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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How I pack a box of gifts as efficiently as I can

The silver package off to the side is the one last item that lays
flat on top of the rest of the gifts, filling that last inch of space.

I have one package of gifts that I send out of the country each Christmas. So my deadline to get this in the mail is December 1st. (That's actually far ahead of the cut-off date, but in my experience it can take longer than the Postal Service says.) As the cost of shipping is determined by weight, I pack my gifts as efficiently as possible, using my smallest box.

First of all, this kind of packing works for non-breakable items only.

Before I wrap the gifts, I select my box. I look for a box as close to the size of my bundle of gifts as possible, erring on the small side, as I seem to be able to find a way to fit everything all in. 

I practice packing the items in the box several times, until I can find a way to get every last item in. Having a couple of soft, flexible items is a help, as they can be folded into the needed space to fill that last spot. 

When I have found the best arrangement of items for the box, I take the gifts out and lay them in order of how they shall be repacked. I then wrap the gifts. The soft items are folded into the shape needed to fit, before I wrap them.

I use the most lightweight of wrapping as possible. Some ideas for lightweight wrap are tissue, mylar (such as old mylar balloons), and lightweight fabric.

I avoid large bows, but stick to ribbon ties, tiny bows, and stickers for the decorative touch on the packages.

I then repack the box, writing down a brief description of each item for customs (so I don't have to go back and unpack the box to obtain that info). I take advantage of every crack and crevice for slim items.

I add a card, seal the box shut and I'm good to go.

(Dear friend, you know who you are. I guessed you'd figure out that this is for you. Your package is on it's way -- surprise! Merry Christmas!)

Here are some US shipping deadlines given by the US Postal Service for the holiday season 2012. These are their best guesses, not guarantees. If getting your package to it's recipient by Dec. 25 is important, I'd suggest shipping 2-4 days ahead of the USPS deadlines. Things happen. After the recent storm Sandy, I waited an additional 9 days to receive a letter mailed from the East Coast, the day before the storm hit. 

Within the US

Parcel Post Service  --  Dec. 14
First Class Mail Service  --   Dec. 20
Priority Mail Service   --  Dec. 21
Express Mail Service   --Dec.22

US to Canada

First Class Int'l  --  Dec. 10
Priority Int'l   --  Dec. 13
Express Mail Int'l   --  Dec. 17
Global Express Guaranteed   --  Dec. 20

US to Europe

First Class Int'l  --  Dec. 10
Priority Int'l  --  Dec. 13
Express Int'l   --  Dec. 15
Global Express Guaranteed   --  Dec. 19

Military APO/FPO/DPO

Parcel Airlift   --  Nov. 30 - Dec. 3
Priority Mail   --  Dec. 3 - 10
First Class Mail   --  Dec. 3 - 10
Express Mail Military (not available to all military zips)   --  Dec. 17


  1. Some extra things that I do. Either line the box or put the gifts into plastic bags in
    case it gets wet along the way. Also, put the name and address on the outside of the card in the box in case the label comes off from the outside of the box.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      great tips! I'll add to your's on an extra address in the box -- don't address the box on the outside in multiple places. Address the box, once, clearly.

      Boxes get turned around while in transit. If a box with the address in multiple places gets turned over so an address is visible without applied postage right next to it, it may be assumed that this is a box with no postage paid. It could end up in a "dead" pile, to go no where.

  2. I bet the recipient will be thrilled to open that box of gifts, I know I would be :) All of my family is in another state, so I usually try to give presents online (things like movie tickets and magazine subscriptions), which can be printed by another family member and put under the tree. This year we are planning to fly down (dependent on surgery) so will be able to take presents with us.

    1. Hi Economies,
      I do about half gift cards/half actual gifts. Some people on my list (to remain nameless here) seem to think I can't shop for decent gifts, due to my advanced age, over 30! They get gift cards.

      I hope it all works out for you and Mr. O to be with family over the holidays.

  3. Thank you for the information on the deadlines, Lili. Good advice on how to package a box full of gifts. :)

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Thanks. I just can't believe that it's about time to get packages to the post office already!

  4. Ugh. I hate wrapping and packing. But it will be good to know your technique if I have to do it!

    1. Hi Kris,
      the packing and taking to the post office is my least favorite thing about the holidays! I try to make it as fun as possible, by putting on Christmas music while I wrap and pack, and hitting the post office around 9 AM, when the lines at the PO near us are the shortest.

      Good luck with your wrapping and packing!

  5. After moving home several times in my life I am pretty good about filling every inch of a box. It came in handy when my son was overseas with the military and I wanted to fill boxes to send to him. Also, learning the hard way, I filled out all my customs paperwork at home first, saved time at the post office. I just took a small stack home with me so I would be ready when it was my turn in line.

    1. Hi Lois,
      After having moved several times you probably know a few tricks for packing well.
      And yes, having the customs declaration forms at home is a time saver. I try to pick a few up at a time, as well, so I can fill them out at home, and not have to step out of line at the post office.


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