Make sure that whatever you're shipping arrives safely with these tips.
Step 1: Use a sturdy box Don't try to get away with an old shoebox or disposable-diaper carton. The U.S. Postal Service recommends a double- corrugated box.
Step 2: Protect the contents Wrap fragile items in newspaper, bubble wrap, or other packaging. If you're shipping clothes, wrap them in heavy-duty plastic in case the packaging gets wet.
TIP: Plain, air-popped popcorn is an environmentally friendly substitute for Styrofoam packing peanuts.
Step 3: Put the address inside and out Tuck the name and address of the recipient inside the package in case something happens to the mailing label.
Step 4: Remove batteries If you're sending something with batteries, pack them separately so that the item doesn't switch on in transit.
Step 5: Use the right tape Secure the package with 2-inch-wide packing tape, which is specifically made for shipping. Regular tape and masking tape are not durable enough.
Step 6: Be clear Write the recipient's address legibly and include the zip code. If you're unsure of it, look it up at usps.com. Include your return address.
TIP: An incorrect zip code will delay your package longer than no zip code at all.
Step 7: Select a delivery method Select a delivery method. The fastest option is Express, followed by Priority. The cheapest, but slowest, domestic option is ground delivery, known as Parcel Post. You can also choose Priority flat-rate shipping, where one fee is charged for whatever you can fit into one of four specially sized boxes.
TIP: Packages that are 13 ounces or less can be put in any mailbox, as long as they fit and have the correct postage.
Step 8: Consider purchasing insurance Consider buying insurance. If you're insuring your package for less than $500, you can do it at usps.com. You also can use the site to calculate and download postage.
Step 9: Save a trip to the post office Save a trip to the post office by giving packages up to 70 pounds to your regular mail carrier. There's no limit to how many Express, Priority, parcel return, and international packages you can hand over. For a fee, you can also call or go online to arrange a pick-up time.
FACT: Postal workers call the Monday before Christmas "Black Monday" because it's one of the busiest shipping days of the year.