Here Are the Deadlines for Shipping Your Holiday Gifts on Time This Year

Holiday supply shortages and shipping delays

Illustration by Katie Couric Media/Getty Images

What you need to know about supply shortages and shipping delays this Christmas.

It’s not even mid-November yet, but the holiday shopping season is already in full swing. Black Friday sales have started weeks early, and consumers are racing to buy for everyone on their list before time runs out to receive their shipments before Christmas.

If your biggest concern is what to buy your friends and family this year, Team KCM has you covered with our expansive holiday gift guide. Whether you’re looking for gifts for the man in your life, something for the person who already has everything, or fantastic finds hand-selected by Katie, you can’t go wrong with any of our picks.

But you’re worried about whether your gifts will be available and how quickly they can make it to you or your loved ones, here’s your guide to how the holiday retail season is shaping up so far.

How are retailers preparing for the holiday shopping rush?

They’re expecting an especially busy season now that the Covid-19 pandemic is in a better place than it was at the end of last year, and more Americans are likely to feel comfortable traveling and celebrating in person with friends and family. The National Retail Federation projects that holiday sales will grow between 8.5 percent and 10.5 percent compared to 2020, meaning sales during the season this year could top out as high as $859 billion.

To meet the demand, retailers are expected to hire between 500,000 and 650,000 seasonal workers this year, but many companies have found themselves struggling to adequately staff up. The New York Times recently reported on the creative measures some of the country’s biggest retailers are taking to bring on the workers they need, including incentives like $500 referral bonuses for Macy’s employees or signing bonuses of as much as $3,000 for new employees at some Amazon warehouses. At Best Buy, hiring managers are currently allowing applicants to submit videos of themselves as a replacement for the first round of in-person job interviews.

Should we expect the same supply shortages and shipping delays we saw in 2020?

If you’ve noticed shelves at your favorite stores looking a little bare, you’re not alone. Supply chain issues are very real, and they’re largely stemming from the rising number of imports to the U.S., which clog up ports and cause bottlenecks as goods wait to be unpacked.

It’s a problem that’s only gotten worse as we’ve moved through different stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Robert Scott, a senior economist at the Economic Trade Institute. He told KCM the U.S. has imported nearly $3 trillion in international products so far in 2021.

“What’s happened over the pandemic is that there’s been a tremendous surge in imports — far in excess of anything we were consuming before the pandemic hit,” he explained. 

On the shipping side, companies are working overtime to avoid the delays that plagued us during 2020’s holiday season. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has announced the U.S. Postal Service plans to hire 40,000 seasonal workers to help facilitate transit of the estimated 4.5 million extra packages that’ll be sent per day during the holidays.

“Last year, for a variety of reasons, we were overwhelmed and were not able to meet the demands of the nation,” DeJoy told The Washington Post. “We are ready, so send us your packages and your mail, and we will deliver timely.”

When is my last chance to ship holiday gifts on time?

If you want your packages to arrive by Dec. 25 (if you’re sending within the continental United States, at least), these are the shipping deadlines you’ll want to be mindful of.

U.S. Postal Service:

  • USPS Retail Ground Service — send by Dec. 15
  • First-Class Mail Service — send by Dec. 17
  • Priority Mail Service — send by Dec. 18
  • Priority Mail Express Service — send by Dec. 23


  • FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Ground — send by Dec. 15
  • FedEx Express Saver and FedEx 3Day Freight — send by Dec. 21
  • FedEx 2Day Freight — send by Dec. 22
  • FedEx 1Day Freight and FedEx Extra Hours — send by Dec. 23
  • FedEx SameDay — send by Dec. 24


  • UPS Ground — Check for a quote here
  • UPS 3 Day Select — send by Dec. 21
  • UPS 2nd Day Air — send by Dec. 22
  • UPS Next Day Air — send by Dec. 23