A holiday gift being taken out of its shipping box.

If you’re shipping gifts and goodies this season, the earlier you do so, the better. The pandemic-related shipping slowdowns of last spring have eased, for the most part, but an expected swell in online holiday shopping may lead to a resurgence. Deloitte’s annual holiday retail survey predicts that online sales will grow by 25 to 35 percent between November and January, compared with about 15 percent for the same time last year.

To get an idea of when your packages will arrive, review retailers’ various shipping options and expected delivery windows before checking out, and choose one that suits your timetable. Sending gifts yourself? The FedEx and UPS websites provide estimates of shipping costs and delivery dates.

More on the Holidays

You can also sign up for services such as FedEx Delivery ManagerUPS My Choice, and the U.S. Postal Service’s Informed Delivery, which track your shipments and may even allow you to redirect a delivery if you send a package to the wrong address. (The USPS service isn’t available in all areas.)

Running late? Be aware that carriers such as FedEx are guaranteeing last-minute deliveries (even, in some cases, as late as Christmas Day), but this may carry restrictions and extra fees. Given the uncertainty of service this year, it may be wise not to rely on these options.

FedEx

For shipping within the U.S.:

  • Dec. 9: Last day to ship via FedEx SmartPost.
  • Dec. 15: Last day to ship via FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery.
  • Dec. 21: Last day to ship via FedEx Express Saver.
  • Dec. 22: Last day to ship via FedEx 2Day and FedEx 2Day A.M.
  • Dec. 23: Last day to ship via FedEx Standard Overnight, FedEx Priority Overnight, and FedEx First Overnight.
  • Dec. 25: Last day to ship via FedEx SameDay City Direct, FedEx SameDay City Priority, and FedEx SameDay.

Shipping deadlines vary for packages headed to Puerto Rico and Canada, Mexico, and other international destinations. See FedEx's 2020 Holiday Shipping Schedule page for more information.


Go to Consumer Reports’ Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider shopping tips, and much more.
 

UPS

For shipping within the U.S.:

  • Dec. 15: Last day to ship UPS Ground for delivery Thursday, Dec. 24.

  • Dec. 21: Last day to ship UPS 3 Day Select for delivery Thursday, Dec. 24.

  • Dec. 22: Last day to ship UPS 2nd Day Air packages for delivery Thursday, Dec. 24.

  • Dec. 23: Last day to ship UPS Next Day Air for delivery Thursday, Dec. 24.

UPS warns that some packages and services may require an additional day of transit time. For a more complete assessment of how long it will take for your gift to arrive, check the UPS online shipping time and cost calculator.

For international shipping deadlines and other holiday-related information, such as pickup and delivery schedules, see the Holiday Shipping page on the UPS website.

Amazon

Amazon has yet to publish its Holiday Delivery Calendar for this year, which in years past has noted suggested deadlines for ordering items to arrive by Christmas. We'll update this story if the retailer updates its shipping estimates for this year.

However, Prime members can take advantage of Amazon’s usual free one- and two-day shipping in the U.S., same-day delivery on qualifying orders in some cities, and, of course, free standard shipping on any order. As some members may have noticed since the start of the pandemic, some orders may take longer to ship and experience carrier delays.

Amazon will deliver holiday orders to a self-service Hub Locker in more than 900 cities and towns, including Whole Foods, for no additional cost.

Customers can also choose to pick up packages in-store at a Hub Counter partner location, which includes staffed pickup areas inside Rite Aid, GNC, and Stage stores, as well as at Health Mart independent pharmacies. To find the closest Locker or Counter near you, check out Amazon's lookup tool.

Check Amazon's help page, Shipping Rates & Times, for more information.

Other Retailers

You'll find similar ordering and holiday gift-shipping deadline information for most major retailers online. Some examples:

Best Buy
Best Buy offers free next-day shipping on "thousands of items" available on its website, including major appliances and large TVs (51 inches and larger). The $35 minimum order amount is waived for members of its My Best Buy Elite and Elite Plus member programs.

Shoppers also have a one-hour in-store pickup option for online orders. Some locations even have contactless curbside pickup so that customers don't even have to get out of their car.

See Best Buy's shipping costs and timing page for more information regarding limitations and exceptions.

Home Depot
The chain offers free two-day shipping on "thousands of in-demand home improvement items," as well as free in-store pickup. See Home Depot's online ordering and shipping page for information about exclusions and limitations.

The home improvement store also offers same-day and next-day deliveries of certain items. Again, check Home Depot's Delivery Services page for costs and other limitations.

Target
Target offers free same-day delivery on orders of at least $35 if new online shoppers sign up for and use Shipt, a membership plan that's free for the first four weeks. (The annual membership cost after the trial period is $99 for unlimited orders of $35 and more. Or members can pay a delivery charge per same-day delivery.) However, the retailer notes that this year, “due to high demand, some items have extended delivery dates.”

Target also offers online shoppers in-store and curbside pickup.

Walmart
In select markets, the mass retailer offers free NextDay delivery on eligible online orders over $35. (A $6 fee applies to orders that don't meet requirements.)

For the U.S. mainland, Walmart also offers free two-day shipping. Again, orders of eligible items (identified with a "2-Day Shipping" logo) must total more than $35 and should be placed by 2 p.m. Orders shipped to Alaska, Hawaii, military mail centers, and other territories may take three days or longer. See Walmart's Free 2-Day shipping page for more information about restrictions.

And like Target, it also offers same-day, in-store pickup of most items ordered on its website, walmart.com. Certain items—such as those weighing 350 pounds and more—aren't eligible for in-store pickup. See Walmart's Store Pickup help page for more information.

We’ll update this information as retailers firm up their holiday plans, so bookmark this article and check back often.