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How to Ship a Package: Everything You Need to Know

Wrap it Right: Packaging Tips for Sending Items to the Caribbean

Enid Cordero of Marlborough, MA - How to ship a package

SSA Enid Cordero of Marlborough, MA Post Office

Families and friends of victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria heavily relied upon the U.S. Postal Service® to ship items to the Caribbean before the disasters; now they are looking to USPS® even more.

With packages being shipped thousands of miles to the Caribbean, some were received damaged due to improper packing or were too heavy for the packaging and broke open. “You have to take into account the size and condition of the box and how much you put it in,” says Marlborough, MA Retail Associate Enid Cordero, who is originally from Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. She cautions that “just one piece of tape will not hold a box together.”

The helpful video “How to Pack a Box” can be viewed on USPS TV. In addition, even though there may not be a problem when sending lighter-weight items like diapers, consider the following tips on how to ship a package if sending canned goods or heavier items such as rice and beans across the miles.

Essential Packaging Tips

How can you tell if your box is strong enough for what it will carry inside?

First, to make sure your item is not hazardous and can be shipped, check the Shipping Restrictions on Otherwise, some clues that the load might be too heavy: if you can’t carry the box or it starts to rip at the corners, then you’ll need to reduce its weight or find a stronger replacement.

Even though it seems like the perfect size, a box that, for example, contained copier paper would be too light of a box for a heavier load.

Remember to load heavier items in smaller boxes.

If items don’t fit, do not try to reshape the box as this will weaken it.

Where can I get good quality boxes?

You can order Priority Mail Flat Rate® Boxes from The Postal Store® for USPS shipping for free. Regular boxes can also be purchased from retail companies. Boxes that are reused tend to be less sturdy so it is best to not re-use one from a supermarket or use one leftover from a friend’s recent move. If you do use an old box, remember to obliterate the barcodes, shipping information, and other markings with a thick, black marker.

Guide to Shipping Box Dimensions and More

Size restraints - How to ship a package

What are weight restrictions for packages?

A package must weigh less than 70 pounds and in most cases measure no more than 108 inches in length and girth combined. To calculate girth, measure the distance around the thickest part of the package. There is an exception for USPS Retail Ground® products, which may not measure more than 130 inches in length and girth combined.

What about the size of a box?

This can be tricky. You want a box bigger than the items contained within it, so you can cushion them as they are being shipped. But if there’s too much empty space inside, contents tend to shift around. Movement inside the box can weaken it.

What kind of cushioning can I use?

Ready Post® bubble wrap packaging material, clothes, clean rags, bedding, newspaper, towels. Perhaps even plastic grocery bags; you may need a lot of them. Not to worry, though, since they don’t add much weight to the package.

Additional Considerations

So if I have a good box and it’s adequately cushioned, is it all set to ship?

Almost. Cover the seams with 2-inch wide packing tape for reinforcement. Transparent tape, duct tape or masking tape, as they do not provide sufficient support. Do not use cord, string, or twine because it gets caught in mail processing equipment.

Proper tape method- How to ship a package

What else is important?

Fill out a second label (you can use an index card or a piece of paper) with the recipient’s address and your return address to put inside the package — just in case the outer label becomes unreadable.

For additional information on how to ship a package, go to the Postal Service’s website, in English or in Spanish. Other USPS blog posts with even more specific tips are: “This year, graduate to being a smart mailer” and “Everything you need to know about how to send mail.”

USPS employees want to see all mail processed and delivered quickly to your loved ones. Our letter carriers in the Caribbean are working hard to bring important supplies to those in need. The Postal Service™ encourages senders to go over these guidelines as a refresher for shipping your items. Take extra care in the preparation to know that the package will be well received by your family or friends as it arrives intact.

For the Spanish version of this post, click here.


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