As the countdown to Christmas narrows to just 10 days, the United States Postal Service is issuing a last call to holiday gift senders. The cutoff date for USPS first-class mail is set for Saturday — marking a crucial deadline to ensure gifts arrive in time for the festive season.

This December is especially busy for shipping companies. Around 82 million parcels are expected to be sent each day during this peak season. 

In Louisville, Kentucky, boxes are piling up at a facility called UPS Worldport, a key hub in the holiday shopping process where millions of packages will pass through during the holiday season. The 5.4 million square foot facility can sort about 416,000 packages per hour. The scene at the facility reflects the holiday rush.

Customer Melinda Wayland said she was relieved to have her packages shipped.

“I feel better about it. At least I have these shipped off,” she said. 

Leslie Phelps, a frontline supervisor at the Louisville facility, said she feels like they are part of Santa’s team. 

“We are like Santa’s helpers,” said Phelps.  ” … we do feel like we do play a large portion or piece in the holiday season,” said Phelts. 

Here’s how the process in Louisville works: Packages come in by truck and by plane and work their way through 155 miles of conveyor belt, get sorted by zip code and then loaded into giant shipping containers. This happens all in less than four hours, something that plays out for about 300 flights a day as a team of meteorologists help plot a course around any winter weather.

Bill Moore, president of UPS Airlines, said they start getting ready for next year the day after Christmas. He advises people to send their gifts early and not wait until the last minute.

“Time is running out so we tell people don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Ship early and ship often,” said Moore.

For e-tailers like Omaha Steaks, the holiday rush is a make-or-break period. The company is selling a box of filet mignon every 2.4 seconds, with around 80,000 boxes expected to be shipped daily.

“Getting it there on time is everything to the customer experience and so UPS can do that at the highest level,” said Nate Rempe, president and CEO of Omaha Steaks.

When are the shipping deadlines this year?

Holiday shippers using USPS first-class mail need to send packages by Saturday. For those opting for UPS Ground, the deadline is Monday. For three-day shipping, gifts need to be sent by Dec. 19. And for last-minute senders, next-day overnight shipping is available until Dec. 21. 

With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, Sunday deliveries will be limited — making it even more important to meet the deadlines. 

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