‘Tis the season to be mailing.

The U.S. Postal Service’s Pekin branch stands ready to handle its share of an expected 850 million Christmas packages mailed through the service nationwide, 10 percent more than last holiday season.

Customer traffic will likely turn heavy at the branch beginning Dec. 11, two weeks before the holiday, Pekin Postmaster Eric Anske said Wednesday. That also is the recommended deadline for mailing packages to military members overseas.

Anyone still deciding what to give for the holiday, as well as how to send it, can find answers at the branch itself at 514 Broadway St., Anske said. “We’re kind of a one-stop shop” for packaging material and items including gift and greeting cards, he said.

Mailing boxes are available “for a nominal cost” at the branch, and free in several sizes if the mailer chooses to ship at a flat rate fee of $8.95.

The USPS will not accept packages weighing more than 70 pounds, Anske said.

Stamped envelopes and packages weighing less than 13 ounces can be mailed through a delivery box. Anything heavier, except packages bearing electronic postage, must be brought to the post office, Anske said. The latter can be left for pickup by mailmen.

Anske and the postal service have listed other mailing deadlines, and offer advice on how to send holiday gifts.

Mailing Deadlines
• Dec. 11 – Overseas military via Priority and First Class mail
• Dec. 14 – USPS retail ground
• Dec. 16 – Overseas military via Priority Mail Express
• Dec. 19 – First Class Mail (including greeting cards)
• Dec. 20 – Priority Mail
• Dec. 22 – Priority Mail Express
Additional information can be found online at www.usps.com/holidaynews

How to package
• Pick the right-sized box. If items move inside, they could be damaged or broken. Wrap each item individually, and use materials such as crumpled newspaper or bubble wrap to ensure they’re packed securely.
• Separately pack batteries used for toys and other electronic items.
• If a box is being re-used, strip off old labels and cover any previous address or bar code. Check the box’s bottom flap for the maker’s certificate that states the maximum weight the box can bear.
• Legibly print both the address and return address on the top of the box, and place a paper with return address inside the box in case that information becomes defaced and the box must be opened.
• Use only packing tape to reinforce the box. That should be done by using the “H” method, in which all seams are taped, creating an “H” pattern on the box’s top and bottom.

Items the USPS will not ship
• Any material that is illegal under federal or state laws or those of the country where the package is being directed.
• Handguns or other firearms that can be concealed, whether assembled or disassembled, and live ammunition. Exceptions apply in cases of firearm dealership deliveries.
• Alcoholic beverages with an alcohol content of 0.5 percent by weight or greater.
• Tobacco products. Some exceptions apply.
• Gasoline, explosives and fireworks. Also, tear gas, pepper spray and other chemical irritants.
• Narcotics and controlled substances, unless special authorization is granted.
More details of what items will be accepted on limited bases can be obtained at the local post office or online at www.usps.com.

Follow Michael Smothers at Twitter.com/msmotherspekin