USPS, FedEx, UPS Holiday 2021 Shipping Deadlines Are Out -- Why Waiting Until Black Friday Is Too Late

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in-store pick up holiday shopping
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The holidays are still months away, but FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service and UPS have already released their holiday shipping deadlines. The key takeaway: the time to shop is now.

The worry this year isn't just that gifts won't get from your hands to the hands of its recipient -- though you'll want to ship packages as early as Dec. 9, 2021 to make sure they arrive in time. The added worry is that these would-be gifts might not make it to store shelves at all.

According to a CBS News report, the nation's ports are getting seriously backlogged by a one-two punch: Shipping traffic is way up, while a tight labor market means there aren't enough workers to unload ships at the docks. There aren't enough truckers to get those shipments of toys, electronics and more from the docks to stores, either.

That means the possibility of bare store shelves and higher shipping prices. "You’re not going to find the product you want as quickly as normal,” Gene Seroka, director of the Port of Los Angeles, told CBS News. “If you’re shopping for the holidays, start now.”

To help you better plan your own holiday shopping, ET is keeping track of the latest information from major retailers and shopping companies. Whenever we learn something new about 2021 holiday ordering deadlines and holiday shipping deadlines, we'll share it here. We're also keeping tabs on what retailers are offering curbside pickup in 2021, a safe shopping option for those who want to forego shipping entirely. 

And, of course, no matter how bad shipping problems get, procrastinators can always wait until the literal last minute with the help of gift cards.

Get all the info on key holiday shipping dates and pickup options you need to know, and keep them in mind while shopping our gift guides on current holiday decor deals and steals, self-care gifts for mom and dad, comfy holiday PJs, beauty advent calendars, the hottest toys of 2021 and more.

Check out all of ET's top picks for the best gift ideas in our Holiday Gift Guide 2021.

Cutoff Dates for Major Shipping Carriers 

FedEx Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

  • FedEx Ground Economy, Dec. 9
  • FedEx Freight Economy, Dec. 9
  • FedEx Ground, Dec. 15
  • FedEx Freight Priority, Dec. 15
  • FedEx Express Saver, Dec. 21
  • FedEx 3-Day Freight, Dec. 21
  • FedEx 2-Day, Dec. 22
  • FedEx 2-Day a.m., Dec. 22
  • FedEx 2-Day Freight, Dec. 22
  • FedEx 1-Day Freight, Dec. 23
  • FedEx Extra Hours, Dec. 23
  • FedEx Standard Overnight, Dec. 23
  • FedEx Priority Overnight, Dec. 23
  • FedEx First Overnight, Dec. 23
  • FedEx Same-Day, Dec. 24

UPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

  • Ground shipping, check the website for a quote
  • December 21: second-day air services 
  • December 23: next-day air services
  • December 25: no pickup service, UPS holiday 
  • Note: UPS service guarantee still suspended for most services due to COVID-19

UPS international president Scott Price is urging people to do their Christmas and Hanukkah shopping early.

"I half-jokingly tell people 'Order your Christmas presents now because otherwise on Christmas day, there may just be a picture of something that's not coming until February or March," Price said. Price notes thatCOVID-19 andlabor shortages at U.S. ports will seriously slow shipments.

USPS Holiday Shipping Deadlines 2021

Continental U.S.:

  • December 15: USPS retail ground service
  • December 17: First-class mail service (including holiday greeting cards)
  • December 17: First-class packages (up to 15.99 ounces) 
  • December 18: Priority mail service
  • December 23: Priority mail express service

USPS For Air/Army/Fleet/Diplomatic post office addresses:

  • November 6: Retail ground service
  • December 9  :Priority mail and first-class mail
  • December 16: Priority mail express military service

USPS Alaska and Hawaii: 

  • December 17: Hawaii to/from mainland — priority mail and first-class mail
  • December 18: Alaska to/from Continental U.S. — first-class and priority mail 
  • December 21: Alaska to/from Continental U.S. and Hawaii to/from mainland — priority mail

The USPS has also announced that starting Oct. 3, 2021, it will slow the delivery of First Class Mail to focus on increased demand for package delivery.Cross-country mail will now take up to five days, per CBS News. (Mail thoseholiday cards early!)

Costs to ship packages will also be increasing, temporarily, through the end of the holiday season

Shipping Options for Major Retailers

Amazon

Amazon is offering fast, free and reliable shipping on millions of items with delivery until Christmas Eve (shoutout to those delivery men and women!). Here's their breakdown for for free delivery before Christmas:

  • Dec. 23: Last day to order more than 10 million items eligible for One-Day Delivery. This is free for Amazon Prime members with no minimum purchase.
  • Dec. 24: Last day to order millions of items eligible for Same-Day Delivery (which is free for Prime members in eligible areas on orders over $35) and for free two-hour grocery delivery, exclusive to Prime members in select cities.
  • Dec. 24: Whole Foods Market stores, Amazon Fresh stores, Amazon Books, Amazon 4-star and Amazon Pop Up stores are open on Christmas Eve. (Store hours vary by location.)
  • Dec. 25: For truly last-minute shoppers, give an Amazon eGift Card or Amazon Prime membership.

