Small Business Shipping Guide: Holiday Shipping Deadlines, Delays, & Business Rates 2022
Don’t let shipping delays slow you down this holiday season. Small business owners can plan ahead with UPS, USPS, and FedEx deadlines for 2022.
Holiday shipping can be a source of stress, whether you’re concerned with small business shipping or just wanting to make sure your own packages to friends and family arrive on time. Is there anything you can do to ease the stress of holiday shipping this year?
Fortunately, the answer to that question is a definite Yes! Despite crowds at the post office and other mailing counters, and even though prices for shipping are on the rise, you can take some solid steps to make sure your packages arrive on time this holiday season. No matter if you’re mailing a few gifts or if you’re in charge of shipping for a busy online store, the tips in this post can help you get those packages to the right doorsteps on time and with as little stress as possible.
Table of Contents
- Christmas Shipping Deadlines 2022
- Finding the Best Holiday Shipping Carrier For Your Business
- USPS Shipping For Holidays
- UPS Holiday Shipping Options
- FedEx Holiday Shipping Options
- Should You Use Shipping Software This Holiday Season?
- The Best Holiday Shipping Software For 2022
- FAQs: Holiday Shipping Rates & Deadlines
- Keep Your Holiday Shipping Stress Free
Christmas Shipping Deadlines 2022
Holiday shipping doesn’t have to be a hassle. In fact, if you’re aware of holiday shipping deadlines and put packages in the mail on time, you can wrap up your holiday shipping chores with no stress and even some extra money in your pocket.
If you’re shipping with the US Post Office, for example, you can save money by using lower-priced ground service. Just get your packages in by December 15 to ensure on-time delivery! And if you’re using FedEx or UPS, you will need to ship even earlier if you want to avoid pricey shipping categories like overnight and two-day service. This year, Hanukkah starts on December 18 and ends on December 26, so you can expect busy shopping and shipping days ahead of those dates as well.
With the next couple of months set to usher in the busiest and most lucrative time of year for most businesses, we’ve put together this shipping deadline guide to help you understand how to avoid shipping headaches and dissatisfied customers. Read on for all the information you need to ensure you and your customers make these deadlines so your packages arrive on time, no matter what major carrier you’re using.
USPS Christmas Shipping Deadlines
With the US Postal Service, the absolute last day you can ship packages within the contiguous US and have them arrive by Christmas is December 23. (The absolute latest date for any holiday shipping to and from Hawaii and Alaska is December 18.)
Note that the USPS does not guarantee delivery by December 25, however; these dates are estimates, according to the USPS website shipping page. For the least expensive shipping options and guaranteed on-time delivery, send your packages ahead of the deadlines below:
|USPS Shipping Deadlines|
|December 15||Last day to send USPS Retail Ground service|
|December 17||Last day to send First-Class Mail|
|December 17||Last day to send First-Class packages (up to 15.99 ounces)|
|December 19||Last day to send Priority Mail|
|December 23||Last day to send Priority Mail Express|
The deadlines listed are up to date according to the USPS website as of September 26, 2022.
UPS Christmas Shipping Deadlines
Ship with UPS, and the last day you can send a package and have it arrive by Christmas is December 23.
However, if you don’t want to be stuck paying for Next Day Air, you’ll want to use another one of UPS’s shipping services and get your packages in sooner. UPS offers a time and cost calculator you can use to see more information on shipping time and costs. For general deadlines, refer to the dates below:
|UPS Shipping Deadlines|
|December 16||Last day to ship UPS Ground®|
|December 21||Last day to ship UPS 3-Day Select®|
|December 22||Last day to ship via UPS 2nd Day Air®|
|December 23||Last day to ship UPS Next Day Air®|
The deadlines listed are up to date as of September 26, 2022.
FedEx Shipping Deadlines
With FedEx, you could choose to ship a package on December 24 and still have it arrive by Christmas Day. But if you want to save a lot of money, and save a poor soul from having to deliver that package on Christmas Eve, send your packages a little sooner.
FedEx offers a range of domestic and international shipping speeds. You’ll find a summary of the most popular methods and their deadlines below:
|FedEx Shipping Deadlines|
|December 8||Last day to mail FedEx Ground Economy shipments|
|December 14||Last day to mail FedEx Home Delivery shipments|
|December 20||Last day to mail FedEx Express Saver shipments|
|December 20||Last day to mail FedEx 2-Day and 2-Day AM shipments|
|December 21||Last day to mail FedEx Standard Overnight, Priority Overnight, and First Overnight shipments|
|December 23||Last day to mail FedEx Same-Day shipments|
The deadlines listed are up to date according to the FedEx holiday shipping page as of September 26, 2022.
