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Don’t wait. Get it in the mail.

For those who can’t make it home for the holidays this Christmas, a gift from mom and dad or relatives might help ease homesickness.

Whether you’re sending a card, package or letter to a loved one, the U.S. Postal Service encourages you to send off items early to ensure they get there in time for Christmas.

According to information from the Postal Service, the service will increase air cargo lift of mail nearly 31 percent during the holiday season.  During the holidays, an average of 589 million pieces of mail are processed and 97 million customers will visit the post office. Dec. 20 is the busiest mailing day of the year, with mail carriers delivering about 800 million letters, cards and packages that day alone.

“It gets very busy … our employees look forward to the holidays and providing the outstanding service our customers have come to expect and deserve throughout the year,” USPS Communications programs specialist for the Alabama District Debra Fetterly said. “The holiday usually kicks off the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

Deadlines for holiday shipping include: Tuesday, Dec. 20 for first class mail; For priority mail shipping Dec. 21; Express Mail — Dec. 22; Parcel Post — Dec. 15; Destination Network Distribution Center, or DNDC drop shipment — Dec. 19. International shipping deadlines to Asia and the Pacific, Australia and New Zealand is Monday, Dec. 19 and to Africa, the Caribbean, Central and South America, Europe or the Middle East — Dec. 20. The shipping deadline to Canada is Wednesday, Dec. 21.

Whether you plan to ship domestically or internationally, Fetterly gives tips to help the shipping process go smoothly for the holiday.

Print addresses clearly in all caps.

Include all address elements, such as apartment numbers, suite numbers or directional information for streets (i.e., 123 S Main St.).

Include both “to” and “from” information on packages and only on one side. If packages are fragile, write the word in large print on outside of box.

Never guess a zip code. No zip is better than a wrong zip.

Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Leave space for cushioning inside. Cushion contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap or foam peanuts.

Always use tape that is designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced craft paper tape or glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape. Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape or cellophane tape.

Remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place them next to the toys in the mailing box.

Stuff glass and fragile, hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage.

When sending packages to troops overseas, keep in mind of extreme temperatures, box sizes, cushioning, batteries and sealing. Include a card describing contents. Improperly wrapped packages can fall apart during shipment so with the card inside, listing sender’s and recipient’s addresses and description of contents, helps in collecting lost items.

Use the service member’s full name. The Department of Defense cancelled the “any service member program” so mail must be addressed to a specific person.

Include the unit and Air and Army Post Office or Fleet Post Office address with the nine-digit zip code, if it is assigned. Also, include a return address.

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