Shipping Tips & Solutions

Cheapest Way to Ship a Package for the Holidays

In this article, we cover how merchants can save their customers on money on shipping, and provide resources for calculating quotes and determining shipping deadlines.
Cheapest Way to Ship a Package for the Holidays

By Jules


November 2, 2020

Key Points:

  • Being transparent about courier cut-off dates and your own holiday deadlines keeps customers happy and satisfied during the high-stress, high-cheer time of year
  • This holiday shipping season, FedEx is bringing on an additional 70,000 employees while UPS is hiring 100,000 new, temporary employee
  • Easyship saves users up to 91% off discounted shipping rates on 250+ couriers including USPS, FedEx, UPS, or even DHL

The holiday season is the most wonderful time of the year. And for merchants trying to beat the Christmas shipping deadlines, it’s also the busiest time of the year. Known in the ‘biz as peak season, the four weeks between Black Friday and Christmas are the biggest shipping weeks of the year, as most people are doing their holiday shopping then — which means couriers are busy shipping gifts from here to there.

But all that holiday shipping adds up over the course of the season. When balancing your budget sheet, even record sales can be outweighed by the cost of shipping. For consumers and retailers alike, it’s important to be aware of the cheapest way to ship Christmas gifts. And be warned: it’s not free shipping, as intuition suggests.

In the following article, we’ll compare the three major couriers and their service, warn you of holiday surcharges, give you the lowdown on packing and shipping Christmas gifts and clue you in on how Easyship can help you find the cheapest way to ship Christmas gifts through our easy-to-use logistics tools.

It’s going to be a holly, jolly, and helpful good time!

Sign up for a free Easyship account today to save up 91% on shipping from multiple couriers!

Table of Contents

How to Prepare for the Busiest Mailing and Delivery Days

Due to COVID-19, online shopping rose 43% in September. Numbers are expected to continue to soar into the holiday season, a time of year that’s already busy for the shipping industry.

To prepare for the expected onslaught of eCommerce orders thanks to our changes in buying habits, couriers are hiring big-time. Seasonal hires are par for the course for couriers during peak season. This year, FedEx is bringing on an additional 70,000 employees while UPS is hiring 100,000 new, temporary employees. So, now that you know what the couriers are doing to compensate for the rush, what’s a consumer or merchant to do to adjust for holiday shipping and shopping? Well, we’ve got some ideas…

Have a Clear Shipping Policy

More sales mean more revenue, which means more shipping – and more opportunities for delivery issues. The best thing a merchant can do is have a clear, transparent shipping policy that is accessible to customers and made readily available on their website.

Here are some things that ought to be covered in your shipping policy to keep squabbles to a minimum.

  • Courier options: Let your customers know who you ship with.
  • Service Types: Do you ship same-day, overnight or international? That can make or break this is especially true during the holiday season.
  • Handling times: Remember, shipping isn’t just how long it takes to go from A to B. How long do fulfillment and lead time take?
  • Pricing: Reliable shipping doesn’t always come for free. Let your customers know your rates upfront.
  • Delivery timeframes: No one likes a surprise —even when it's a holiday gift. Be upfront to help manage customer expectations.
  • Returns: Returns are part of shipping, and acknowledging this is good customer service.
  • International Shipping: Where do you ship to? Does your company follow DDU or DDP?

If you need to update your shipping policy ahead of the 2020 holiday season, give this free shipping policy generator a try.

Know Your Shipping Deadlines

Perhaps the most-asked question from customers is “Can you guarantee Christmas Eve delivery?” In addition to displaying your normal shipping rates and delivery information on your website, it’s important to update those for the season.

Being transparent about courier cut-off dates and your own holiday deadlines keeps customers happy and satisfied during the high-stress, high-cheer time of year. It’s typically best practice to set your own cut-off that will set expected delivery by December 25th, adding on extra buffer dates as needed.

The dates that follow are the 2021 holiday season shipping deadlines for the major US couriers, either announced or estimated based on information from 2020:

USPS Holiday Ship By Date
USPS Retail Ground December 15, 2021
USPS First Class Mail December 17, 2021
USPS Flat Rate Priority Mail December 18, 2021
USPS Priority Mail Express December 20, 2021
FedEx Holiday Ship By Date
FedEx Smart Post December 21, 2021
FedEx Ground Delivery December 15, 2021
FedEx Home Delivery December 15, 2021
FedEx Express Saver December 21, 2021
FedEx 2Day Services December 22, 2021
FedEx Overnight Services December 23, 2021
UPS Holiday Ship By Date
UPS Ground December 13, 2021
UPS 3 Day Select December 21, 2021
UPS 2nd Day Air Service December 22, 2021
UPS Next Day Air Service December 23, 2021
2020 Holiday Shipping Deadlines in the US

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Factor in lead time & delays

Peak season has a funny way of complicating things. While it’s normally best practice to add an additional day or two onto the delivery date provided to customers to allow for leeway, a longer lead time is needed around the holidays. That’s because everyone is shipping gifts a the same time.

Plus, delivery roadblocks like stock outages, winter weather, or disruption in the supply chain are all the more likely this time of year.

Be Aware of Holiday Surcharges

The holiday season is unlike any other. With everyone shipping gifts ahead of exchanges — especially in a season like this one where many holiday celebrations will take place over Zoom — the couriers are busier than ever. To adjust for the surge in shipment, couriers will likely be implementing seasonal surcharges.

For more information check the courier's website.

What’s the Cheapest Way to Ship Christmas Packages?

There is no singular, universal shipping method that’s considered the gold standard for inexpensively shipping a package. Keep in mind that depending on what you’re shipping you must also factor in a parcel’s weight and size, how quickly you need your package to get to its destination, and your shipping zone or country.

