Tips & Tricks, USPS Holidays

10 Things to Know About Shipping Food and Fragile Items

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The holiday season is upon us, which means many of us may be considering mailing gifts, foods or potentially fragile items to friends and loved ones across the country. What are the recommended ways to do this? The following are all ways approved by the Postal Service™ to get your package to its destination without fear of damage or altering of contents.

  1. SELECT THE RIGHT SIZE BOX OR SHIPPING CONTAINER: It should be slightly larger than the contents you’re putting in it – if it’s too small, it can be overstuffed, causing the box to bend, tear or break open; if it’s too big, the contents can shake and shift during transport, possibly causing damage. Stress from outside the box could cause it to crush or collapse.
  2. REINFORCEMENT: It’s important to reinforce the box from within, as you don’t want the contents to bear the brunt of the load. That’s why packing materials provide the perfect protection, whether it’s one or multiple items you’re packing. Use cushioning material (crumpled paper or soft absorbent material) along the bottom, side and top of the box.
  3. INDIVIDUAL ATTENTION ON THE INSIDE: Fragile items need to be individually wrapped or stuffed; heavier, sturdier items need to go on the bottom; corners and sides of the box needs to be well braced but not overstuffed. Ultimately, the shipping contents and the packing materials should fill up the entire box, and compensate for empty space with more packing materials. This is especially important when shipping books.usps holiday shipping
  4. SELECTING THE RIGHT BAKED GOODS TO SEND: Rule of thumb: any treat that crumbles or doesn’t hold up in your hand won’t hold up in the mail either, so DON’T MAIL. Same goes for items with perishable ingredients that require refrigeration, like cream cheese or buttercream frosting, or chocolate chips in the summer months.
  5. SHIPPING BAKED GOODS: Sturdy items that mail well any time of year include:
    1. Cookies or bars –- if mailing soft cookies, add a slice of white bread into container before sealing. Cookies will absorb moisture from the bread, keeping them fresher longer.
    2. Quick breads –- should be wrapped twice in plastic wrap and sealed inside a gallon-size plastic bag, or wrapped again in foil.
    3. Granola –- can be sealed inside a sturdy plastic bag.
  6. DON’T SHIP BEFORE THEY’RE READY! For baked items, make sure the item is COMPLETELY COOLED before preparing to send.
  7. ORGANIZE YOUR GOODS PROPERLY: When mailing individual treats like cookies or bars, arrange them neatly in a plastic container or tin with wax paper between each item before packing into mailing box. When packed properly inside, they won’t be susceptible to elements from the outside.
  8. RETURN ADDRESS AND OTHER LABELS, INSIDE AND OUT: In addition to a clear return address on the outside of the box, be sure to include the “to” and “from” information on a card inside the box, in case the box gets damaged or the label falls off. Also, clearly label the items so the recipient knows what’s inside. In the event that you are shipping an item with Special Handling instructions, make sure the Special Handling label is visibly displayed.
  9. CAREFUL ATTENTION ON THE OUTSIDE: Reinforce the box from the outside by properly closing the box and applying packing tape along the top, the folds and the edges, and especially the bottom – so heavy items don’t fall through. Be careful not to mask any new labels with the tape, and when reusing boxes, make sure old labels and markings are covered or removed.
  10. USE THE POSTAL WEBPAGE FOR GUIDANCE TO MAIL: Whether you use Priority Mail® or other boxes provided by the Postal Service, or otherwise, use and Quick Tools/Mail & Ship to have the best tools to ship at your disposal. You’ll be able to price the package based on the box and/or size and weight, print a mailing label, schedule a Package Pickup from your home or office, get reminders on all you need before shipping, and so much more. Priority Mail offers many shapes and sizes of Flat Rate Boxes to choose from, if that’s what fits your needs.

Additional information can be found in the video series for Shipping Tips here.