What to Know About Christmas Shipping Delays
All three major US shipping carriers are warning of conditions that can impact their shipping and delivery processes and lead to delays. We note that several deadlines have been pushed back from previous years, so make sure you’re not relying on memories of past holiday seasons when you plan your approach to holiday shipping in 2022.
At this time, severe weather events are already taking a toll on shipping processes, and the major carriers continue to monitor them. Transportation options still may be limited by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Additional national and international events, like the narrowly averted railroad strike in September and the ongoing conflict overseas, could potentially lead to uncertainty and delays in domestic and international shipping.
In short, unfortunately, you should expect your business to experience some ripple effects from these or other crises. Simply put, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the effects of shipping delays. However, with the right shipping strategy, you can lessen their impact on your business.
Finding the Best Holiday Shipping Carrier For Your Business
The best way to combat shipping delays is to stay informed of any policy changes from the major carriers. With that information, you can plan a shipping strategy that best serves your business goals (cost-effectiveness and efficiency) and your customers (timely deliveries). As all major carriers are subject to problems, it may help to set up accounts with multiple carriers now, so you have the option of using alternative carriers as needed.
For example, you could reduce shipping expenses by using FedEx Ground services up until December 8 to ensure that deliveries arrive on time for Christmas. After that, consider switching to UPS for its Second Day Air services right up until December 22 for fast shipping options. Your 2022 small business holiday shipping strategy should consider area coverage, Christmas shipping deadlines, and costs.
When it comes to shipping options, you have three major contenders: The United States Postal Service (USPS), United Parcel Service (UPS), and FedEx.
We’ll explain what services each provides, how much they cost, and which is best for your shipping needs. And, if none of these fit your needs, we’ll also cover the best shipping software and outsourcing options.
To start, here’s a look at the top US shipping carrier providers and how they best serve businesses.
|Small Business Shipping Options||Best For|
|USPS||Affordability and money savings when packages don’t need to arrive quickly|
|UPS||Fast deliveries with guaranteed shipping, package tracking, and no peak surcharges|
|FedEx||Fast deliveries with package tracking and Saturday delivery|
|Shipping Software||Streamlining your shipping processes and integrating with your eCommerce site|
|Outsourcing||Business owners who are too busy to handle shipping themselves|
If you’re still undecided on which shipping carrier is best for your business, check out our comparison of USPS, UPS, and FedEx. It’s got in-depth comparisons of these top three carriers, each with its pros and cons, so you can see which makes sense for your business.
USPS Shipping For Holidays
Best for affordability and saving money when packages don’t need to arrive quickly.
- Economical for small businesses
- Delivers everywhere
- Free pick-up
- Free Saturday delivery
- Poor customer service
- Not great for large, unwieldy, or bulky packages
- Increased transit times
USPS Price Increases For Holidays
Although USPS is often the most cost-effective shipping method, it will cost a little more this year than in the past. That’s because USPS is adding a peak season rate hike for 2022 to offset higher fuel and labor costs, starting October 2.
The extra charges will depend on what you’re mailing and how, USPS says. For example, you can expect to pay added fees on commercial Priority Mail shipments starting at $0.75 per package and going as high as $6.50 above normal rates.
USPS can still be a cost-effective shipping method. However, given these surcharges, you’ll need to plan ahead to make sure you’re able to take advantage of lower costs associated with slower shipping methods, like USPS Retail Ground Service.
USPS Holiday Rates
The USPS website has a useful and easy-to-navigate shipping calculator. You can use it to get an estimate for your shipping rate. If you’re set up to use the USPS Click-N-Ship® option, you can sign in to your account, select shipping type, pay, and print your label. Small businesses can use Click-N-Ship® to create batch shipments or order flat-rate boxes to be delivered directly to your home/place of business. Pick-up at residences and most business locations is free. For international shipping prices, visit the USPS business prices page.
