Shipping deadlines nearing

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As if there isn't enough pressure to pick out and wrap gifts, shoppers also must mail packages and cards in time for the holidays.

Don't start sweating it yet -- there's still two weeks until the Christmas delivery deadline for regular mail and Priority Mail services.

n Steamboat Springs, 200 Lincoln Ave.: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday.

n Steamboat Springs, Sundance Plaza: 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday

n Hayden, 850 W. Jefferson Ave.: 8:45 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday

n Clark, 54185 Routt County Road 129: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday

n Oak Creek, 129 W. Main St.: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to noon Saturday (Saturday and Dec. 17 only)

n Phippsburg, 21595 Second Ave.: 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday

n Yampa, 261 Moffat Ave.: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4:45 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday

n Toponas, 33650 C.R. 5: 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to noon Friday and 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday

For more information about holiday shipping, go to www.usps.com>

Packages headed out of state must be mailed by Dec. 21, and packages to in-state destinations must go out by Dec. 22.

The Christmas delivery deadline to most overseas military and international destinations is Saturday and Monday, respectively.

Those willing to pay higher rates have a little more breathing room -- Christmas delivery by Express Mail is possible up to 1:30 p.m. Dec. 23 for domestic packages.

In general, it's best to get items out sooner than later, especially in Colorado, where bad weather can delay trucks and ground airplanes, Steamboat Springs Postmaster Frank Murphy said.

Another good reason to get a jumpstart on holiday shipping is to avoid lines at the post office. Steamboat Springs post offices expect Dec. 19 to 21 will be the busiest days for incoming and outgoing mail and packages.

"It starts to pick up this week, and it will really start getting busy next week building up to the 19th," Murphy said.

Starting next week, the average number of incoming packages to Steamboat likely will triple to about 1,800 a day -- which is why it's important postal customers pick up packages as soon as they receive notices.

"We do not have the space to store those parcels," Murphy said.

In addition to early mailing, there are other ways to avoid post office crowds.

Residents can prepare and mail packages from their homes or businesses using the Click-N-Ship service available on the U.S. Postal Service Web site, www.usps.com.

Also, other postal officials in Routt County say their smaller offices stay relatively quiet during the holidays.

"We have a lot of people from Steamboat come here," Oak Creek Postmaster Nancy Peckham said. "They can just stop in and mail something easy."

To avoid shipping problems, postmasters recommend customers use sturdy boxes and packaging tape and pad items with bubble wrap and newspaper.

Addresses should be clearly printed on one side of the box, and it's best to include a return address on the inside and outside of the package. There should be no other writing on the box.

Cookies and food items need to be sealed with protective wrapping, and batteries should be taken out of toys and electronics, Murphy said.

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