Christmas shipping deadlines USPS UPS FedEx DHL Sendle

Christmas Shipping Deadlines for 2021: USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, and Sendle

It’s that time of year when we look at the recommended last days to ship for on-time delivery by Christmas with the USPS, UPS, and FedEx. Also, this year, we added DHL and Sendle to the list, both of which are primarily used by business shippers in the US.

Online sellers and shoppers will recall last year’s shipping debacle when many USPS shipments were stuck for weeks, and many UPS and FedEx shipments arrived later than expected.

However, UPS and FedEx were able to throttle the intake of shipments, which allowed them to better manage the volume of packages they needed to sort, transport, and deliver.

USPS is required to take every package and when UPS and FedEx started to not accept every package from its large shippers, many merchants began dumping orders into the US Postal Service stream. That only made the situation worse for the Postal Service and it took well into January for it to clear its backlog.

Carriers say they are prepared for another busy peak shipping season this year, and experts we interviewed a few weeks ago agreed that 2021 should be smoother, but shippers want to brace for delays.

Throw in a major winter storm like last year, and the industry could find itself scrambling again to deliver packages on time by December 24.

Moreover, with 2020 still fresh in most people’s minds, consumers are preparing to buy holiday gifts earlier this year, and some retailers are even promoting Black Friday-style deals in October. In fact, the largest US online retailer, Amazon, promoted one such deal in early October.

This information was last updated on October 15, 2021.

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Contiguous United States – Street and Post Office Box addresses
  • USPS Retail Ground Service: December 15
  • First-Class Mail Service (small packages): December 17
  • USPS Priority Mail Service: December 18
  • USPS Priority Mail Express Service: December 23
Alaska & Hawaii – Street and Post Office Box addresses

Alaska

  • USPS Retail Ground Service: December 2
  • First-Class Mail Service (small packages): December 18
  • USPS Priority Mail Service: December 18
  • USPS Priority Mail Express Service: December 21

Hawaii

  • USPS Retail Ground Service: Service not available
  • First-Class Mail Service (small packages): December 17
  • USPS Priority Mail Service: December 17
  • USPS Priority Mail Express Service: December 21

Puerto Rico and US Territories

The US Postal Service never really breaks out specific shipping deadlines to Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, and other US territories.

For Puerto Rico, it seems the deadlines for Hawaii will be a good guide as shipments to Puerto Rico do not have to clear customs and normal delivery services to PR are similar to HI.

However, for all other US territories, it’s best to go with the recommended deadlines shown below in the ‘International Shipments’ section.

International Shipments

We urge shippers to check our constantly updated post on USPS international service disruptions and suspensions. Especially important now is that virtually all mail services are suspended to Australia and New Zealand.

Shipments to Europe may also see additional delays due to new import rules and some countries are struggling to clear items in a timely manner.

Africa

  • First Class Package International Service: November 29
  • Priority Mail International Service: November 29
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 6
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 20

Asia/Pacific Rim

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 20

Australia/New Zealand

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 20

Canada

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 22

Caribbean

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 21

Central & South America

  • First Class Package International Service: November 29
  • Priority Mail International Service: November 29
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 6
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 20

Europe

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 21

Mexico

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 22

Middle East

  • First Class Package International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail International Service: December 6
  • Priority Mail Express International Service: December 13
  • Global Express Guaranteed Service: December 20

Military and Diplomatic Mail (APO/FPO/DPO)

  • USPS Retail Ground Service: November 6
  • First-Class Mail Service: December 9
  • Priority Mail Service: December 9
  • Priority Mail Express Military Service: December 16*

* Except for shipments to APO/FPO/DPO AE Zips 093 for which this service is not available.

Please see our separate post on holiday season shipment to military and diplomatic addresses that also includes information about packaging, customs declarations, and other best practices when shipping items to family and friends stationed overseas.

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines

US Domestic
  • UPS Ground: It can take from 1 to 7 business days with ground. It’s best to use the UPS Time and Cost calculator to find the last shipping date. However, as a rule of thumb, December 14-16 (depending on distance) is a good range to use for the last day(s) to ship using UPS Ground.
  • UPS 3 Day Select: December 21
  • UPS 2nd Day Air Services: December 22
  • UPS Next Day Air Services: December 23*

* UPS issued a bulletin that residential shipments normally arriving by 10:30 am will now be pushed back to noon. See more details here.