Let’s keep these four key factors in mind:

1. Speed

As instant gratification becomes the norm, customers expect speedy shipping. But that’s a pay-to-play scenario. The faster the delivery speed, the more you will have to pay.

Different courier companies offer various time-sensitive delivery options to cater to your preferred delivery timeframe at a cost. Overnight delivery may cost five times more than ground delivery.

For shipping within two to three days, USPS Priority Mail offers the most competitive rates for packages weighing 10 pounds and below. But UPS and FedEx services offer more enticing rates when shipping packages above 10 pounds within the same delivery window.

For packages with a hard two-day delivery timeframe, UPS 2nd Day and FedEx 2Day are the best options because USPS doesn't offer guaranteed services within this timeframe.

2. Distance

Are you shipping gifts domestically or internationally? Down the street or down the coast? Either way, you pay for mileage.

Shipping carriers divide the US into 8 shipping zones based on the distance your package has to travel from the mailing address or zip code. The further the shipping zone from the destination address, the higher the shipping rate will be.

Of course, international shipping comes at a higher price.

3. Weight

How heavy or light your package is will impact its shipping rate. USPS offers the most competitive rates when shipping lightweight packages whereas FedEx and UPS Ground/Home delivery offer the lowest rates for heavy packages within the US.

4. Size

It’s not just a package’s weight on the scale (also known as the dead weight). The volumetric weight also matters, as in how much space a package takes up in the back of the truck. The larger the package, the greater the shipping cost.

Here’s how you calculate volumetric weight: Dimensional weight = (L x W x H)/ Divisor.

But you shouldn’t consider your courier on cost alone. You — and your customers — likely want those nice, add-on services that guarantee an all-around better experience. Sure, they may cost extra, but they’re usually worth it. They include:

  • Insurance: Insurance helps to mitigate any risks related to lost or damaged packages — especially high-profile ones, like holiday gifts. When looking into the cheapest way to ship Christmas gifts it’s important to keep in mind that the cheapest option may not include insurance. However, it may be worth it to spring for it.
  • Tracking: Tracking is not a bonus these days. It gives consumers peace of mind and builds trust by providing updates on a package’s journey. Be wary of budget shipping with spotty tracking
  • Handling Fees: Handling fees are sometimes applied depending on how delicate your shipment is — think ornaments or those super-special, super-fragile Christmas gifts.
  • Fuel and residential surcharges: Frequently, inexpensive shipping has hidden costs — like last-mile delivery fees, fuel, or residential surcharges. When making your choice, make sure to check for these additional charges.
  • Delivery guarantee: It's in your best interest to check whether the cheapest shipping option commits to its delivery timelines so that you don't inconvenience your customers. Customer service is key!
Less than 10 lbs (Standard) X
Over 10lbs (Standard) X X
Envelopes X
Light boxes X
Heavy boxes X X
Two-day shipping X X
Next-day shipping (AM) X
Next-day shipping (PM) X X
Expedited International shipping X
Priority International X X
Overnight X

The Best Way to Ship Christmas Gifts

Picture this: It’s Christmas morning. You unwrap a box under the tree to find a hand-blown glass ornament completely shattered. It’s like a cautionary tale written by the Grinch himself. In this section, we’ll explore the best way to package fragile goods for the holiday season.

Of course, fragile and hazardous goods should be clearly marked as such on the parcel’s exterior. But there’s more to it. You’ll need the following materials to pack and ship fragile items.

Once you have those on deck, follow these instructions to ship your goods safely: Packing tape, a correctly sized box, packing peanuts, among other things. Check out our full guide on safe shipments here.

  • Carefully pack the object in a shipping box with enough packing materials to keep it safe.
  • Research couriers and choose one based on factors like cost and delivery time.
  • Obtain shipping insurance to minimize risks for valuable items like gifts.
  • Schedule a pickup for your package or drop it off at the courier location.

Find the Cheapest Way to Ship Your Christmas Packages with Easyship

There’s no one-size-fits-all for shipping solutions. What works best for one parcel or customer may not work for another. Let's look at a cost breakdown for two scenarios with the major couriers to get a sense of prices. We estimated these rates using Easyship’s rates calculator, which provides real-time, real-world rates.

Here are the rates for a 3-pound package shipped in a medium-size box with dimensions of  11 1/4" x 8 3/4" x 6"

NY to LACostDelivery Time
USPS Parcel Select$15.797 working days
USPS Priority Mail$16.142 working days
UPS Ground$10.762 working days
FedEx Ground$18.197 working days
NY to Hong Kong
DHL eCommerce - Parcel Direct$33.407 working days
SF Express$27.475-8 working days
Easyship Flat Export Rate$35.895-12 working days
USPS First Class International$40.857-15 working days

Easyship offers other shipping tools to help streamline the shipping experience and delight your buyers. They include:

  • Comparison Tool: With our courier comparison tool, you can compare the different shipping services offered by each courier, allowing you to choose your cheapest way to ship based on other factors, not just the cost.
  • Insurance: To help keep your packages safe in transit, Easyship offers you insurance up to $5000
  • Tracking: From custom-branded tracking emails to automatic message alerts, Easyship helps you maintain package visibility with your buyers throughout the delivery process.

Find Fast and Affordable Shipping for the Holidays

This holiday season, leave the decision-making to your customers. While it may seem like a money-saving decision to only work with the courier who offers the cheapest rates, that’s not exactly true. Working with more than one courier gives customers the power to decide for themselves how much they’re willing to pay to get their holiday gifts when they need them.

Overwhelmed at the logistics of it all? Don’t be. At Easyship, we simplify the complexities of fulfillment for you. Easyship offers 250+ international shipping solutions on its cloud-based platform with up to 91% discounts for multiple carriers.

Sign up for a free Easyship account today to get started!