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The Post of Christmas Yet to Come

Christmas spirit is a marvellous thing, but it only goes so far. It can bring joy to the grumpiest souls, but it can’t influence postage laws or bend time. Fortunately, this guide will help you make sure your presents are sent on time and by the book.

Royal Mail Deadlines

If you want your parcels to arrive before advent calendars and stockings are emptied, make sure you don’t miss these dates!

For UK mail
How late you can afford to send your present depends on how much you’re willing to spend:
  • 2nd class deadline: 19th December
  • 1st class deadline: 21st December
  • Special Delivery deadline: 23rd December

The Royal Mail will make deliveries right up to Christmas Eve, but will then suspend services until the 29th!

Domestic parcel dimension and weight restrictions:
Type Length Width Depth Weight
45cm 35cm 35cm
61cm 46cm 46cm 20kg
For International mail
The same rule applies when sending parcels abroad, but the long distances can have a major effect on the time difference between surface and air mail options.
  • Economy Deadline: Australia 28th September
  • Standard Deadline: Australia 10th December
  • Economy Deadline: France 17th November
  • Standard Deadline: France 17th December

International parcels are restricted to having a height, width and depth no greater than 90cm and no side can be any more than 60cm in length.


The rules vary for different countries and companies, so always check before you send anything between nations. If you fall foul of any expectations your presents may not make it past the postman.
International restrictions

Sending any aerosols, from fancy deodorants to hairspray, via international mail is a strict no no.

In yet another example of Christmas Spirits not being unstoppable, strong alcohol (24% ABV and above) is also prohibited.

Batteries can only be sent if they are still sealed in their original packaging.

Customs declaration must be stuck to parcels sent anywhere outside of Europe, but some companies will take care of this themselves.

Addressing for European destinations

Many countries have different rules to the UK. For example, German address labels require postcodes before towns and house numbers after street names.
To prevent delays to any post sent to Spain, the province should always be put (in brackets) after the town name.
Write your addresses clearly and consider foreign translations! A Cambridge family’s presents didn’t arrive until February because they were sent to Cambodia after a French sorting office thought the address read Combodge, the French word for the Asian country.

Sending gifts back to the UK

If you’re sending gifts back to the UK from a non-EU country, customs charges may be applied.
If customs charges are incurred, an £8 Royal Mail handling fee will also be applied.
While not exactly in the spirit of things, gifts are liable for VAT if they are worth over £36 and, in some circumstances, customs duty will also be required.

Facts and Stats

Don’t underestimate the strain that Christmas has on the postal service. The quantity of post and probability of delays both reach their highest points during the holiday season.
The value of Christmas cards

£330m is the estimated value of the Christmas card singles and boxed markets, according to the GCA Greeting Card Market Report 2014
The amount of packages sent in December 2014
120 million parcels were delivered by the Royal Mail last year.
The number of people who got their presents late last year

31% of the respondents to a YouGov survey said they had delivery problems with online orders prior to Christmas last year. 45% of these said their orders never arrived or were later than expected.(Source: http://www.jda.com/view/press-release/nearly-one-in-three-british-online-christmas-shoppers-experienced-problems-with-orders/)
Delivery Backlogs
2 days: the amount of time one major UK supplier stopped making scheduled parcel collections last year due to a surge caused by Black Friday.

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