Get Ready, Get Set, Mail!

Monday was expected to be the busiest mailing day of the year, as many Americans spent the weekend addressing Christmas cards and packages.

There are ways to lessen the pain, reports's Lloyd de Vries.

One way to save time is to have your mail ready to go before you get to the post office, wrapped securely with tape, no strings attached.

Postal Service Chief Operating Officer Pat Donahoe advises going during off-hours.

"It might be a good idea if you can get there in the mid-morning or the mid-afternoon to avoid the lunch crowd and the after-work crowd," he said.

If all you need is stamps, said Donahoe, you don't even need to go to a post office: There are 60,000 other outlets in which to buy stamps.

"We've got stamps in supermarkets, drugstores, convenience stores," he said. "You can get stamps in over 17,000 ATMs."

You can also look up rates and zip codes on the Internet, at, rather than going to a post office. Proper addresses are important; so is good packaging.

"If you use a strong box, tape it up and address it correctly, that puts you in real good shape," Donahoe said.

Just don't use string: It may catch in the postal equipment. Just in case your package is damaged, "put your name and address on a card inside the package itself," said Donahoe.

In case you're not ready to send your gifts today, Donahoe said the Postal Service can play Santa for you, using its Express Mail service.

"On Dec. 21, we can accept packages that would be going across the country for delivery on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day," he said. The USPS overnight service is the only one that will deliver on Christmas Day.

Some of postal people, in fact, will be dressed up as Santa.

By Lloyd de Vries