The holidays are supposed to be filled with love and good cheer, but the logistics of shopping for gifts, sending out cards, taking family trips and shipping packages can leave even the jolliest of people in a Scrooge-like mood.
Fortunately, there are some ways you can take the hassle out of the holidays and make them a little brighter for yourself and those around you.
Avoid long lines, crowded parking lots and out-of-stock items with these helpful hints:
Get Ready — Before you head out to the mall, make a list of the gifts you want to buy and do some online price comparison. Use sites like BizRate, DealTime or Shopzilla, as well as check local ads to find the best price. You may want to call your local store to see if they have your item in stock, saving yourself a trip if they don’t have it.
Shop Early — Plan to shop early in the day, and early in the season. Morning crowds tend to be lighter and sales assistants tend to be more attentive first thing. And the earlier in the season you shop, the less you have to deal with long lines and frustrated shoppers. Plus, this year, while there are 29 shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, there are only 20 shipping days.
Wrap It Up — Pay a little extra and let a charity group at the store wrap your gifts for you. This saves you time later and frees you up to get other things done — and you help a good cause.
Make sure your carefully chosen gifts get to their destinations intact with these helpful tips:
—Check with experts before shipping fragile items (or items that might be considered hazardous or illegal to ship, such as perfume or cologne).
—Use materials the professionals use — foam packaging peanuts, bubble cushioning and packaging tape — to protect your gifts.
—Include a label on the inside of the package with both the destination and return addresses.
—Use a shipping option which provides a package-tracking number.
—Take batteries out of toys, electronics, etc., before shipping.
—Ship wrapped presents ahead to your destination, especially if traveling by air.
—Wrap boxes in brown paper or tie with string.
—Use materials like newspaper or real popcorn to cushion items.
—Use old boxes or gift boxes for shipping items.
—Use duct tape, masking tape or cellophane tape to seal your boxes for shipping.
If you are not sure what size packaging to use, check with the experts. Copies Plus is a local UPS shipper in Cedar Springs, and owner Dan Spitzbergen has experience in shipping all kinds of goods. “We all like to send favorite foods and other goodies to our friends and family that live far away, and sometimes it takes odd size packaging,” noted Spitzbergen. “Don’t be afraid to come in and ask questions. We’ll work with you on what containers work best.”
Navigating airport security, crowded terminals and long check-in lines can be stressful enough. Add luggage and gifts into the holiday travel mix and things can get really unpleasant. One solution travelers are turning to is shipping luggage to their destinations.
“Traveling without a suitcase is a tremendous convenience, especially during the hectic holiday travel season. Having your luggage awaiting your arrival and tracking it along the way is even better,” said Bryan Vial, The UPS Store franchisee from Phoenix, Ariz. “Ship your luggage as is or place it in a box for shipment. Or, at select locations, you can purchase a luggage box and avoid a suitcase altogether.”
Some major airline baggage fees can add up to over $100. Vial says that a luggage box of comparable size shipped via UPS Ground service is competitively priced and saves you time and hassle at the airport. If you are a member of the Automobile Association of America, you can receive a 15 percent discount off the full retail price of eligible products and services, and 5 percent off domestic U.S. shipping costs.
Luggage Shipping Tips
—Because of the duties and taxes associated with international shipments, The UPS Store does not recommend shipping luggage internationally.
—Federal Aviation Administration restrictions prohibit shipping hazardous materials, including colognes and perfumes, aerosol sprays, nail polish and cigarette lighters via air.
—Include packaging tape and a return shipping label in the luggage box for use when returning home.