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Holiday shipping deadlines 2021: How to get packages on time

We rounded up everything you need to know to make sure everyone on your list gets their gift this year.
Christmas gifts during self-isolation period
Svetikd / Getty Images

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While there isn't an official deadline for holiday shopping, retailers are urging consumers to shop earlier than ever this year ahead of anticipated shipping delays and supply chain issues. Supply chain issues became especially evident in early October as store shelves appeared barren in grocery stores across the country, NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reported on TODAY earlier this month.

In short, the earlier you order your gifts and ship out your packages this year, the better.

"Avoid shipping an item if the delivery costs are going to put you over budget — expedited shipping prices can be steep!" Katie Roberts, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, told Shop TODAY in an email. "Think twice if you're up against a shipping deadline and the package has to travel a long distance, too. The U.S. Postal Service states that mail traveling the longest distances is going to be most affected by its service changes."

On Oct. 1, the Postal Service implemented service changes, relying less on air travel and instead making "better use of our trucks and existing surface network," according to a service alert on their website.

Plenty of retailers are offering ground shipping to deliver your order before Dec. 24, but the deadlines will be here faster than you think. Though delivery dates might not be guaranteed, there are a few options you can pursue to make sure you receive your order as early as possible.

Holiday shipping deadlines for 2021

Below is a list of domestic holiday shipping deadlines for 2021.

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

  • Nov. 6: Last day to ship using ground service to Air/Army Post Office/Fleet Post Office/Diplomatic Post Office) addresses
  • Dec. 15: Last day to ship using ground service
  • Dec. 17: Last day to ship via First-Class Mail
  • Dec. 18: Last day to ship via Priority Mail
  • Dec. 23: Last day to ship via Priority Mail Express

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

  • Ground shipping: Calculate exact date using the UPS website
  • Dec. 21: Last day to ship via UPS Three-Day Select
  • Dec. 22: Last Day to ship via UPS Second-Day Air
  • Dec. 23: Last Day to ship via UPS Next Day Air

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

  • Dec. 9: Last day to ship via FedEx Ground Economy
  • Dec. 15: Last day to ship via FedEx Ground Contiguous US, Freight Priority and Freight Express
  • Dec. 21: Last day to ship via FedEx Express Saver or Three-Day Freight
  • Dec. 22: Last day to ship via FedEx Two-Day, Two-Day A.M., Two-Day Freight or Two-Day
  • Dec. 23: Last day for FedEx One-Day Freight
  • Dec. 24: Packages can be sent via FedEx Same Day

Amazon Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

Amazon has not announced an official holiday delivery calendar as it has in years past, but you'll still want to order as soon as possible.

Shoppers can look out for the shipping estimate that is displayed above the "Add to Cart" button to ensure timely delivery as the holidays get closer.

Tips for getting packages on time

"You're going to want to leave yourself a considerable delivery cushion this holiday season, especially for products that will be traveling a long distance before arriving at their destination," Roberts told us.

Last year, Julie Ramhold, consumer analyst with DealNews.com, gave us three pieces of advice that still ring true for shoppers hoping to receive their orders in time for Christmas: Shop early, opt for in-store pickup and embrace gift cards.

To avoid the possibility of delays, in-store pickup is a viable option for items that are in stock at your local store.

"Many retailers let you buy online and use in-store and/or curbside pickup, and these let you skip shipping costs altogether!" Roberts said. "And if it's not crucial for the package to arrive on a specific day? Forget it — go with the lowest-price delivery option and don't worry about shipping deadlines in those cases."

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