If you go to the trouble to purchase a personal gift for someone who lives out of town, you don't want that gift to get lost in the mail or be damaged. You want it to arrive on time and intact. While there's no way to guard against unforeseen accidents in the mail room, there are certainly precautions you can take to minimize problems. With a little planning, you'll be more likely to have your gifts arrive intact and on time.
Here are some top tips for mailing your holiday gifts this season
1. Don't Procrastinate - This is tip number one, because it's the number one thing you need to recognize! All of the other tips won't be as effective if you're standing in line on Christmas Eve and trying to rush your packages to their destination. Try to ship your gifts right when the holiday season begins. If you don't want to venture out on Black Friday, mail items the week before Thanksgiving, or the Monday after.
2. Pack It Right - A package that's been properly prepared is much more likely to get where it's going with minimal damage. First, choose a sturdy box. Corrugated cardboard is considered best. Don't over-fill your box - there are weight limits for each type of box material, from single-walled to double-walled cardboard. (See the UPS or USPS websites for details on weight limits.) When in doubt, go below the weight limit.
Second, pack your item with plenty of cushioning. Wrap the item in bubble wrap, newspaper, or many layers of plastic bag first; then nestle it in among your packing material of choice. More bubble wrap, packing peanuts, newspaper, and even wadded up plastic grocery bags will work. Whatever packing material you use, make sure it's underneath the item as well as around and on top of it. The item should be immobile when you shake the package.
Before you seal it, put a mailing label on top (more on that below).
3. Tape It Up - Run strips of packing tape along every seam. This is called the "H" method - there should be an "H" on the top and bottom of your box.
4. Clear Labeling - Make sure the shipping label is clear and placed squarely on top of the box. If you can print out the label, all the better. Include a clear return address, and make sure the zip code is right on the shipping address. As an additional safeguard, put a completed label on the top of your item before sealing up the box. If the shipping label becomes unreadable, workers will cut open the box and look for the back-up label you've (hopefully) included.
5. Tracking Number - A tracking number provides delivery confirmation. Most carriers offer this, but ask for a tracking number when you mail your package. This allows you to follow its progress online as it makes its way to its destination.
6. Insurance - When you buy insurance for your package, the shipping covers the first $100. Everything over that and you'll need to prove the value of the item shipped, so save your purchase receipt for the gift. You'll need to present it if the item gets lost or damaged.