"The main thing is, if it's breakable, put padding in it," said Maugansville Postmaster Richard Ledger. "Have it wrapped so it doesn't rattle."
People seem to be more aware of how to package their gifts, which means fewer recipients disappointed by damage during shipping, Ledger said.
"It's really just use common sense. People seem to be doing that," he said.
It's often a matter of experience, said Hagerstown Postmaster Bob Jingell.
"Many of the people that ship packages do it every year," said Jingell, who said relatively few packages have to be turned away because they're prepared incorrectly.
To assure the best handling for your gifts, Ledger said he recommends sending them Priority Mail rather than Parcel Post.
For long-distance mailings, the cost difference is often just a few cents, he said.
The package generally will travel by air rather than land and gets dibs on processing and shipping space over Parcel Post packages, Ledger said.
Shipping Priority Mail also speeds up delivery time from between a week and 10 days to two, three or four days, he said.
Even if you're going with Priority Mail, you shouldn't wait until the last week, when a rush of last-minute mailings could delay delivery, Jingell said.
"It all boils down to two words - mail early," he said. "It's still pretty early, but the clock is ticking."
Holiday shipping tips
PostNet Postal & Business Services in Frederick, Md., offers the following shipping tips:
- Use a sturdy box with flaps that meet. Most boxes have a bursting weight on the bottom. If the box has been used once, the bursting weight is half that amount. You probably shouldn't use it if it's been used more than once.
- Don't use a box with a lid, like a gift or shoe box, or boxes with openings of any kind.
- Consider double boxing for extremely fragile and valuable items.
- Use proper packing materials such as plastic foam, packaging peanuts and bubble wrap. Make sure the box allows at least two inches for packing materials.
- Choose large bubble wrap for heavier fragile items, small bubble wrap for smaller, less-weighty fragile items. Use both for very valuable fragile items like crystal and china.
- Use good shipping tape. Don't use duct tape, masking tape, electrical tape or cellophane tape.
- Don't use brown wrapping paper unless you're shipping through the U.S. Postal Service. Don't use string.
- Clearly write or type the sender's and recipient's names and addresses on the outside of the package.
- Put a label inside the box with the sender's and recipient's names and addresses.
- Keep track of shipping receipts. You'll need them for tracking and in case you need to make a claim.
- Keep an itemized list of contents and their replacement value for insurance purposes.
- Insure the package for the value of its contents. United Parcel Service and Federal Express automatically provide the first $100 in coverage and tracking for all packages.
- Ask carriers about delivery guarantees. United Parcel Service usually drops its guarantee at the peak of the holiday season.