Home & Garden

Perfect packaging: Tips and tricks for sending gifts in shipshape order

PASCO -- Sending packages of gifts and goodies to friends and family this holiday season?

Procrastinate and you'll pay.

"Send early and you'll save because that way you can send by ground and not have to spend a whole lot of money on shipping," said Matt Cordray, part owner of Postnet, a diversified business center in Pasco which includes shipping and mail service.

Expediting a shipment using one-, two-, three-day air freight options, gets expensive very quickly.

To ensure your packages arrives in time for the holiday -- be it Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or Boxing Day -- Cordray recommends shipping one to two weeks before you want it to arrive, three weeks if it's heading for the East coast.

Shipping to troops in the Middle East? He'd like to see those packages on their way before Thanksgiving, certainly no later than Dec. 1.

To ensure your packages arrive intact, consider having them professionally packed by a shipping center. That's advice from Steve Wood, owner of three UPS Stores in the Tri-Cities.

"That's the No. 1 thing, simply because the majority of people do not have the appropriate corrugated boxes, nor the materials at home to cushion what they're sending. Often, they end up making do," Wood said.

If you elect to do your own packing here are some tips from the trenches who send and receive thousands of packages every holiday season:

Think small, light

Shipping rates are based on weight, size, distance and sometimes shape, like tubes.

Breakables

Don't put small fragile items in the same shipping box as large heavy ones. Shipping two boxes may cost a bit more but peace of mind is priceless.

Electronics have to be double boxed otherwise carriers won't insure the package.

Packing materials

Expanded polystyrene packing peanuts are ideal and so is bubble wrap. Both are available at office supply stores, shipping centers, even moving companies.

Wadded up newspaper isn't adequate. It packs down and loses its cushioning ability in transit allowing what's inside to rattle around. Anything heavy set on top will crush the box because half is empty space.

Before sealing, give the box a good shake. If items shift add more cushioning.

Strong boxes

"Use a new shipping box. Not one that's been used 87 times. That box has no more strength left," Wood said.

Use it and it'll likely arrive no longer square or rectangular but, as Wood describes them, "looking like a squashed Frisbee."

Don't use liquor boxes. Shippers will assume boxes marked "rum" or "vodka" contain rum and vodka and refuse them because it's illegal for individuals to ship liquor.

Labels

Print legibly, parallel to the longest side of the box or envelope using an indelible marker. Put the shipping and return addresses on the same side of the box.

Put an extra set of addresses -- include phone numbers, too -- inside the box.

Double check the address, be sure it's accurate.

If reusing a box, black out any previous labels or cover them with your own.

Sealing

Seal the box with packing tape. Reinforce the bottom, too. Don't use string or brown wrapping paper, it gets caught in machinery.

Web sites

-- United States Postal Service: For a full schedule of holiday mailing deadlines go to www.usps.com/holiday/ shippingcalendar.htm.

-- UPS: For a list of options and helps go to www.ups.com and look for "Welcome to UPS."

-- Military: For packaging and addressing tips as well as other resources for supporting the troops, visit www.usps.com/support ingourtroops.

* Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; lhulse@tricity herald.com.

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