This one is at the top of the list for anyone shipping holiday gifts. Keep a copy of your receipts until you know the recipient has received the items in good condition. In case of loss or damage you will need it to process a claim with the carrier.
Be mindful of your packaging. Just because it is in the box that you bought it in, that doesn’t mean it is safe for parcel shipping. Most manufacturers’ packaging is not rated for parcel shipping. Keep in mind that your package will be riding the trucks, planes and conveyer belts with boxes that can weigh up to 150 lbs.
GIFT CARDS!!! Everyone loves them, including potential thieves. Most major carriers will not honor the value of a gift card if it is lost or stolen. Instead of sending a gift card from you, see if you can send one directly from the store’s website to your loved one. That way if something does happen then they will be responsible for reimbursement.
Perfumes, scented oils, colognes, etc. are not often thought of as dangerous materials, but they are flammable and considered hazardous by all carriers. These items should not be included in any packages you will be shipping.
Be sure to declare the value of your items when you ship them. There is a fee involved, but paying an extra $10 is going to hurt a lot less than only getting reimbursed $100 on a $700 gift that was lost or damaged. If it is something of extremely high value (either sentimental or monetary) the safest way to ship it is overnight with a declared value of over $5000. This is a very costly way to ship it, but the expedited service and the signatures required every time the package changes hands also make it the safest.
Never ship anything in a box that would indicate something of particular value is inside it. Plain brown cardboard is the way to go. Also, if you are returning something of high value to a company (like a jewelry store), do not use the company’s full name on the label. Abbreviate it. For example: Rolex Watches should be RLX.
A common misconception is that carriers prefer your packages to be wrapped in brown or white paper. In the age before conveyer belts this was perfectly acceptable, but now it is a big hazard. If the paper gets caught in a conveyer belt and gets ripped off the box, the shipping label goes with it.
Put a piece of paper inside each box that has both your and the recipients address on it to assist the carrier in case of loss. It is also a good idea to keep a list of what you put into each box and the associated tracking number.
If at all possible, ship the packages to a business address. It is cheaper and businesses get priority delivery. It also doesn’t hurt to have someone sign for them instead of them sitting on a front porch until you get home.
DON’T WAIT TO SHIP YOUR ITEMS! This is crucial to holiday sanity. The volume of packages that is moved by carriers this time of year is enormous. This causes delays and removes the usual guaranteed delivery. Perhaps most important, if it has to be there by Christmas it is going to be cheaper to send it ground two weeks out than to have to overnight it on the 23rd. Shipping is expensive enough as is and express shipments can cost hundreds of dollars. Check your carrier’s website for their holiday delivery cutoff dates.