If you're not an Amazon Prime member yet, sign up for a 30-day free trial. You can read more details about Amazon’s holiday shipping, delivery, pickup and returns options here

Shop Our Sale Picks:

If you have a 4K-ready TV, you don’t want to use an HD-only streaming box with it. Instead, upgrade to a device such as the Roku Streaming Stick+, which supports HD, 4K and HDR. It also comes with a voice remote with TV controls, another nice upgrade over the Roku Express.
$50$35

Nordstrom

Department store Nordstrom always offers free standard shipping for all orders that take 3-8 business days to arrive. They also have expedited shipping available.

Shop Our Sale Picks:

Kate Somerville
Kate Somerville is one of Hollywood's go-to skincare experts, who has worked with Jessica Alba, Demi Moore and Kate Hudson. The ExfoliKate Intensive Exfoliating Treatment is a bestseller for deep cleaning the pores, smoothing and renewing the skin.
$25 AND UP

Walmart

Walmart offers two-day and next-day delivery. There is a $35 order minimum for all delivery options, unless you're a Walmart+ member. Restrictions and fees may apply. 

Shop Our Sale Picks:

Shark
Never lift a heavy vacuum cleaner again with the Shark IQ Robot Vacuum that self-cleans each room row by row at the push of a button. Schedule cleanings with the Shark Clean app or Amazon Alexa.
$394$249

Farberware
If you don't have an air fryer yet, this is the time to scoop up the versatile meal maker. This Farberware 3.2 Quart Oil-Less Multi-Functional Air Fryer fries to crisp golden perfection without using an abundance of oil. Plus, it grills, bakes, broils, warms and toasts.
$99$55

Target

Target offers free standard shipping on orders of $35 or more and express shipping is available for pre-order items only, delivered within one business day after the item has been shipped and picked up by the delivery carrier. Same-day delivery is available for select products from your local Target store via contactless delivery by Shipt. 

Shop Our Sale Picks:

Dyson
Have you been eyeing a Dyson vacuum this year? This advanced cleaner self-adjusts between floor types with powerful suctioning for the ultimate clean. The wand and hose release in one easy smooth action without fuss.
$499

Beats
These Beats Powerbeats in-ear earphones are completely wireless and pumps out 9 hours of audio. Its sweat and water-resistant design is great for workouts.
$250$180

Macy's

For those who use the Macy's credit card, shoppers receive free standard shipping with no purchase minimum. For everyone else, receive free standard shipping with $25 purchase. Premium, express, and same-day delivery options are available.

Shop Our Sale Picks:

Rachael Ray
Gift this gorgeous burgundy shimmer 13-piece cookware set from Rachael Ray.
$239$112

Martha Stewart Collection
Martha Stewart Collection Faux Fur Throw, Created for Macy's
Macy's
Martha Stewart Collection
A super soft, snuggly throw is always a good holiday gift idea. We love this chic faux fur design from Martha Stewart Collection. 
$130$77

Sephora

The beauty retailer offers free standard 1-3 day shipping is free on orders of $50 and over. Two- and one-business day shipping options are available as well. 

Shop Our Sale Picks:

The LookFantastic Advent Calendar is back and better than ever for 2021! Treat a friend to 25 must-have products, including skincare and makeup items that -- in total -- are worth more than $500, and available for just $115. The brand's advent calendar usually sells out due to its popularity, so we suggest pre-ordering now for the Oct. 1 launch date. 
$115 AT LOOKFANTASTIC

This Kendall Jenner-approved cooling mist relies on aloe and cucumber ingredients to nourish the skin and leave it looking radiant.
$12

In-Store and Curbside Pickup

Nordstrom

  • Enter your zip code on the product or category page to see if an item is available for in-store or curbside pickup (they'll bring your order out and place it in your car's trunk) at the nearest store that same day or the next day. All pickup orders come with a free gift message, DIY gift kit, Nordstrom box packaging or signature gift wrap of your choice.
  • Select "Pickup" to add the item to bag and check out when you're ready. You'll receive a confirmation email with instructions and pickup details. Your order will be held for seven days.
  • Have your order shipped to the store by selecting "Shop to a Nordstrom Store" at checkout. 

Walmart

  • Same-day and curbside pickup options. On the product page, select "Show delivery & pickup options" and enter your zip code to see if it's available for pickup at the nearest Walmart location. Average wait time ranges from three to seven days, but select eligible products can be ready for pickup as soon as the same day.
  • Once you purchase online, you'll receive a confirmation email with the details. Associates will be outside the store to direct you to the pickup area and load the items into your car.

Target

  • On the product page, choose the nearest Target store and select "Pick it up" for in-store pickup. Check out when you're ready and your order will be available to pick up within four hours.
  • If you prefer contact-less drive-up pickup, shop "Drive Up Items" in the Target app and they will let you know when it's ready for you to pick up and park in the designated spot. An associate will drop off the items in your car.

Macy's

  • Choose "Pick Up" at checkout and Macy's will send a confirmation email when the order is ready for pickup within two hours if it's ordered before 6 p.m. local time. Choose whether you'd like to pick up in-store or curbside.

Sephora

  • Reserve items online and pick up in-store. On the product page, select "Reserve & Pick Up" to see availability at the nearest Sephora store. Add to basket to see reservations details. Sephora will send you an email notification to let you know when it's ready for you to pick up and pay at the store. Look for the "Online Order Pickup" signs when you're inside.

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