Shipping tips for your holiday gifts

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One of my family's favorite holiday gifts every year is arrival of the cookie tin from Michigan. We gather around a giant tin of Grandma Steinmetz' delicious cookie creations all ready to grab our faves. Each time with bated breath we'd open the container hoping they survived the trip whole. Now Grandma Steinmetz was a premier packer so we were rarely disappointed.

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This year, there's a return to handmade and homemade holiday gifts so I researched some easy tips that should help your goodies and fragile items arrive safely to their destination.

Shipping Holiday Gifts Tip #1

Make sure your cookies don't arrive as crumbs I started by taking a look at how the pros pack cookies and found that many send them stacked on their edge rather than shipping them flat. Think about the cookies you buy in the store, most come stacked on edge. They survive a huge shipping adventure so I figured there must be something to it.

Here's the trick for homemade treats First, think about what kind of cookies travel the best. Think dry and firm, or, chewy. These will make the trek better than cake type recipes that tend to fall apart or squish. They also tend to last longer, which is important since they may take a week or so to arrive at their destination.

You'll need some wax paper or, I found Press and Seal paper to be perfect. Now simply take about six cookies, and lay them back-to-back and front-to-front on their edge. Wrap the paper around it to form a neat package. This keeps them on their edge and compact which makes them less likely to break.

Shipping Holiday Gifts Tip #2

Use the double box technique for fragile items I learned this from the pros. If you have something exceptionally fragile pack a box in a box.

You'll need a box sized to fit your items and then a larger box about 2 inches bigger on all sides. Using bubble wrap, Styrofoam " noodles" or even tissue paper or shredded paper and pack your fragile item carefully. Seal the inside box, and place it in the larger box. Now, surround all sides with another layer of filler. This will absorb any bumps and bounces along the way. This technique really works well. Takes a bit of time but really does the trick with fragile and perishable items.

Shipping Holiday Gifts Tip #3

Key deadlines to remember for your holiday gifts Remember the sooner you ship, the more you will save. So here are the key dates for shipping your packages holiday 2008. The deadlines are if you want packages to arrive by December 25.

December 4 - Military Mail to troops in Iraq and Afghanistan December 11 - Military Mail to other locations December 15 - The busiest mail day of the year! December 16 - Parcel Post - the most economical method! December 20 - First Class/Priority Mail and Flat Rate Priority Mail December 23 - Express Overnight Mail - the most expensive option!

Keep the Flat Rate Priority Mail option in mind for your shipping. This is one size of specific box available at your post office that allows you to fill it up and ship it for $9.80 in the U.S. They say, "If it fitsit will ship." This is a great option for lots of items. Ask about it at the post office.

Shipping Holiday Gifts Tip #4

Consider online bill to/ship to Options Most all online and catalog vendors offer some version of a bill to/ship to service. This allows you to purchase an item and send the billing information to you and the gift to the recipient. They don't get the price or any of the payment details. This will save you plenty on shipping because you're essentially paying the lower bulk rates of the retailer.

And last but not least, I found an intriguing website that lists all the shipping deadlines and details for most major retailers from Amazon to Zappos. Check it out at .

Are you like me? Each year when I get all my packages shipped I take a deep breath. And I usually have a moment when I swear I'm just sending gift cards next year. But, of course each year I find the perfect gift for the perfect person and start all over again. Oh well!

Live and Learn.