The prices listed below are up to date as of September 26, 2022.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Price Details|
|USPS Retail Ground||Starts at $9.35||2-8 days||Prices based on package weight, size, and destination location; only available in-person at a post office|
|First-Class Mail||Starts at $0.60||1-3 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location; for envelopes or small packages up to 13oz|
|Priority Mail||Starts at $9.55; *flat-rate boxes available||1-3 days||Flat-rate boxes prices do not vary based on weight or destination location; non-flat-rate box priority mail rates are based on weight, size, and destination location|
|Priority Mail Express||Starts at $28.15||Overnight||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|Media Mail||Starts at $4.16||2-8 days||Only available in-person at a post office; restrictions apply to contents|
*USPS also has flat-rate prices for its priority mail service. With flat-rate boxes and envelopes, weight and destination do not affect pricing. If you can fit it in, it’ll ship for a predetermined price.
USPS Holiday Shipping Services
You have several shipping options with USPS. Here is a basic rundown of each option, with USPS Retail Ground service prices that start at the amount listed below and may go up based on weight and other factors. These prices are up to date as of September 26, 2022:
|Small Envelope||10” x 6”||$9.90|
|Padded Envelopes||12 1/2″ x 9 1/2″||$10.60|
|Small Box||8 11/16″ x 5 7/16″ x 1 3/4″||$10.85|
|Medium Box||11 1/4″ x 8 3/4″ x 6″ or 14″ x 12″ x 3 1/2″||$14.55|
|Large Box||12-1/4″ x 12-1/4″ x 6″ or 24-1/16″ x 11-7/8″ x 3-1/8″||$14.55|
|APO/FPO Box||12-1/4″ x 12-1/4″ x 6″||$8.50|
- USPS Retail Ground®: This is a shipping service for packages, thick envelopes, or tubes that do not exceed 70lbs. Cost is based on weight, size, and location of the shipment. The speed for Retail Ground is between 2-8 days, depending on the distance the package needs to travel. This shipping method is deliverable to PO Boxes and military bases. It is available for purchase only in person at a US postal office.
- First-Class Mail®: This is for standard-size envelopes weighing up to 3.5oz or small packages that weigh up to 13oz. Cost is based on weight, size, and location. The speed for First-Class Mail packages is 1-5 days, and it is only available for purchase in person at a US postal office.
- Priority Mail®: This is a shipping service for packages that has a flat-rate, regional rate, and retail rate. Priority Mail regional and retail rates are based on weight, size, and zone. However, the flat-rate covers up to 70lbs without a need to weigh. An insurance policy is included with this shipping rate. Mail arrives between 1-3 days, and you can purchase this option in-person or online.
- Priority Mail Express®: This is the USPS option for overnight guaranteed shipping of packages under 70lbs. It also includes free pick-up at your home or office. That overnight shipping is guaranteed, or your money back, and includes insurance. (Although, for the holiday season, there is some fine print: the money-back guarantee is only applicable if the package hasn’t been delivered after two business days if it’s mailed between December 22 and December 25, due to the volume of mail.) The rate is based on weight, size, and location of the shipment destination. You can purchase this option in person or online.
- Media Mail®: If your business sells items that classify as media items, then you might be able to use Media Mail® to ship items as an economical option. This is for videos, books, CDs, and so on. This isn’t the best option for time-sensitive material as it takes anywhere between 2-8 days for delivery. It is available only in person at a post office.
When To Use USPS For Holiday Shipping
If you are a low-volume merchant, USPS offers free pick-up, shipping advice from sales reps, and Click-N-Ship®. USPS overwhelmingly provides the best experience for most small businesses and eCommerce merchants. UPS and FedEx can’t compete with the prices and speed for lightweight packages less than 2lbs. If that applies to your shipments, then USPS is your best choice.
Additionally, qualifying businesses may be able to receive commercial shipping rates. However, USPS’s increased shipping costs and delivery times may drive some businesses away.
UPS Holiday Shipping Options
Best for fast deliveries with guaranteed shipping and package tracking.
- Reliable expedited shipping
- Great tracking (including via mobile app)
- No holiday peak pricing surcharges for some services
- No free pick-up
- Retail drop-off sites may add extra charges
- Limited Saturday delivery
UPS Holiday Rates
UPS also has a handy calculator to determine shipping costs. Prices for shipping are different for daily rates or retail rates. Daily rates are for businesses with a scheduled UPS pick-up. Retail rates are the shipping rates you will pay if you go into a local UPS retail location. The fees for scheduling a pick-up start at $5.80 if scheduled in advance ($6.80 for same-day requests).
Note that while in the past UPS has avoided adding peak surcharges, that’s not the case this year. US shipments via UPS have had a peak/demand surcharge added since August 2022. Although most of these surcharges apply to international packages, we did spot a charge of $0.30 applied to UPS Standard service. Additional handling charges starting at $6.50 per package will also apply to packages that are overweight and have size limits.
