Getting Christmas Goods on Time: FedEx and UPS Roll Out Holiday Shipping Deadlines

Holiday shipping schedules for parcel carriers, FedEx, UPS, and USPS are now available. The dates are near mirror images of shipping deadlines for the 2019 and 2020 peak seasons. However, the risks of late deliveries are still subject to increase, and while carrier network optimization may help, shippers still need to know these deadlines. As reported by USA Today, 22% of consumers started holiday shopping in October, and 24% intend to start shopping in November before Thanksgiving. Regardless of when consumers begin the annual splurge on Christmas gifts, shippers need to know a few things about the shipping deadlines and how they'll impact experiences and costs.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines for UPS

The shipping deadline for delivery by December 24, 2021, delivery depends on the service level. For UPS, here are the dates to remember:

  • December 21 – for 3-Day Select
  • December 22 – for 2nd-Day Air
  • December 23 – for Next Day

UPS Ground shipping deadlines are a bit trickier. Depending on origin and destination, shippers may have a range of shipping deadlines between Friday, December 17, 2021, and Monday, December 20, 2021. The variance is due to the risk of potential delays in transit. Additionally, the latest shipping time frame for UPS Ground has a set 9:00 AM scheduling deadline and a Noon latest pickup time. Even nearby locations, such as shipping from San Antonio, TX to Amarillo, TX by ground, have the same deadlines, but the delivery date shifts slightly to December 23, 2021. Regardless, it]s best to err on the side of caution with a one-to-two-day window in advance of Monday, December 20, 2021. Furthermore, these dates are for domestic transportation only. As a result, the best way to plan your deadlines is to use UPS Calculate Time and Cost app and assume the latest deadline is December 20, 2021—or earlier for international shipments, excluding shipments to Canada and Mexico.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines for FedEx

FedEx holiday shipping deadlines are more stringent:

  • December 9 – for FedEx Ground® Economy and FedEx Freight® Economy
  • December 15 – for FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Ground® in both the Contiguous US and to Alaska and Hawaii, FedEx Freight® Priority, FedEx Freight® Direct, and U.S. to Canada by Ground
  • December 21 – for FedEx Express Saver and FedEx 3-Day Freight
  • December 22 – for FedEx 2-Day, 2-Day Am and FedEx 2-Day® Freight
  • December 23 – for FedEx 1-Day Freight, extended pickup and delivery hours
  • December 24 – for FedEx Same Day®

FedEx has also released the following specific deadlines for North American international deadlines:

  • December 13 – for U.S. to Canada Ground Northbound
  • December 14 – for U.S. to Canada Ground Southbound
  • December 15 – for U.S. to Canada Domestic
  • December 17 – for FedEx International Priority Distribution®, and FedEx International Economy® to Canada
  • December 21 – for FedEx International Economy to Mexico
  • December 22 – for FedEx International Priority® to Mexico, and FedEx International Economy to Puerto Rico
  • December 23 – for FedEx International First (Non-Documents) to Mexico, and FedEx International First® and FedEx International Priority Distribution® to Puerto Rico
  • December 24 – for FedEx® International Next Flight to Canada
  • December 24 – for FedEx® International Next Flight and FedEx International First® to Mexico, and FedEx® International Next Flight to Puerto Rico

Note: For shipments to other international destinations, users are advised to input origin and destination data on the FedEx Rate Finder.

Holiday Shipping Deadlines for USPS

USPS holiday deadlines are also further in advance of UPS, more closely aligned to those of FedEx as noted below:

  • December 15 – for Retail Ground
  • December 17 – for First-Class Mail
  • December 18 – for Priority Mail
  • December 23 – for Priority Mail Express

Shipping to Alaska and Hawaii is slightly different:


  • December 2 – for Ground to Alaska
  • December 18 – for First-Class and Priority Mail to Alaska
  • December 21 – for Priority Mail Express to Alaska
  • December 17 – for First-Class and Priority Mail to Hawaii
  • December 21 – for Priority Mail Express to Hawaii

Shippers Need to Stay Mindful of Costs and Possible Delays Throughout the Holiday Shipping Season

Understanding the total transit times and costs throughout the holiday shipping season is essential to maximizing profitability. However, there is uncertainty in the market as there is ongoing risk for new peak surcharges. Ultimately, any carrier may choose to enact additional surcharges or advance the deadlines further in advance of the holidays. Regardless, the key to success lies in using data to know how long typical transit times take and their total landed costs. That's all possible by working with an advanced shipping data intelligence resource like Intelligent Audit. Connect with Intelligent Audit to get started today.

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