Mail cards and ship packages early

The Postal Service estimates December 16 will be the busiest shipping day of the year. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

With fewer days this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there’s no time like the present to ship those presents, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) advises.

The Vineyard Haven post office will offer extended hours on the two weekends prior to Christmas. On Saturday, December 14, the post office’s retail counter and lobby will be open from 9:30 am to 3 pm and on Saturday, December 21, from 9 am to 5 pm, according to postmaster Deb Chickering. The post office’s retail counter and lobby also will be open on Sunday, December 15, from 10 am to 1 pm, and on Sunday, December 22, from noon to 2 pm.

As a help to postal employees, Ms. Chickering suggests that customers pick up their mail and packages as soon as possible because the post office has limited storage space. Post offices in Chilmark, Edgartown, Oak Bluffs, and West Tisbury will be open their usual hours during the holiday season.

To ensure Christmas delivery to U.S. addresses, packages and mail sent by standard post should be shipped by December 14, first class by December 20, priority mail by December 21, and priority mail express by December 23.

The USPS expects to deliver nearly 15 billion pieces of mail between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, including 420 million packages, which is a 12 percent increase over 2012, according to a press release.

The USPS predicts the busiest mailing day for holiday cards and packages will be Monday, December 16, when more than 600 million pieces of mail are expected to be processed. The Postal Service’s website offers additional information and online services.