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Holiday shipping deadlines start this week: How to get your packages delivered on time

Time is running out to make sure your packages are mailed in time for Dec. 25 or 26. We'll tell you when the deadlines are for USPS, UPS, Amazon and FedEx.

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Want your packages to arrive on time? Here are the dates you want to ship by.

Sarah Tew/CNET

If you haven't started holiday shopping yet or have a few things left to buy, you'll need to act fast (here are some deals on gifts for everyone, including moms, dads, grandparents and tweens). That's because holiday shipping deadlines start this week and you'll want to make sure your packages will arrive in time for Christmas or Kwanzaa.

To give you the best odds of having your letters and packages arrive on time this year, the US Postal Service, UPS, Amazon and FedEx have each circled the dates you need to hit -- specifically to arrive in time for Christmas, Dec. 25, and Kwanzaa, which begins Dec. 26. (You'll want to add in buffer time for arrival dates before the end of December.)

Here are the 2021 Christmas shipping schedules for the big three package delivery services. If you're looking to send a memorable present, you can always check out CNET's favorite holiday gift picks. And here are some ideas for gifts you can snag for under $50.

FedEx shipping deadlines for Dec. 25

If you're a last-minute shipper, FedEx lets you ship on Dec. 24 for a Dec. 25 delivery, but it won't be cheap. If you want a less costly option, FedEx's ground delivery deadline is Dec. 15.

Here are the dates FedEx recommends you ship by (PDF) to have your package arrive by Dec. 25 in the US.

FedEx holiday shipment deadlines

Domestic service Ship date
Ground Dec. 15
3Day Friday, Express Saver Dec. 21
2Day Freight, 2Day Dec. 22
1Day Freight, Extra Hours Dec. 23
Same Day Dec. 24

UPS shipping deadlines for Dec. 25

With the pandemic, UPS has suspended its guarantee of delivering most packages on time -- excluding some next-day air and worldwide services. Here are UPS' recommended dates (PDF) for Christmas 2021.

UPS holiday shipment deadlines

Domestic service Ship date
Ground Check the UPS website for deadlines
3-Day Select Dec. 21
2nd Day Air Dec. 22
Next Day Air Dec. 23

USPS shipping deadlines for Dec. 25

Saying it's trying to get its house in order, the US Postal Service is lengthening delivery times and temporarily boosting the cost of shipping parcels during the holidays. Here are the dates the post office recommends you circle on your calendar if you want your packages to arrive by Christmas this year.

USPS holiday shipment deadlines

Domestic service Date (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) Date for Alaska Date for Hawaii
USPS Retail Ground Dec. 15 Dec. 2 N/A
First-Class Mail Dec. 17 Dec. 18 Dec. 17
Priority Mail Dec. 18 Dec. 18 Dec. 17
Priority Mail Express Dec. 23 Dec. 21 Dec. 21

Amazon shipping deadlines for Dec. 25

You can cut some time out of the shopping and mailing process by ordering from Amazon and shipping the package directly to someone as long as you have their address. Here are the dates you'll want to order by to get the packages delivered on time. Note that these guaranteed delivery dates are for Prime members and not all items have the same shipping timelines. The product listing page will give you an estimated shipping date.

Amazon holiday shipment deadlines

Shipping type Deadline to buy Date delivered
2-day shipping Dec. 22 Dec. 24
1-day shipping Dec. 23 Dec. 24
Same day delivery Dec. 24 Dec. 24
e-Gift card delivery Dec. 25 Dec. 25

Did you know you can buy unclaimed packages? To make sure your packages stay delivered, here's how to guard against porch pirates. And here are some cool gifts for under 50 bucks.

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