11 Innovative Tricks for Shipping Holiday Gifts More Efficiently

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Once you have the perfect holiday gifts for everyone on your list in hand, the real challenge begins—now you’ve got to deliver these treasures to them! Luckily, technology is making the process easier than ever by helping you save cash and skip the lines.

1. Summon the Shippers

Although the package delivery world is revolutionizing, the mainstays for shipping still run the show: UPS, FedEx, and the United States Postal Service. Each of these shippers allows you to print the necessary label and/or postage courtesy of its respective website, where you can also arrange for package pickup at your home.

2. Be the Life of the Third Party

If you’d rather not lock yourself into a single shipper, you might find a fit with a third-party service like PayPal, which many users cite as cheaper and even more efficient than UPS, FedEx, and USPS. One of PayPal’s chief benefits is its more navigable interface, which you can reach via the PayPal app.

3. Don’t Join the Pack

Of course, shipping the box is only half of the equation. First you have to pack it securely. Shyp can help with that. Once you plug all the necessary information into Shyp, you’re promised no more than a 20-minute wait before a representative is at your door, ready to pick up your item and send it anywhere in the world … in free packaging, no less.

4. Shop Around on Pricing

If you don’t already have a favorite shipping service and just want to find the lowest price, you can figure out which of the lot is right for you via one of the many shipping calculator apps, widgets, and websites like Freight Center or Freight Quote.

5. Tip the Scale

When you’re price shopping for shipping, a postal scale will assuredly come in handy. If you prefer, go the hi-tech route with a scale app that uses your phone to gauge a box’s weight. Among the most highly rated is the Digital Scale Pro. Just don’t weigh anything too heavy on your smartphone.

6. Hire Your Own Courier

There is one money-saver that cuts UPS, Fed Ex, and USPS out of the equation entirely: Regular people with free time. Barnacle, an organization of cross-country drivers, allows for the pickup and delivery of packages in accordance with a given route. When a particular package needs to travel a long way but isn’t in a huge hurry, you can communicate with a Barnacle driver to pick up and drop off said parcel. Although the arrangement is a little offbeat, accountability can be maintained via an app that tracks Barnacle’s drivers and the status of your packages.

7. Lock in a Flat Rate

One bonus of USPS is its flat rate option, which charges you a preset price (regardless of weight) depending on the size of box you choose to ship. The boxes themselves are free, so this is often a worthwhile endeavor.

8. Stop Buying Boxes

Another pro for USPS: The labels you purchase at the post office are opaque and easily removable. That means you can recycle shipping boxes without worrying about old mailing addresses fouling up a new delivery. A reused box saves you cash, a trip to the post office, and earns you points for being green.

9. Get Some Natural Padding

Along the same green lines, there are a handful of eco-friendly alternatives to Styrofoam packing peanuts. Natural resources like mushrooms and bamboo have found new use for their packing-friendly properties.

10. Improvise Your Own Packing Material

It’s unlikely that you’ll find bamboo just lying around the house, but old newspapers and magazines, junk mail, and unwanted yarn can double as packing material.

11. Stay on Track

Once your package is on its way, its whereabouts will inevitably become an obsession. As such, only the finest package tracking apps will do—although you can stick with your given shipping service’s respective app, you might be better off going with Slice, Parcel, or Package Tracker Pro for their universal tracking abilities and generally higher user ratings.

With techniques like these, your gifts will reach your friends and family quicker than ever. Soon, Intel® RealSense™ technologies like a 3D camera and immersive video chat will make it even easier to send them the best gift of all: Your face and voice. No postage required. Learn more here: intel.com.