via two-day shipping
- Thursday, Dec. 24, 12 p.m. local time: Same-day shipping (select areas and products)
- Thursday, Dec. 24, before 4 p.m. local time: Store pickup (most stores close at 6 p.m. on Dec. 24)
The following shipping deadlines are for order placed and approved by 3 p.m. ET:
- Tuesday, Dec. 15: Standard shipping
- Thursday, Dec. 17: Expedited shipping
- Monday, Dec. 21: Express shipping
It would be prudent to avoid waiting until the last minute to order holiday gifts from Target this year. The retailer has suspended its free two-day shipping and now gives the fuzzy guidance that most packages will arrive within one to two days of the estimated delivery date. You'll still get free standard shipping on select items to select ZIP codes on orders over $35. Target's standard shipping usually arrives in three to five business days, but if it might take your package another two days to arrive at its destination, it would be a good idea to play it safe and expect your package to take seven business days to arrive. So, if you order by Dec. 15 and your order ships on Dec. 16, then seven business days means it should arrive by Dec. 24.
- Tuesday, Dec. 15: Standard shipping
Like Target, Walmart offers free two-day shipping on select orders over $35 and free, three- to five-day shipping on most orders over $35. Unlike Target, Walmart is maintaining its two-day shipping for the holidays. You need to order by 2 p.m. ET to start the clock on the shipping times. Walmart hasn't announced holiday deadlines, but here are some safe dates to ensure your package arrives by Christmas Eve.
- Thursday, Dec. 17: Five-day shipping
- Sunday, Dec. 20: Two-day shipping
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