Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2023: USPS, FedEx, UPS
Following years of supply chain disruption, 79% of consumers are feeling confident they’ll receive their holiday deliveries on time this year, up 8% from last year.
As a merchant, you can do your part in ensuring smooth, successful holiday celebrations by clearly communicating when orders should be placed for on-time delivery. Fortunately, the major national carriers make this easy by specifying their holiday shipping deadlines in advance, according to service level and destination.
Check out the following tables, and—depending on which carriers you use—update your website with the deadlines shoppers need to know as they plan their holiday purchases. Be sure to communicate these deadlines with your fulfillment team as well.
USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines
The 2023 USPS holiday shipping deadlines are below, but before diving in, it’s important to note that these dates are estimates—not guarantees. It’s always best to add a few buffer days to account for weather delays and other unforeseen circumstances that could disrupt carrier operations, if possible.
That said, here are the dates to keep in mind to have domestic U.S. shipments via USPS within the 48 contiguous states arrive by Christmas.
Be aware that these deadlines don’t include parcel delivery to Alaska, Hawaii, and other U.S. territories. If you’re shipping to those areas, reference the following dates instead:
Shipping internationally over the holidays also comes with its own set of expectations, depending on the global region you’re mailing to, as well as the specific service line(s) you offer your shoppers:
And finally, if you offer shipping to military bases via USPS, keep the following Christmas shipping deadlines in mind:
FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines
FedEx offers a wide range of shipping services, encompassing domestic and foreign deliveries at varying speeds and price points. This variability carries through to FedEx’s holiday shipping deadlines, so keep the following guidance in mind as you educate consumers on when to buy for Christmas delivery.
FedEx has also announced target deadlines for its international shipping services to Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.
Deadlines for shipping to other countries outside of these three may vary. To estimate shipping times to additional destinations, speak to your FedEx account manager or use the FedEx rates calculator tool.
Merchants utilizing FedEx Freight Services should use the company’s service maps tool to estimate their individual deadlines.
UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines
If you offer expedited shipping services through UPS, you’re in luck—the carrier offers specific deadlines for shipping domestic packages, as well as parcels from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico.
For UPS® Ground services, you’ll need to use the company’s cost and time calculator to estimate holiday shipping timelines.
Our tip: use the calculator to estimate the time required to ship to your farthest possible U.S. customer (i.e. those who live furthest from your headquarters, warehouses, or distribution centers). Find the date in which those parcels would arrive before Christmas and make that your deadline for all UPS® Ground packages. This way, you can ensure all possible customers don’t miss holiday shipping deadlines.
U.S. Domestic Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Note that these deadlines are applicable to parcels shipped to the contiguous 48 states; additional time may be required for orders to Alaska and Hawaii.
Shipping from The U.S. To Canada
Shipping from the U.S. to Mexico
If you sell to any other international destinations, use the UPS calculator to establish your own holiday shipping deadlines.
Plan Ahead for Holiday Shipping Deadlines
Peak season is busy enough already—the last thing you’ll want to do is add unnecessary stress to meet carriers’ deadlines. Here are several steps you can take to be ready for holiday shipping:
Prepare Your Fulfillment Operations
Communicating holiday shipping deadlines to shoppers is important. But if you receive an order on one of these dates, can you actually get it out the door on time?
Ask yourself the following questions to identify any weak points in your operations:
- Have you assessed the average time it takes to prepare an item for shipment?
- Do you have the staffing needed to fulfill orders efficiently?
- How well stocked are you on the shipping supplies you use most frequently (especially any custom packaging products with long order lead times)?
- Have you optimized the layout of your facility or fulfillment centers to avoid unnecessary slowdowns?
- Do you have technology in place to optimize fulfillment (for example, by batch-processing shipping label printing)?
Communicate Deadlines Clearly and Frequently
Once you have a better sense of the state of your fulfillment operations, use your average order processing times to set your own holiday shipping deadlines.
For example, if you offer USPS Priority Mail shipping within the continental U.S., and you need an average of two business days to fulfill an order, you may not want to use the USPS-stated deadline of Monday, December 18. Instead, consider setting the deadline you share with shoppers to Thursday, December 14 to minimize potential delays—and repeat the process for each shipping service you offer or any of your products that have special shipping requirements.
After you establish your own shipping deadlines, post this information in as many places as possible to ensure would-be buyers aren’t left in a lurch. Possible locations for this information include:
- Your website’s homepage
- Your FAQ page
- Each of your product description pages (PDPs)
- Your order confirmation pages
- Your order notification emails
- Any marketing messages going out during November and December
As you update the holiday shipping language in these and other areas, consider incorporating a reminder that your dates are only guidelines, not guarantees. Encourage customers to buy well in advance to avoid any unanticipated delays.
Give Shoppers Expedited Shipping Options
Even if you normally stick with a single carrier, the holiday season is a great time to diversify your carrier mix in order to give shoppers more options. For instance, if you only offer ground or standard shipping services, consider adding an expedited level for customers who are willing to pay extra for timely delivery.
You can also diversify by holiday shipping deadlines. Although USPS Priority Mail is an expedited service, its deadline is two days before the target shipping dates for FedEx’s 2Day® and 2Day AM® services. While a few days may not seem like that much, offering both options can mean a world of difference to your last-minute shoppers.
Communicate Deadlines to Your Customer Service Teams
Last but not least, make sure you keep your all-important customer service teams in the loop with your deadlines. Not only are they likely to field questions from customers on holiday shipping deadlines, but they can also help you to get the word out by proactively sharing target dates in customer conversations, when appropriate.
You’ll empower the team members who are hands-on with your customers, and in turn, they’ll have a better understanding of what to expect before they buy—it’s a win-win.
Looking for more tips on preparing for the 2023 holiday shopping season? Check out our Ultimate Guide to Preparing for Peak to conquer the upcoming holidays.