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Holiday Shipping Deadlines That Will Get Your Gifts There on Time

Mind these holiday shipping deadlines to ensure your gifts get there on time.

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Avoid shipping delays

It seems every year we hear some version of the same advice: Start browsing gift ideas early, shop soon, and heed those holiday shipping deadlines. “It’s even more important this season,” says Nallan Suresh, PhD, a professor with the State University of New York at Buffalo’s School of Management. He and other economics experts warn that this is not the year for last-minute gifts. According to a RetailMeNot survey, shoppers plan to do more than 60 percent of their holiday gift-buying online. So you can expect shortages when ordering items and delays when sending them to their intended recipients.

Seconding his colleague, assistant professor Mike Wei, PhD, predicts a “roller coaster ride” for both shoppers and suppliers—not to mention shippers, who experts expect to be hobbled this holiday season by their own labor and supply shortages. As a result, some retailers are avoiding holiday shipping deadlines altogether, opting instead to provide a shipping estimate at checkout.

One alternative is to consider “experiential” presents—gift certificates for meals or massages, for example. Or pick something practical: Instead of tech gifts, buy Prime memberships for the people on your list, who can then order the best Amazon gifts for themselves outside the holiday rush. In a pinch, you can order from Instacart and have items delivered to your door, or send packages locally via Uber Connect. Of course, the most reasonable work-around is to shop now (get started with gifts for her and gifts for him) and ship early. To help you, we’ve rounded up holiday shipping deadlines for 2021, and we’re going to keep updating until the very last gift has been unwrapped.

Usps Logo On Boxrd.com, Getty Images

The U.S. Postal Service

Here are the U.S. Postal Service’s recommended ship-by dates for expected delivery in the 48 contiguous United States by December 25:

  • USPS Retail Ground Service: December 15
  • First Class Mail Service: December 17
  • Priority Mail Service: December 18
  • Priority Mail Express Service: December 23

You have a bit of leeway if you’re aiming for a delivery by Kwanzaa (which goes from December 26 to January 1), but you’ll have to ship even earlier if you’re hoping your Hanukkah gifts make it in time for the holiday, which goes from November 28 to December 6 this year.

Keep in mind that these USPS dates are “recommended” for “expected delivery,” as opposed to guarantees of delivery by a certain date. Other deadlines will apply for deliveries outside the United States, and that’s the case for all the holiday shipping deadlines mentioned here, unless otherwise specified.

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UPS

Considering the amount of shipping that happens at the holidays, it’s no surprise UPS prepares for Christmas months in advance. You don’t have to get a jump on shopping quite so early, but you do need to ship by the following dates if you want your packages to arrive by December 24.

  • UPS Ground: December 15
  • UPS 3-Day Select: December 21
  • UPS 2nd Day Air: December 22
  • UPS Next Day Air: December 23

Mailing gifts for coworkers to their offices? In recognition of the many business closures resulting from the pandemic, UPS recommends making certain the recipient’s business is actually open and will be open on the date delivery is expected. The company will make three routine attempts to deliver before returning a package to its sender.

Not only do you need to know those holiday shipping deadlines, but you’ll also want to keep in mind when your local UPS store is open during the holidays. For instance, UPS stores are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas, and some may have modified business hours on Christmas Eve. The good news: UPS Express Critical service is always available.

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FedEx

For delivery within the United States by December 25, FedEx suggests shipping by the following dates:

    • FedEx Express Same-Day Delivery: December 24
    • FO, PO, SO, Extra Hours: December 23
    • FedEx Second-Day Delivery: December 21
    • FedEx Express Saver: December 21
    • FedEx Express 3-Day Freight: December 21
    • FedEx Express 2-Day Freight: December 22
    • FedEx Express 1-Day Freight: December 23
    • FedEx Ground: December 15
    • FedEx Home Delivery: December 15
    • FedEx Ground Economy: December 9

Allow extra transit days for delivery outside major cities, FedEx advises. In addition, the last day to ship using FedEx Ground depends on how far your shipping location is to the package’s intended destination.

