Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich and Henry Rivero / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Thomas Penix / Los Angeles Times

The Postal Service recommends that all Christmas letters and parcels be mailed as early in the season as possible. Also, you should make it a point to drop off that package in the morning rather than save it for the end of the workday. Depending on how soon those packages need to arrive at their destinations--or how late in the season you’re sending them--any of the following services can be utilized:

Fourth Class (Parcel Post)--this is the most economical way to mail your package and normally has a two- to nine-day turnaround. This method is recommended for those sending their packages well ahead of time.

First Class Mail--letters weighing under 12 ounces should reach their destination within three days. Also, overnight delivery is possible for some locally designated cities.

First Class/Priority (Zone Rated) Mail--first class mailings weighing more than 12 ounces automatically go by this type of mail, which normally has a two- to three-day turnaround. Like first-class mail, however, overnight delivery to certain destinations is possible if the package is mailed by 5 p.m. Check with the post office for more information.


Express Mail Next Day Service--with this service, parcels can be sent as late as 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve and arrive at their destination by 3 p.m. Christmas Day. Also, a noon arrival is possible for packages going to any of 25 major cities and areas designated by the Postal Service (check with the Service for a list of these cities).

Registered Mail--irreplaceable items should be sent by registered mail. Both the weight of the package and value of the item are used to determine the rates charged.

Insurance--packages of particular value to customers can be insured by the Postal Service. The total cost of the package can be recovered by the customer in the event of damage. However, the service cautions its customers against over-insuring, since only the exact value of the package’s contents can be covered.

Stamps by Mail--you can have stamps delivered to your home by filling out a special order form, enclosing the proper amount and dropping it in the mail. Stamps will arrive in three days. Order forms are available through your letter carrier, by mail or at the post office.


Self-Service Postal Centers--to avoid long lines at the post office, use these centers, which are scattered throughout the county. The centers contain everything you need to send your packages by all types of mail except registered, which can be sent only through full-service post offices.

Shopping Mall Postal Booths--a full line of postal services are available at postal booths in the Huntington Center and in the Brea, Laguna Hills, Mission Viejo, Orange and Westminster malls. Booths will operate through Dec. 23. Call malls for hours.

Source: U.S. Postal Service