When Emilia Jankowski mails holiday gifts to family in England and Poland, she likes to use colorful ribbons, include a personal note and attach whimsical stickers.
"Part of the fun,” says the 65-year-old Sacramento, California, resident, “is preparing the package."
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Jankowski — and millions of other Americans who ship holiday packages — also want to ensure contents like homemade peanut brittle arrive undamaged.
This year delays in shipping are expected, so make sure you send gifts early enough to get there at the right time. And whether you're sending presents to Mississippi or Mali, here are some packing tips to ensure they arrive intact.
Best practices for packing and shipping
A container-within-a container method is a good way to keep gifts secure in transit — think Russian nesting dolls.
What you ship usually determines the packaging. A small box containing earrings can fit into a padded envelope. Bigger items may need larger, stronger containers.
If you recycle old packing boxes, make sure they're sturdy and remove or cover all bar codes, labels and logos. You can buy boxes (in person or online) and related materials at many retailers. Some shipping companies, like FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), provide some packing materials for free.
Fragile items such as glass vases need special care. Stuff them with foam peanuts or newspaper to avoid breaking, and wrap the exterior with padding such as bubble wrap, says Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service. For framed photographs, remove the glass and wrap it separately, she adds.
No matter what you ship, stack larger, heavier items on the bottom. Place gift packages in a paperboard or corrugated box, leaving space inside for more padding so the contents don't move when you jiggle the box.
FedEx offers advice on how to pack many items.
Federal law bans or restricts the mailing of certain items, such as alcohol and ammunition. Foreign countries also may have separate restrictions, prohibitions and size/weight standards, so check with your shipping company.
Food gifts need special care
With many people spending the holiday apart, Greg Sarley, senior vice president of merchandising revenue for iconic food retailer Harry & David, expects more food gifts to travel by mail this year. People are looking for ways to connect with others and express caring thoughts more than ever,” he says.