Time to think about holiday mailing dates

Packages ready to be delivered. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

It’s time to get those cards and packages out, and the sooner the better, the U.S. Postal Service advises.

The USPS expects to deliver 365 million packages this holiday season, a 20 percent increase over 2011, according to its website.

The Vineyard Haven post office will offer extended Saturday hours on December 15 and December 22. The retail counter and lobby will be open from 9:30 am to 3 pm, according to postmaster Joe Massua. As a help to postal employees, Mr. Massua suggests that customers pick up their mail and packages as soon as possible because the post office has limited storage space.

December 11 is the last day to send Express Mail International for Christmas arrival, according to a USPS press release. Priority Mail International and Express Mail International deliver mail and packages up to 70 pounds to more than 190 countries. Delivery takes 6 to 10 business days for Priority Mail International and 3 to 5 days for Express Mail International for major markets.

December 17 is the last day to ship to military personnel for Christmas arrival.

To ensure Christmas delivery to U.S. addresses, packages sent by parcel post should be shipped by December 14, first class by December 20, priority mail by December 21, and express mail by December 22.

The USPS predicts the busiest mailing day for holiday cards/packages will be Monday, December 17, when more than 655 million pieces of mail are expected to be processed — compared to 538 on an average day. The busiest delivery day for letters is expected to be Wednesday, December 19, and the next day the busiest for packages.