Here’s a breakdown of UPS’s shipping by service.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Price Details|
|Ground||Starts at $9.36||1-5 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|UPS 3-day Select||Starts at $13.57||3 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|UPS 2nd Day Air||Starts at $21.10||2 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|UPS Next Day Air||Starts at $28.32||Next business day||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|UPS Express Critical||Varies||Contact UPS||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
The prices listed below are up to date as of September 26, 2022.
UPS Holiday Shipping Services
Unfortunately, UPS does not offer free pick-up or weekend delivery, but it does have top-notch tracking and excellent uniforms. Reliability and ease of tracking are two of the positives of using UPS for business shipping.
Here is a rundown of domestic shipping options available at UPS. Visit the UPS website for information and rates for international shipping.
- Ground: This is the most economical option. Using Ground, a package will arrive between 1-5 days. Pricing is based on the weight, size, and package destination.
- UPS 3-day Select®: This option promises that your package will be delivered by the end of the third business day. Pricing is based on the weight, size, and package destination. (An AM option is also available for a fee; your package will be delivered by the morning of the third business day.)
- UPS 2nd Day Air®: This option promises that your package will be delivered by the end of the second business day. Pricing is based on the weight, size, and package destination. (An AM option is also available for a fee; your package will be delivered by the morning of the second business day.)
- UPS Next Day Air®: As it sounds, this option delivers a next-day/overnight shipment. (An AM option is also available for a fee; your package will be delivered by the morning of the next business day.)
- UPS Express Critical®: Details aren’t posted, but if you need a critical rush, UPS is dedicated to helping you get your package where it needs to go. This definitely-not-cheap option can involve a private charter or courier to deliver your shipment.
When To Use UPS For Holiday Shipping
Tracking and guaranteed speed are the two reasons to choose UPS over USPS. If you have a package you need delivered fast and you want to keep a close eye on its travels, then UPS might be worth the extra cost. While some small businesses have amazing relationships with their UPS drivers, other small businesses and eCommerce sites will hesitate to pay the pick-up fees or the increased rate prices you’ll find when you head into a store.
FedEx Holiday Shipping Options
Best for fast deliveries with package tracking and Saturday shipping.
- Fast delivery
- Excellent tracking
- Saturday delivery
- Limited locations
- No free pick-up
- Can be expensive
- Holiday peak pricing/surcharges
FedEx Holiday Rates
For the holiday 2022 season, FedEx has added various peak surcharges and fees in expectation of high shipping demand. You can use their rate calculator here and view a breakdown of their pricing details below. Note that FedEx Ground is available for shipments to business addresses only. If you’re shipping to residential addresses, use FedEx Home Delivery, which delivers packages every day of the week.
|Shipping Service||Price||Delivery Time||Price Details|
|FedEx Home Delivery||Starts at $22.97||1-7 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|FedEx Express Saver||Starts at $10.80||1-3 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|FedEx 2-Day Air||Starts at $22.00||2 days||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|FedEx Standard Overnight||Starts at $31.40||Next business day||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
|FedEx Priority Overnight||Starts at $38.55||Mid-morning on the next business day||Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location|
The prices listed below are up-to-date as of September 26, 2022.
FedEx Holiday Shipping Services
FedEx offers several shipping options, which vary depending on how quickly you need your packages to arrive.
- Ground: Prices for Ground shipping are based on package weight, size, and destination location. Shipments will arrive between 1-5 business days (up to 7 days to Alaska and Hawaii). Ground shipping is available only for Monday-Friday delivery and to business addresses only.
- FedEx Home Delivery®: As the name implies, FedEx Home Delivery is available for deliveries to residences only. Prices for FedEx Home Delivery are based on package weight, size, and destination location. Your shipment will arrive within 1-5 days (up to 7 days to Alaska and Hawaii).
- FedEx Express Saver®: Prices for FedEx Express Saver® shipping are based on package weight, size, and destination location. Your shipment will arrive within three business days.
- FedEx 2-Day Air®: Prices for FedEx 2Day Air® are based on package weight, size, and destination location. Your shipment will arrive by the end of business on the 2nd day. (You can also purchase 2Day® AM to make sure your package is delivered by the morning.)
- FedEx Standard Overnight®: Prices are based on package weight, size, and destination location. Your package will arrive by the next business day.
- FedEx Priority Overnight®: Your package will arrive by mid-morning the next business day. (Early delivery by 8, 8:30, or 9 AM is available to most areas for an extra fee.)
