MARIETTA - Everyone wants to make sure that the holiday packages they send to loved ones and friends arrive in time to be waiting under the tree Christmas morning.
Those sending packages this year via the U.S. Post Office will want to take note of upcoming deadlines for shipping gifts stateside, internationally and to those serving in the U.S. military.
For customers making shipments via parcel post, the last day for shipment is Dec. 15.
Dec. 17 is the final day to use the post office for sending items for those serving in the military.
The deadline for first-class mail is Dec. 20; for priority mail, Dec. 21; and most express mail, Dec. 22.
The Marietta post office on Front Street has already been "very busy," said postmaster Andrew Morgan.
* Dec. 11: Last day to send express mail international.
* Dec. 15: Last day to ship parcel post.
* Dec. 17: Last day to ship to military.
* Dec. 19: Last day for most international shipping.
* Dec. 20: Last day to send first-class mail.
* Dec. 21: Last day to send priority mail.
* Dec. 22: Last day for most express mail.
"We've had to add additional staffing to the window," he added.
The busiest times of the day now are at opening time, during lunchtime and the last half hour of the business day, said Morgan.
"People are trying to ship things around their work schedule," he added.
Business is beginning to pick up this week at the post office in Williamstown, said postmaster Sandra Lott.
"I expect Saturday the 15th and Monday the 17th to be the biggest shipping days," she added.
For Marietta's Front Street post office, Morgan said he expects Dec. 14, 15 and 17 to be the busiest of the holiday season.
According to Lott, customers prefer priority shipping for their holiday packages.
"Most people are shipping priority these days because it is our best-valued service," she said.
The "big tip" for customers who want to make their trip to the post office as speedy as possible is to "come prepared before you walk in the door," Lott said.
"If you have (the package) ready to go, that'll make your transaction a lot faster," she added.
Before bringing a package to a staffer at the post office, complete any necessary forms before getting in line.
"There's plenty of space out there in the lobby to fill out the forms," said Morgan.
Before sealing the package, be sure the mailing address is inside the box-as well as on the label.
"That's in case the label gets ripped or torn off. That rarely happens, but it does happen," said Lott.
Boxes used for shipping should not be gift wrapped, Morgan stressed.
"We want to be able to see the labels," he added. If a label is unreadable, "You might not get the type of service that you paid for."
To learn how to save time this holiday season-and avoid post office lines-by using the post office's Click-N-Ship service for paying, printing and shipping from home, go to usps.com/ship/get-to-know-click-n-ship.htm.
"I have seen a big upswing in that service," Lott said.
To use Click-N-Ship, at least one package being shipped has to be a priority parcel, she added.
Customers can also have the boxes that are used for priority mail shipped to their residence for free using Click-N-Ship, said Morgan.
To schedule a free package pickup and have the post office come get a shipment during regular delivery, log on to tools.usps.com/go/ScheduleAPickupAction!input.acti