10 tips on shipping packages during the holiday season

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 3:12 AM

Deadlines For Sending Christmas Gifts To Military Members

Braving the crowds on Black Friday may be the easiest part of holiday shopping. Shipping packages to gift receivers around the country can be a huge challenge – both in getting the gifts there in one piece and in keeping your budget under control.

Here are 10 tips to help you ship your gifts:

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1. Buy something you can mail easily

This seems like you’re buying for you and not them, but odds are there is something on your recipient’s list that is easy to ship through the mail.

Even with the right packing precautions, it’s always safer to buy items you know can survive a bumpy trip through the mail. Apparel, shoes and most toys are a safe bet.

>> Start planning now for military holiday shipping deadlines

2. Know the rules

The United States Postal Service has restrictions on what can be shipped, both internationally and domestically. Some things, such as ammunition, are completely prohibited, while other things, such as nail polish and perfumes, have restrictions.

Find out more at usps.com/ship/shipping-restrictions.htm.

>> These are the best gift cards of the 2017 holiday season

3. Pay attention to the box

Make sure to use a new, sturdy box that’s a few inches larger than your gift on all sides to allow for plenty of packing materials. Using that box that’s been in the basement all year can result in your gifts cascading out at the wrong moment.

The Postal Service estimates that a crease can reduce a box’s strength by as much as 70 percent.

>> 10 tips for Black Friday shopping

4. Buy good packing material

The Postal Service suggests using higher-performing cushioning materials made of polyethylene or polyurethane. Basic polystyrene cushioning can endure only one impact.

Using stronger, but thinner cushioning is better because you can use a smaller box and save on shipping costs if the price is based on the package’s dimensions and weight.

Newspaper is not a great choice because it flattens, but it’s good for wrapping fragile items and separating them from other items in the box.

>> Oprah’s 2017 favorite things list is the ultimate holiday gift guide — Here are our 11 top picks

5. Shake it

You want your packing job to result in a tight fit. Use at least 1 inch of cushioning around the item—top, bottom and all four sides — to fill in any air spaces. There should be very little movement when you shake the box.

The key point is to keep the gift items as far away from the box’s walls as possible. When you have a very fragile item, use two boxes, and cushion around the inner box with at least 3 inches of packing peanuts.

>> Too much Christmas music is bad for your health

6. Know your deadlines

The holiday season is the busiest time of year for the Postal Service. These are the dates they recommend shipping items in the contiguous United States to make sure they arrive on time.

  • USPS Retail Ground: Dec. 14
  • First Class Mail: Dec. 19 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15)
  • Priority Mail: Dec. 20 (Alaska Dec. 20; Hawaii Dec. 15)
  • Priority Mail Express: Dec. 22 (Alaska Dec. 21; Hawaii Dec. 20)

For more information on shipping to the rest of the world, visit www.usps.com/holiday.

>> 7 tips for buying the best artificial Christmas tree this season

7. Flat-rate is your friend

FedEx, UPS and the Postal Service all offer flat-rate boxes, meaning that you can pack as much as you can into a box and ship it for one price. However, these do come with some limits – for example, UPS and the USPS only allows up to 70 pounds, while FedEx only allows 50 pounds.

>> PHOTOS: Rockefeller Center Plaza Christmas Tree arrives in New York

8. Look for deals

Do a little shopping around before you ship. Some places, such as PostNet stores, will help you compare shipping prices. You can also do this online at sites such as Shipgooder.com.

USPS, FedEx and UPS also have tools on their websites to estimate shipping costs.

>> 10 ways to save money during the holidays

9. Avoid missed packages

If you want to help your recipient avoid unwanted snooping from neighbors or children, consider sending the gift to their workplace. If it’s meant for kids, that’ll help keep it away from prying eyes. It will also help people from missing deliveries at home.

Keep your tracking numbers handy so you can pinpoint the package’s destination and lets its recipients know when to look out for it.

>> 10 holiday activities that don't have to involve eating

10. Consider insurance

Santa’s delivery service isn’t always perfect, so it’s worth considering insurance on whatever you’re shipping.

Ask your shipper about insurance or a declared-value option. The post office includes $100 of insurance in its Priority Mail Express shipping and offers options for declaring a higher value, for a fee.

If your package ends up being damaged in transit, but the shipping company determines that you packed it improperly, or did not follow proper packing procedures, they may have grounds to deny your claim.

WATCH: Girls perform adorable ditty to sell Girl Scout cookies

Published: Saturday, January 20, 2018 @ 3:20 PM

The History of Girl Scouts

Two young girls from New Hampshire are using their musical talents to sell Girl Scout cookies.

Lyla and Avery Holzapfel are 8 and 6 years-old. With the help of their parents, Brynne and Doug, they wrote a little ditty to make some sales, Boston25News reported.

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And it's taken off.

The video has several thousand views since it was posted on Tuesday. 

Doug Holzapfel, a composer and producer, tells Boston 25 his family of seven recently moved back to New Hampshire after spending some time in Los Angeles, Boston25News reported.

It appears creativity and talent runs in the family.

Flu virus spread by breathing, study finds

Published: Friday, January 19, 2018 @ 1:06 PM


Joe Raedle/Getty Images
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Most people believe that the influenza virus is spread through the coughs and sneezes of infected people, but new research published Thursday suggests that the flu virus is spread more easily than previously thought.

