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Holiday Deliveries—Important Shipping Deadlines and USPS’s Efforts to Meet Them

Posted on December 06, 2022

The holiday season is here and there’s so much to do! Choosing the perfect holiday cards or presents for your loved ones takes a lot of thought. But you will also want to ensure your gifts arrive on time.

Americans shipped more than 50 million packages last holiday season with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS). Over the last 20 years, USPS has seen a decline in mail volumes that have impacted its bottom line and operations. However, package volumes have increased with the rise of online shopping, and this holiday season USPS is preparing for an even higher volume of packages.

Today's WatchBlog post looks at important upcoming holiday delivery deadlines and the Postal Service’s efforts to meet demand, as well as our work on the longer-term challenges facing USPS.


Photo showing letter mail bundled by red ribbons


When should I send my package by? 

Last year, USPS had capacity to process about 53 million packages during the holiday season. This year, the Postal Service announced it has upped its capacity to process as many as 60 million. The investments in increased capacity will allow USPS to ensure that your packages arrive on time, according to a September press release.

To ensure your package arrives on time, don't delay! The Postal Service has provided the below recommended send-by dates for expected delivery before December 25 for the contiguous United States.

On its website, the Postal Service also provides recommended send-by dates for Hawaii and Alaska, international mail (by location).  

If you are missing a package, what can you do?

USPS delivers mail to about 147 million residential addresses in the country. The Postal Service says quality of service is important, and in recent years, it has taken steps to improve its customer service.


3 photos of postal service delivery methods: a delivery truck, envelope, and mules used in the Grand Canyon


For example, in 2019, USPS started using a new data system to better track complaints and consumer service issues. Postal Service officials told us this system will allow them to better understand the causes of some problems. In FY 2020, USPS received 10.7 million complaints. We looked at these complaints and found the majority (69%) were about missing or delayed packages.

Frustration about missing packages can be particularly difficult during the holidays. If you are missing mail, here’s some information that could help:

  • USPS’s Find Missing Mail Page can help you start your search for your missing mail or package. 
  • For additional help or support with delivery issues or other concerns, contact USPS’s Customer Care Center at 1-800-ASK USPS (1-800-275-8777) or by email.

What are some challenges that USPS faces beyond the holiday season?

While we have, so far, focused on increased demand for shipping packages during the holidays, one of the major challenges the Postal Service has faced in recent years is declining mail volumes. Combined with increases in costs, declining mail volumes have made it harder for USPS to cover its expenses.

Starting in FY 2007, the Postal Services expenses began exceeding its revenues. This has led to losses of $87 billion from FY 2007 to 2020. Since the Postal Service is expected to cover its own expenses, and does not receive taxpayer dollars, addressing these financial shortfalls is critical.

This holiday season, USPS is offsetting some of its expected extra costs by temporarily increasing postage prices during the peak holiday session in 2022. More information on the price changes can be found here.

Similarly, staff turnover has long been a challenge for USPS. The Postal Service has taken some steps to help staff shortages this holiday season. For example, it has hired an additional 20,000-plus seasonal workers ahead of the holiday season. Read more about other steps the USPS has taken to ensure that your loved ones receive their packages and mail on time.

We’ve made recommendations to assist Congress in determining how to best support USPS in serving Americans long term. Some options include helping the Postal Service adjust to evolving delivery needs, financial issues, and structural changes. Learn more about why USPS needs reform and options for addressing these challenges in our report.

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