The first thing to bear in mind is the Christmas shipping deadlines. It goes without saying that you should leave as much time as possible to post items. Not only will this ensure a more relaxed Christmas period for you, but it will also give you some margin for error, just in case there are any problems with postage.
Generally, the courier services that are available via the Parcel Monkey shipping calculator, such as International Pickup or Drop Off, USPS and DHL, will be able to get your post to destinations quicker than Post Office. You can get mail-by dates for specific couriers on their websites, but to give you an idea, here are the latest USPS dates:
If you're posting overseas remember to take into consideration local duty and tax charges. These charges depend on the nature of the goods your sending and their value. Many countries, for example, don't charge duty on gifts up to a certain amount. So, to avoid hold-ups at customs and unexpected charges, it's worth looking up the rules of the country you're sending to.
As an example, when posting to the UK, you'll have to pay VAT (20%) on gifts over approximately $50 in value, plus duty (2.5%) if they're worth more than about $200. Most countries will hold onto packages for a period, until the charges are paid, before returning them to the sender.
If you know your gift will attract charges, you can arrange to pay for these yourself, although the responsibility does fall to the person receiving the goods. That's not the kind of Christmas present anyone wants to receive, so look into this carefully before sending!
Parcel Monkey compares courier services that offer collection, so you could post your parcels without even having to leave your home. Simply package everything up, make your order, and then wait for a knock at the door.
Most courier services offer free insurance cover up to a certain value. If you decide to book via the Parcel Monkey shipping calculator, you can add protection cover to your items during the booking process. Where available, you can add cover up to the value of $1000, whilst you can opt-int in for FREE protection cover up to the value of $100 on some services. If protection cover is something that is important to you, then you can even filter the shipping calculator results to only show the couriers that this is available with. Simple.
If your presents are of higher value, it's something worth considering for the peace of mind it will bring. With most companies available via the Parcel Monkey shipping marketplace offering cover up to the value of $1,000 you can be generous with your gift giving, to say the least.
There can be some items on a courier company's prohibited items list that are quite obvious if you think about it. For instance, most do not allow aftershaves and aerosols, due to them being liquids or being pressurized so not suitable to fly – so maybe avoid sending a toiletry gift set! If you do try to send a prohibited item, the courier will refuse to send it, and it may be held or returned, which is no good at Christmas time.
Other items may not be eligible for compensation, should they be lost or damaged. Glassware and other such fragile objects, for example. While confectionary is perhaps a more surprising one. Check out the non-covered list provided by your chosen postage company or better still the Parcel Monkey Restricted Items list. If what you're posting is on there, do not send if it is prohibited at all and if allowed but on a 'non-compensation' basis, then at the very least make sure it's well packaged. Talking of which…
In order to save upset on Christmas morning, you need to make sure your packaging is up to the job of protecting its contents. You'd be amazed at how many hands and machines handle your packages, whether it's across the city, state or country. And while they're definitely safe hands, you still need to pack with care. It's certainly not just a case of covering presents in another layer of packing paper and sending them on their way, that's for sure…
Use a box, or two. Even if it doesn't seem necessary, a sturdy (preferably new) box is one of the best ways to ensure things don't get broken.
If the contents are fragile, use as much packing as possible. You could use cardboard, old newspaper, tissue paper, Styrofoam, bubble wrap – anything is better than nothing. If you're sending multiple items in the same box, wrap them up individually and do not allow the goods to move around inside the box.
Use a generous amount of packing tape around the corners and edges of the box, if needed. And don't use household tape to seal or strengthen boxes, as it won't be strong enough.
Don't even think about wrapping the outside of the box in wrapping paper. It'll get torn to shreds before its halfway to its recipient. String and bows are no-no's, too. You don't want them getting caught in a machine and damaging the goods!
If you're sending abroad, don't put too much effort into making the outer box look pretty, as it may be opened by customs officials. Make as clear as possible what's in the packages, in fact. A correctly completed and detailed customs form will help customs establish what is in your box.
Remove batteries from electrical goods. This will stop the items from accidentally turning on, or doing anything that postage handlers may find suspicious. There are strict restrictions on batteries, it is best to not attempt to send them.
Write both the delivery address and the address you wish the package to be returned to in case of problems. Make sure the addresses are attached securely, if not written on the parcel itself. As a precaution, you could also put both addresses inside the package as well.
Take all our tips into consideration, use Parcel Monkey for sourcing all your posting, and, unless someone has got the present-buying badly wrong, there will be no tears around the tree this Christmas. Happy holidays!