As you plan your gift-giving, take into consideration not only these holiday shipping deadlines but also the dates when Fedex locations are open. Because it won’t matter that the gift for your brother is wrapped and ready if the FedEx store is closed or has modified hours. The official holiday schedule of openings and closures of FedEx locations can be found on the FedEx website.

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Home Shopping Network (HSN)

The Home Shopping Network’s holiday shipping deadlines guarantee delivery by Christmas, though only standard shipping is available without an extra charge. Anything ordered after December 21 may not arrive in time for the holiday.

  • Standard Delivery: December 12–16
  • Express Shipping: December 17–20
  • Super Express Shipping: December 21

There’s some good news if you’re not quite sure whether you ordered that gift for mom in the right size: HSN offers extended holiday returns through January 31, 2022. All items ordered between September 11 and December 24 at 11:59 p.m. may be returned for a full refund, minus shipping costs, until such date.

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Harry & David

It doesn’t get much easier than Harry & David, which boats tons of food gifts for basically everyone on your list (and what’s a more unique gift than food?). So when should you send your gift to make sure it gets there in time? Harry & David’s holiday shipping deadlines include dates for four major holidays:

Standard Shipping

  • By Thanksgiving: November 19
  • By Hanukkah: November 17
  • By Christmas: December 18
  • By New Year’s Day: December 25

3-Day Express

  • By Hanukkah: November 22
  • By Christmas: December 21
  • By New Year’s Day: December 28

2-Day Express

  • By Thanksgiving: November 22
  • By Hanukkah: November 23
  • By Christmas: December 22
  • By New Year’s Day: December 29

Overnight Express Shipping

  • By Thanksgiving: November 23
  • By Hanukkah: November 24
  • By Christmas: December 23
  • By New Year’s Day: December 30

Overnight Saturday Arrival

  • By Hanukkah: November 26

Standard shipping and processing deliver within four to seven business days to most zip codes, unless a future delivery date has been requested. If you choose express shipping, your package will be delivered (to most zip codes) within the specified time frame with same-day shipping if you place the order by 1 p.m. ET.

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Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble has its holiday shopping pages all decked out and ready for shoppers hunting down the best gifts for book lovers. Here are the dates by which you need to order so your packages arrive by Christmas:

  • Standard Shipping: December 16
  • Express Shipping: December 20
  • Expedited Shipping: December 21
  • Buy online for pick up in-store: December 24 (noon local time)

Note, however, that Barnes & Noble’s shipping information includes the following caveat: “With the extra-busy shopping season, we are doing our best to get your orders out the door for the holidays. However, our shipping carriers are busier than ever and cannot guarantee any delivery timeline.”

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Sam’s Club

With holiday shipping deadlines updated for 2021, Sam’s Club is helping you plan the best time to order gifts for your father-in-law, kids, and more. For your packages to arrive by December 25, you’ll need to order by these deadlines:

  • Freight: December 8
  • Ground: December 17
  • Express: December 2

Delivery depends on what you buy and where the goods are going, so pay attention to the online item page, where you’ll find estimated arrival dates, based on zip code.

Amazon Logo On cardboard Boxrd.com, Getty Images

Amazon

If this holiday season is anything like holiday seasons past, then Amazon will hold tight to its official holiday shipping deadlines schedule until we get closer to the holidays. There is also the possibility that Amazon will forego a list of specific shipping deadlines, opting instead for real-time shipping estimates. Not that this should stop shoppers from loading their Amazon carts with gifts for dad, gifts for grandma, and gifts for pretty much everyone else on their lists. In fact, unless and until Amazon announces official 2021 holiday shipping deadlines, the best alternative is to pay attention to the shipping and delivery estimates the site includes on product pages. Below the price, you’ll notice the expected delivery date for free delivery, plus the date it’ll arrive if you opt for the fastest delivery option.

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Walmart

Walmart has not yet released specific 2021 holiday shipping deadlines. But the company did announce some encouraging news: This holiday season, store delivery hours will be extended, additional delivery windows will be made available, and there will be more items than ever on the list of what can be delivered by your local store.

