ANYONE posting Christmas cards and presents to loved ones this year is being advised of the best ways to make sure their offerings reach their destination on time.
With more than 2.1 billion items sent through the post over the festive period, people are advised to get their cards and gifts sent early, and to make sure they are labelled and packaged correctly.
This year is likely to be one of the busiest ever for the Post Office, with the increasing popularity of Internet shopping likely to account for more than 10m packages sent out by mail - with a total value of more than £2billion. And, despite the explosion in text messaging and e-mailing, the Post Office says the new technology has not replaced the popularity of sending Christmas cards - in fact, they predict more than 700m cards will be sent and received in Britain this year!
And you still have plenty of time to get writing all those Christmas greetings as the last recommended posting date for second class mail within Britain is Thursday, December 18, while first class mail should be posted by Saturday, December 20.
And if you are sending presents through the post, the Post Office has issued a set of guidelines to make sure your parcel arrives at its destination in pristine condition: Use a padded bag or box to protect the contents - paper wrappings don't always provide adequate protection. Make sure the box or bag is big enough to allow for plenty of cushioning material around the contents. Newspapers rolled into pads are useful for cushioning. When packing several items into one box, particularly fragile goods, make sure they are separated from each other by at least 50mm of cushioning material. Clearly mark any package containing breakable items with the world 'fragile'. 'Unbreakable' presents such as clothing can still be spoiled in the post if not adequately protected. Wrap these items in corrugated paper followed by strong brown paper, sealed with strong self adhesive tape. Make sure all boxes are sealed tightly and remember that the larger and heavier your parcel, the wider and stronger your sticky tape needs to be. Remember to address your packages and cards carefully. The addressee's post town should be written in capitals as should the postcode. If you are not sure of the person's postcode, you can find out by visiting www.royalmail.com, or calling 0906 302 1222.
It is also advisable to put a separate label showing both the sender's and the recipient's address inside the parcel. Perishable items must be packed so that no grease, oil, or other liquid can leak out and the parcel should clearly be labelled 'perishable'. When sending CDs, DVDs and video tapes, padded bags are not always the most suitable packaging. For particularly valuable items, or where it is essential that the tape is not erased, it is recommended that a box large enough to allow a minimum of 100mm of soft packaging all round is used. If you're posting presents abroad, check if there are any restrictions on the gift you are sending - for example, you cannot send alcohol to Canada. Check the 'country information' on the Parcelforce Worldwide services guide at www.parcelforce.com for details on all 239 countries served.