- FedEx One Rate: This is FedEx’s flat-rate pricing option. When you use FedEx boxes and envelopes, weight and destination do not affect One Rate pricing. If you can fit it, it’ll ship for the pre-determined price, starting at $8.90.
When To Use FedEx For Holiday Shipping
If you are close to a FedEx store or need a very detailed tracking provider, this is a solid choice. Although it may not be the least expensive shipping option, FedEx does offer some delivery seven days a week. There are a limited number of FedEx stores in the US, however, so locations are limited, and that could add time to delivery for remote locations. This year, FedEx has added peak/surcharge pricing for the 2022 holiday season, so that may drive up your shipping costs.
Should You Use Shipping Software This Holiday Season?
Best for streamlining your shipping process and integrating with your eCommerce site.
The main advantage of operating a business in 2022 is access to a plethora of digital tools designed to make business processes (including shipping) easier and less time-consuming. Fortunately, tons of shipping software options are available for businesses looking to reduce shipping craziness year-round.
Here are the main benefits of adopting shipping software:
- Automate tasks to save time
- Decrease human errors
- Streamlines your shipping process
- Shipping rates update in real-time
- Seamlessly integrates with eCommerce shops
- Keeps shipping information in a single location
- Easily find the right shipping solution for your business
If you find yourself spending more time calculating shipping costs or taking daily trips to the post office, it might be time to consider investing in shipping software. Time saved is money saved, after all.
The Best Holiday Shipping Software For 2022
The search for the best shipping software starts and ends with your business. What shipping software features can your business benefit from? Today’s shipping software typically boasts useful features that may include eCommerce integrations, shipment management, real-time shipment tracking updates, bulk shipping label printing, and more.
So, which shipping software options should you look into? Below, you’ll find a few Merchant Maverick recommendations for shipping software options.
Shipping Easy stands out for its affordable pricing and its ease of use. Businesses using Shipping Easy benefit from its partnership with USPS. For low-volume merchants, Shipping Easy is a cost-effective option. And you can sign up today for a free 30-day trial that will give you a chance to get comfortable with the software before things really start to heat up!
If you decide to continue, you can use Shipping Easy’s free plan for up to 25 shipments/month. Paid plans start at $29/month for up to 500 shipments/month.
ShipStation integrates with USPS, UPS, and FedEx, and that’s just one of the reasons why it’s a leader in the eCommerce shipping industry. You can also link ShipStation software to your eCommerce platform and the marketplaces you sell on, like Amazon, Etsy, and more.
ShipStation offers a free 30-day trial, so you can test the software before you sign up for a paid plan. Pricing starts at $9/month for up to 50 shipments/month and goes up from there.
Ordoro is a great option for businesses that want to reduce stressful situations during the holiday shipping rush. Because Ordoro supports dropshipping, you can even ship directly from your suppliers and cut out extra time.
Unfortunately, Ordoro no longer offers the free plan it previously made available, and pricing is higher than other shipping software on this list. However, Ordoro also includes significant shipping discounts that may make the higher price pay off. Plans start at $59/month for up to 1,000 orders.
Stamps.com partners with USPS and UPS, and users receive significant discounts regardless of how much or how little you regularly ship. It’s easy to fit this shipping software within your business budget, as it’s a flat-rate service with a single monthly fee regardless of how many packages you ship. Stamps.com can be set to automatically import orders directly from marketplaces where you sell, including Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.
With free USPS pickup from almost any residential or business location, Stamps.com is a great choice for many small businesses. Stamps.com subscriptions start at $17.99/month.
If you’re in the market for new shipping software for your business, check out our guide How To Choose The Best Shipping Software for tips to help you make your shipping software decision.
FAQs: Holiday Shipping Rates & Deadlines
Keep Your Holiday Shipping Stress Free
Holiday shipping is a make-or-break opportunity for your small business. Especially with holiday shipping delays always looming, it’s essential that you get it right.
Staying informed about the holiday shipping deadline schedule is the first step toward meeting the challenge your small business now faces. This holiday season, diligently track your inventory, compare your shipping options, consider shipping software, and, above all, keep your cheer close and your holiday shipping deadlines even closer.
If you haven’t already fine-tuned your small business shipping policy, this is a great time to make sure your policies and pricing are clear to customers. (And, though we hate to mention it, you might think about polishing up your store’s return policy as well.)
Check out some of our other helpful shipping hacks and resources to enhance your business’s shipping strategy and get the most out of this holiday season.