Holiday Shipping Deadlines For Procrastinators

These are the dates you need to know for all your card and gift needs.
It's a good idea to send holiday packages as soon as you can.
It's a good idea to send holiday packages as soon as you can.

Christmas this year is going to be different, to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing just about everyone to rethink their holiday plans, in order to try to stop the spread of the virus that’s now steadily rising across the country.

The pandemic also means that there will likely be postage delays during a year when more people will be relying on the mail to get gifts or cards to loved ones.

For that reason, it’s a good idea to send your holiday mail as early as you can. If, like us, you’re a relentless procrastinator, here are the absolute deadlines you have to follow to make sure your mail arrives by Christmas.

Canada Post

Letters

To send letters within Canada, letters within your region must be sent by Monday, Dec. 21. Letters sent to another province have to be mailed by Friday, Dec. 18.

To send letters outside of Canada and have them arrive by Christmas, dates vary from mid-November to early December. Here are the deadlines for:

  • U.S.: Monday, Dec. 7
  • U.K.: Tuesday, Dec. 1
  • Europe: Sunday, Nov. 22
  • Asia: Tuesday, Nov. 17 (unless you’re sending to China, in which case your deadline is Sunday, Nov. 22, or Japan, in which case it’s Thursday, Dec. 3.)
  • Australia: Monday, Nov. 23

Deadlines have already passed to send letters to the Caribbean and Latin America (Nov. 9), the Middle East (Nov. 15), India (Nov. 11) and Africa (Nov. 11), but if you send cards to those areas ASAP, they’ll likely arrive just after Christmas.

If you're sending Christmas cards out of the country, the deadline to get it there on time might be fast approaching.
If you're sending Christmas cards out of the country, the deadline to get it there on time might be fast approaching.

Packages

Unlike letters, there are different mailing options for packages. Paying more means getting your gifts there faster.

To send packages within Canada, local packages have to be sent by Friday, Dec. 18 - Monday, Dec. 21, depending on which option you choose. Packages you’re sending within your province or territory have to be sent by Tuesday, Dec. 15 to Monday, Dec. 21, and packages elsewhere in the country have to be sent by Wednesday, Dec. 9 for the cheapest option, or up to Monday, Dec. 21 for the most expensive one.

To send packages outside of Canada, Friday, Dec. 18 is a consistent deadline in most cases for Priority Worldwide, the most expensive shipping option. (Prices will depend on the size and wait of your parcel.)

Otherwise, dates vary from early November to Early December. Here are some deadlines:

  • U.S.: Monday, Dec. 7 (small packet) to Monday, Dec. 21 (Priority Worldwide)
  • U.K.: Tuesday, Dec. 1 to Friday, Dec. 18
  • Europe: Sunday, Nov. 22 to Friday, Dec. 18
  • Asia: Tuesday, Nov. 17 to Friday, Dec. 18 for most areas. For China, the initial (small packet) deadline is Sunday, Nov. 22, and for Japan it’s Thursday, Dec. 3,
  • Africa: Wednesday, Nov. 11 to Friday, Dec. 18
  • Middle East: Sunday, Nov 15 to Friday, Dec. 18
  • India: Wednesday, Nov. 11 to Friday, Dec. 18
  • Caribbean and Latin America: Monday, Nov. 9 to Monday, Dec. 21
  • Australia: Monday, Nov. 23 to Friday, Dec. 18

UPS

UPS doesn’t provide a specific date list, but their website does offer a tool that allows you to calculate how long it will take an item to get to its destination. As of Nov. 17, there’s a next-day delivery option for most places in Canada, although that may become harder as more people start sending holiday packages.

Close up of woman hands opening parcel with present box.
Close up of woman hands opening parcel with present box.

Also, note that UPS will be closed from Dec. 25 - 28. If you do need something urgently shipped one of those days, you can do it through UPS Express Critical at a much higher cost.

It’s also of interest that due to how busy the next month is going to be, UPS is currently charging a peak surcharge on international packages from Nov. 15 “until further notice.” The specific rates can be found here.

FedEx

FedEx offers many different services at different price points, both within Canada and internationally, so your deadline will depend on which service you choose. As you may have guessed, later deadlines will cost more money.

To ship within Canada, packages must be shipped to “most metropolitan areas” by Tues, Dec. 15 (FedEx Ground) to Weds, Dec. 23 (FedEx Overnight). There are some exceptions for people from western provinces shipping packages to Atlantic Canada, as those might need some more time.

To ship outside of Canada, dates continue to differ based on which service you’re paying for, but here are some of them:

  • US: Monday, Dec. 14 (FedEx International Ground) to Wednesday, Dec. 23 (FedEx Overnight)
  • Europe: Thursday, Dec. 17 to Tuesday, Dec. 22
  • Asia: Thursday, Dec. 17 to Monday, Dec. 21
  • Middle East: Friday, Dec. 18 to Monday, Dec. 21
  • Africa: Friday, Dec. 18 to Monday, Dec. 21
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: Friday, Dec. 18 to Tuesday, Dec. 22

Note that these dates are for “select cities,” and might not be available for more remote areas. You can find more information about shipping to specific regions here.

DHL

DHL hasn’t released its holiday deadlines either. You can consult a detailed list of the additional time to give various deliveries based on pandemic-related delays. (Keep in mind this is additional transit time, not total transit time.)

The service said in October it was investing in “pre-holiday season enhancements” to meet high delivery demands.