Christmas 2014 is still weeks away, but if you plan on mailing gifts or packages to friends and family there is very little time left to finalize purchases and get them to the post office, especially if your loved ones live overseas. The U.S. Postal Service's recommended deadline for first-class mail international and priority mail international was Tuesday. The deadline for priority mail express international is Dec. 10, but that service costs more. 

For those shipping domestically, there are still a few days left to ensure your gifts arrive on time. The recommended deadlines for standard post are Dec. 15 and Dec. 17 for global express guaranteed. Spending more on shipping buys you even more time. The recommended deadlines for first-class mail and priority mail is Dec. 20. Paying for priority mail express buys you until Dec. 23, but the Postal Service does not recommend shipping gifts any later. That means if you plan on waiting until Christmas Eve to send out your holiday packages, they probably won't arrive on time.

The U.S. Postal Service expects to ship 15.5 billion cards, letters and packages during the 2014 holiday season. “The key to holiday shipping is being prepared and starting early,” said U.S. Postal Service Consumer Advocate John Budzynski in a statement. “This is our season and we are ready to deliver. The Postal Service’s knowledgeable employees are here to help customers ensure their holiday packages are packed, tracked and delivered with ease.”

The best time to go to the post office is during the early morning, according to Linda Neill, a customer relations representative for the USPS. "I would just say have your packages ready to go and labeled and packaged well, and show up right away when your post office opens and avoid the rush that way," she told KKTV.

You can order shipping supplies on and have them delivered to your home for convenience. In addition to standard mailing boxes and packing items, post offices nationwide also offer special holiday-themed priority mail boxes when a plain mailing container just won't do.

If you are worried about last-minute packages, FedEx and UPS might be a better route. Both deliver overnight packages on Christmas Eve, but are closed on Dec. 25. UPS recommends against using old boxes to ship your gifts. It's holiday packaging tips claim a new or almost new corrugated cardboard box is a safer bet to protect your shipment.