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Medical professionals believe that the virus is spread most often by “droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But researchers studying how the virus spreads recently found large amounts of the virus in the breath of people suffering from the flu, according to the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health.

>> Related: Influenza surveillance map: Where is the flu in my state? 

The researchers -- from the University of Maryland, San Jose State University, Missouri Western State University and the University of California, Berkeley -- published their findings Thursday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing,” said Donald Milton, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health and lead researcher for the study.

Milton and his team examined the virus content in the breath of 142 people who were diagnosed with flu as they were breathing normally, speaking, coughing and sneezing. Researchers found that a majority of those who participated in the study had enough of the infectious virus in just their regular, exhaled breath to possibly infect another person.

A review of the data collected from the coughs and sneezes of infected participants showed that neither action appeared to have a large impact on whether or not the virus was spread.

>> Related: 11 things parents need to know about the flu, the vaccine, how long kids need to stay out of school  

“People with flu generate infectious aerosols (tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time), even when they are not coughing and especially during the first days of illness,” Milton said.

The study’s authors said the results highlighted how necessary it is for people who have the flu to stay at home.

>> Related: What is the H3N2 flu and how bad is flu season this year? 

“The study findings suggest that keeping surfaces clean, washing our hands all the time, and avoiding people who are coughing does not provide complete protection from getting the flu,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San Jose State University. “Staying home and out of public spaces could make a difference in the spread of the influenza virus.”

<p>5 Reasons to get a Flu Shot</p>(Bryan Erdy/News | WHBQ)

High-salt diet could cause dementia, study finds

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 @ 11:49 AM

Research Shows High-Salt Diet May Cause Dementia

Consuming too much salt can be dangerous for your health. It can cause your blood pressure and cholesterol to skyrocket, but it might also cause memory loss, according to a new report

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Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York recently conducted an experiment, published in the Nature Neuroscience journal, to determine if salt was linked with memory loss.

To do so, the researchers observed mice, which were split into two groups. One group was given food containing 4 percent salt, and the other was fed food with 8 percent salt. The amounts represented an “8- to 16-fold increase in salt compared to a normal mouse diet” and was comparable to a high-salt diet for humans, scientists noted. 

>> On AJC.com: These 5 'healthy' foods may have more salt than you think 

After eight weeks, they examined the animals using magnetic resonance imaging, which captured photos of the anatomy and physiology of the brain. 

They discovered the high-salt diet reduced resting blood flow to the brain, causing dementia. They saw a 28 percent decrease in the blood flow in cortex and a 25 percent decrease in the hippocampus, which are two areas of the brain associated with learning and memory. 

Analysts also administered a recognition test, and the mice that consumed more salt performed significantly worse, compared to the mice on a regular diet. Mice with salty diets spent less time building nests and gathering materials. This was the case even for mice that had healthy blood pressure levels. 

>> Related: These are the best diets for 2018

“We discovered that mice fed a high-salt diet developed dementia even when blood pressure did not rise,” senior author Costantino Iadecola said in a statement. “This was surprising since, in humans, the deleterious effects of salt on cognition were attributed to hypertension.”

Why is that?

The researchers discovered that the high-salt diet prompted an immune response in the gut, which increased a protein called interleukin 17. Its job is to regulate immune and inflammatory responses. But high levels of interleukin 17 can cause a reduction in the production of nitric oxide, which affects brain functions. 

>> On AJC.com: Here’s what we always get wrong about salt 

Luckily, the scientists revealed they were able to reverse the immune signals by discontinuing the high-salt diets and prescribing drugs to lower the interleukin 17 levels.

Scientists now hope to continue their investigations by further exploring interleukin 17 and other ailments associated with it.

They said their findings may be able to “benefit people with diseases and conditions associated with elevated IL-17 levels, such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and other autoimmune diseases.”

Study says people would rather hang out with their dogs than friends

Published: Wednesday, January 17, 2018 @ 4:00 PM

What Your Dog Is Really Trying To Tell You With Those Heart-Melting Eyes

A new study says that most dog owners would rather spend time with their pup than their friends.

Fox News reported that a study of 2,000 dog owners conducted by smart dog collar company Link AKC says more than half prefer their pet over pals. Owners said they sometimes skip out on social events to be with their dog.

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Eighty-one percent of those surveyed said they spoke to their dog like they would a friend. Single dog owners were twice as likely to talk to their pet about relationship problems. Eighty percent of owners said it’s a deal breaker if their partner didn’t like their dog.

The study found that six in 10 pet owners said their dog takes care of them in some way, with many saying their pet helped them get through a breakup or death of a loved one. 

One study says many dog owners will sometimes skip on social outings with friends to be with their pet.(Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for PetHero)

Sixty-two percent of the pet owners surveyed said their dogs helped get them out the house at least twice a day for a walk and more than two-thirds said their dog helps them exercise more regularly.

“The physical benefits of dog ownership are often the first that come to mind, but we’ve found the emotional and mental health benefits of having a furry companion are just as impactful,” Link AKC chief marketing officer Herbie Calves told Fox News. “People consider their dogs members of their family and are looking for ways to connect and interact with them on a deeper level.”

The survey supports Calves’ claim. Fifty-five percent say unconditional love and constant companionship is among the biggest benefit of dog ownership.

“Dog ownership is a great responsibility but also comes with great physical, emotional and mental benefits,” Calves said.