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Mark your calendars: Holiday shipping deadlines you need to know

Postal Service, UPS and FedEx shipping options listed

While there are more on-demand delivery providers than ever before, most gift senders stick to one of the three major U.S. carriers: the U.S. Postal Service, UPS and FedEx.

This year supply chain disruptions have stoked fears among many that they may not receive their gifts in time. It seems knowing what to buy is just as important as knowing when to ship it. While we can’t help with your shopping list, we can provide key shipping deadlines for each of the major U.S. carriers.

U.S. Postal Service

For the most part, the Postal Service has managed to keep its delivery dates in line with pre-pandemic holiday schedules. For Christmas 2021, the key Postal Service deadlines are:

  • Dec. 15: retail ground service.
  • Dec. 17: first-class mail and packages.
  • Dec. 18: Priority Mail.
  • Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express.

In 2019 and 2020, the Postal Service offered slightly later deadlines for its first-class mail and packages and Priority Mail services, but it has actually since extended the deadlines for retail ground services and Priority Mail Express by a day. 

A full list of shipping options and deadlines for the Postal Service can be found here.


UPS has managed to extend shipping deadlines for three of its four primary options, but there’s one holdup –– it’s unclear what the deadline for ground shipping services will be. Here’s what we know about UPS’ Christmas 2021 shipping deadlines:

  • Dec. 21: 3-day select.
  • Dec. 22: second-day air services.
  • Dec. 23: Next-day air services.
  • For ground shipping services, the carrier is directing customers to a quote calculator.

Read: ‘People are gonna be pulling their hair out’: Supply chain execs predict chaotic holiday peak

Read: Postal Service plans on hiring more than 40,000 seasonal workers

In the past, UPS has offered a guaranteed shipping deadline rather than a quote; in 2019 it was Dec. 14, and in 2020 it was Dec. 11. The lack of a surefire deadline this year is unusual, and it could be a sign that supply chain issues are affecting that particular service. At the same time, though, UPS is offering later deadlines for three-day select, second-day air and next-day air services.

A full list of shipping options and deadlines for UPS can be found here.


Like the Postal Service, FedEx is a bit of a mixed bag this year, with deadlines for some of its services being extended over 2019 and others curtailed. For Christmas 2021, these are the dates by which the carrier says you should have your orders placed:

  • Dec. 9: Ground & Freight Economy.
  • Dec. 15: Ground & Home Delivery.
  • Dec. 21: Express Saver.
  • Dec. 22: 2Day and 2Day AM services.
  • Dec. 23: overnight services.
  • Dec. 24: same-day services.

FedEx has moved its deadlines for Ground & Freight Economy and Home Delivery slightly earlier. Its deadline for same-day services, which were offered on Christmas Day last year, was also moved up by a day. But for FedEx’s Express Saver, two-day and overnight services, customers will have longer deadlines than in 2019, as the carrier has improved on these rush options despite supply chain difficulties.
A full list of shipping options and deadlines for FedEx can be found here.

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Jack Daleo

Jack is a staff writer for FreightWaves and Modern Shipper covering topics like last mile delivery and e-commerce fulfillment. He studied at Northwestern University, majoring in journalism with a certificate in integrated marketing communications. Previously, Jack has written for Backpacker Magazine and enjoys travel, the outdoors, and all things basketball.