Keep in mind that select areas have same-day shipping, a boon for last-minute ordering. And if you’re really in a rush, you can skip shipping on select items, ordering online and picking them up at your local store instead. Cheap Christmas gifts, here you come!

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Target

Although Target has not yet released its 2021 holiday shipping deadlines, it has pledged to do its best to work with its delivery carriers (including FedEx and UPS) to get packages where they’re going as quickly as possible. That’s good news if you hit up Target for all of your Christmas toys.

Generally speaking, most deliveries will arrive within one to two days of your estimated delivery date. To get your goods faster, you can opt for two-day shipping, if your items are eligible. Skip shipping altogether to get your goods even sooner; Target offers same-day delivery on certain items and in-store or curbside pickup.

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Best Buy

Best Buy has yet to announce specific 2021 holiday shipping deadlines, but there are some things you can do to get a better sense of the delivery timeline. For starters, enter your shipping destination’s zip code when placing your order to get the most accurate estimated arrival date. And don’t order too close to the holiday; certain items may require additional time to process before they’re shipped.

There’s good news when it comes to returns, though. Best Buy is offering an extended window for holiday gift returns. Purchases made between now and January 2, 2022, will be returnable through January 16, 2022, with the exclusion of items requiring a third-party contract (such as cell phones) and holiday products (such as Christmas decorations).

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Kohl’s

Kohl’s has not yet released its 2021 holiday shipping deadlines, but the company has stated that it’s working with its shipping partners (UPS, FedEx, and USPS) to make ordering and delivery a smooth process this holiday season. Typically, standard ground shipping will get your package to you in three to eight business days, while one- and two-day shipping offer a quicker turnaround. If you’re down to the wire but don’t want to fight holiday crowds in the store, consider ordering online for in-store or curbside pickup. Provided your items are eligible for the service, you can get them in as little as an hour. But the smartest option, Kohl’s says, is to start shopping early in the season.

Zappos Holiday Shippingrd.com, Getty Images

Zappos

Zappos is well-known for its generous shipping policies, including free shipping on all orders and expedited shipping on qualifying orders. Thus far, however, Zappos has not yet released its 2021 holiday shipping deadlines. In general, orders with standard shipping arrive within four to five business days. Most items are also eligible for expedited shipping. At checkout, look for the three shipping options, along with their estimated delivery dates, to choose the method that fits your time frame. Looking for more gift ideas? Check out these gifts for sisters.

The Home Depot Holiday Shippingrd.com, Getty Images

The Home Depot

Last year, the Home Depot had early holiday shipping deadlines: December 13 for standard delivery by December 23 and December 19 for expedited shipping. Whether the dates will be even earlier this year remains to be seen; the company still hasn’t announced their holiday shipping deadlines.

Generally speaking, the Home Depot offers free two-day shipping on orders over $45, and you may be able to pick a delivery window at checkout. It also has a 180-day return policy all year long, easing the burden of gift returns.

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Verizon

For the fastest delivery of handheld devices, look no further than Verizon, which offers (for an additional price) same-day delivery in some areas—even throughout the holidays. If that’s not available in your area, Verizon offers plenty of other shipping options, including free ground shipping on accessories, which arrive in three to five days. Unless otherwise noted at checkout, you should be able to order holiday gifts with free two-day shipping. Pressed for time? Two overnight shipping options are available for an added fee, and Verizon also offers in-store pickup. A sleek new phone is a great idea when it comes to gifts for husbands.

Nordstrom Holiday Shippingrd.com, Getty Images

Nordstrom

In the past, Nordstrom has supplied customers with specific holiday shipping deadlines. As of now, it is providing its usual shipping information as guidelines for the holiday season. That means most items that you ship via Nordstrom’s free shipping option will arrive within three to eight business days after your order is received. Two-day shipping is available for an additional $12, and next-business-day delivery is available for an added $20. That means your gifts for that holiday hostess will have every chance of arriving on time.

Next, learn how to stop porch pirates from stealing your packages this holiday season.

Sources:

Lauren Cahn
Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction; her first full-length manuscript, The Trust Game, was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.