SEBRING - The holiday rush is on to send Christmas cards and gift packages, but the peak shipping and mailing period is expected early next week.
Sandy Brady needed to send gifts to her great-grandchildren in Indiana.
The Sebring winter resident stopped first at the U.S. Post Office in downtown Sebring.
It was "terrible," she said, Monday, at Alligator Pack and Ship on the Sebring Parkway.
"That's why I am here," she said. "They were so busy it seemed like you couldn't get any help until you got to the counter."
She will be back to ship Christmas presents because Monday she was shipping birthday presents.
Jim Lees also wanted to avoid the U.S. Post Office crowd so he stopped by Alligator Pack and Ship to send about 20 Christmas cards going to the UK, Australia and Canada.
Alligator Pack and Ship co-owner Dave Gibson said the holiday shipping season started about two weeks ago and he expects the bulk of the shipping to be during Dec. 16, 17 and 18.
"With Thanksgiving being toward the end of November like it was, it has kind of skewed the regular rush," he said. "Without those few days after Thanksgiving it has kind of pushed it into December making it a much busier month."
Gibson advises to "ship it early," but noted packages can be shipped as late as Dec. 21 and still arrive by Christmas.
Along with the holiday cards and packages, Gibson said he has been handling the usual shipments including belongings of people who are relocating.
"I have a lady's stuff sitting back here that's going to Alaska, 27 huge cartons that we are sending by mail," he said. "She's moving her whole household that way."
Paying for postage is actually cheaper than paying several thousands of dollars for a moving company, Gibson said.
U.S. Postal Service Spokeswoman Debbie Fetterly said Monday was expected to be a busy day for international mail and mail going to military installations around the world.
The U.S. Postal Service projects the busiest mailing day of the season will be Dec. 16 when more than 600 million pieces of mail are expected to be processed with 6 million customers expected to visit Post Offices nationwide.
The deadline is today for APO/FPO Military Priority Mail and First-Class Mail and Priority Mail Express International, according to the USPS.
Fetterly said: "It is a deadline, but we like to call it 'recommendations' because we continue to process the mail if customers drop it off through the holidays. But, since everybody is busy, we like to recommend dates so that we can keep track of everything and everything gets delivered to its intended recipient on time."
The busiest delivery day for mail will be Dec. 18 and the busiest delivery day for packages will be Dec. 19, according to USPS projections.
The U.S. Postal Service expects to process 545 million pieces of mail every day throughout this holiday season; totaling nearly 15 billion pieces of mail to be delivered between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
Following are the upcoming U.S. Postal Service holiday deadlines:
Dec. 14 - Standard Post
Dec. 16 - Global Express Guaranteed
Dec. 17 - Priority Mail Express Military Service
Dec. 20 - First-Class Mail
Dec. 21 - Priority Mail
Dec. 23 - Priority Mail Express
United Parcel Service reports that it will operate with its normal pickup and delivery service on Dec. 23, which is the last day to ship UPS Next Day Air packages in time for Christmas (delivered on Tuesday, Dec. 24).