US to Canada
  • UPS Standard Services (Ground): After December 6, shippers should use the UPS Time and Cost calculator to determine if this service level is still viable for shipments to arrive by December 24.
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited: December 21
  • UPS Worldwide Express Services: December 23
US to Mexico
  • UPS Standard Services (Ground): After December 6, shippers should use the UPS Time and Cost calculator to determine if this service level is still viable for shipments to arrive by December 24.
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited: December 21
  • UPS Worldwide Express Services: December 22
US to all Other International Locations

We strongly suggest first checking the UPS Time and Cost calculator to determine if a shipment can still make it on time. There are various service disruptions, suspensions, and other restrictions, it’s not possible to offer guidance on when the last day to ship would be for any country.

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines

US Domestic
  • FedEx Ground: December 15
  • FedEx Express Saver: December 21
  • FedEx 2-Day: December 22 (all service levels)
  • FedEx Overnight: December 23 (all service levels)
  • FedEx Same Day: December 24
US to Canada
  • FedEx Ground to Canada: December 13
  • FedEx International Economy: December 17
  • FedEx International Priority: December 18
  • FedEx International First: December 23
  • FedEx Next Flight: December 24
US to Mexico
  • FedEx International Economy: December 21
  • FedEx International Priority: December 22
  • FedEx International First: December 23
  • FedEx Next Flight: December 24
US to Puerto Rico
  • FedEx International Economy: December 22
  • FedEx International First: December 23
  • FedEx Next Flight: December 24
US to all Other International Locations

We strongly suggest first checking the FedEx Rate Finder to determine if a shipment can still make it on time. There are various service disruptions, suspensions, and other restrictions (see this post), it’s not possible to offer guidance on when the last day to ship would be for any country.

DHL Express

International

DHL is mostly known in the US for international shipments. Based on published estimates, international DHL Express deadlines should be:

  • DHL Express Worldwide: December 22, 2021
  • DHL Economy Select: December 19, 2021

However, DHL Express has a very long list of countries with extended delivery dates. Therefore, we suggest shippers look at this list from DHL Express and add the appropriate time.

US Domestic

DHL Express Service

  • DHL Domestic Express: December 23, 2021

DHL SmartMail*

  • DSmartMail Expedited Max: December 17, 2021
  • SmartMail Expedited: December 15, 2021
  • SmartMail Ground: December 10, 2021

* DHL SmartMail is an eCommerce business solution, not available on-demand or to the public.

Sendle

Sendle is new to this list as the service is gaining momentum in the US with small business shippers. The company relies mostly on USPS to deliver their parcels but has recently partnered with GLS to offer 2-day delivery services (Sendle Swift) in some western US states.

We reached out to the Sendle team and the deadlines are based on their recommendations via their delivery partners.

Sendle Swift Service – Select Western States / Street Address Only

Sendle Swift: December 17

Standard Sendle Service

Since the company uses a mix of USPS services to deliver its parcels nationwide, the USPS First Class Mail Parcel service guidance from the US Postal Service in the contiguous US was used. For all other destinations, the USPS Priority Mail guidance was used.

Contiguous United States – Street and Post Office Box addresses

Sendle Standard: December 17

Alaska & Hawaii – Street and Post Office Box addresses

Sendle Standard: December 17

Puerto Rico and Virgin Island

For Sendle we are offering the same cautionary guidance as USPS. Shipments to Puerto Rico should be the same as Hawaii (December 17). But the Virgin Islands may take longer, and we suggest December 6 for VI.

International, US Military and Diplomatic, and all other US Territories

Sendle does not ship to other international destinations, including APO/FPO/DPO, Guam, and other US territories.

In Conclusion

All shipping deadlines are just estimated or guidance and not guaranteed. With the Covid-19 pandemic still impacting logistics operations domestically and globally, we used the information provided by the carriers for this post.

This information was last updated on October 18, 2021, and we will continue to monitor all carriers for updates as they become available.

While FedEx and UPS have reinstated some service money-back guarantees, they could be rescinded as we get closer to Christmas. Please see our posts for UPS and FedEx with more information about the status of their services and guarantees.

We also have a USPS Domestic and USPS International post each with the latest updates on US Postal Service operations.

Everyone hopes for a smoother 2021 holiday shipping season but as we noted earlier, winter storms, new Covid-19 restrictions, cargo flight availability, and other factors could offer some challenges and it’s best not to wait until the last day to hope a shipment makes it on time by December 24.

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