Imagine safely packing and shipping a pink flamingo fully wired with Christmas lights, a stuffed pheasant dressed as Santa or a could-crumble-at-any-second gingerbread house. For the seasoned packers behind the counters at The UPS Store®, handling and transporting oddly shaped parcels like these is no strange feat.

Sandy Baker and Karen Baird, Certified Packing Experts at The UPS Store’s headquarters in San Diego, share five key insights for ensuring your holiday packages – no matter the shape or size – arrive safe and sound.

1. Use the right box, and make sure it is fresh. Use a corrugated box customized to the size and weight of your package.

“Reused boxes lose strength, especially at the corners, and are even more vulnerable if they get wet in the rain or snow,” Baker says. The UPS Store recommends purchasing shipping boxes rather than obtaining moving boxes like those from truck rental businesses, as they are not as durable.

2. Leave space around what you are shipping. Ideally, packers should aim for at least 2 inches of space around the item being shipped on all sides and filling void with packing materials such as packing peanuts or air pillows on all six sides of the box, Baird says.

To protect fragile items, consider double-boxing (still aiming for a 2-inch void fill, adding corner blocks between the double-boxing to absorb the shock) and using 2-3 inches of bubble wrap around the item, especially if several items are going in the same box. Ensure you are not stacking heavier items on top of lightweight, fragile items when shipping more than one item in the same box.

3. Use the right packaging tape. Three-inch-wide shipping tape is optimal, applied in an “H” pattern to the top and bottom and covering all open seams, Baker says. “Some customers come in with masking tape, duct tape, Scotch tape or even string. That won’t do the job because it won’t hold well enough, and you want your item arriving safely to its destination.”

4. Repackage electronics. If you’re shipping electronics, whether a flat-screen TV, a tablet or a smartphone, always repackage it.

“The packages that electronic devices arrive in at the retail store are too thin and flimsy, and are not considered safe to ship your product,” says Baker. “And you need to be aware of the new regulations that cover shipping lithium batteries.”

5. Take extra care with perishables. Chocolate, fruit and other perishables should be shipped in a polystyrene cooler with dry ice inside a standard-size corrugated box, according to Baird. In addition, packers should mark the outside of the box “Dry Ice,” with the dry ice’s weight and the type of contents.

“We recommend shipping by air to arrive during the week so that your shipment does not get held up over the weekend,” Baird says.

Additional help

For more holiday packing and shipping tips, visit The UPS Store YouTube channel for a series of helpful videos that provide the do’s and don’ts of holiday packing and shipping, crucial ship-by dates and suggestions for shipping gifts ahead of holiday travel.

To learn more about The UPS Store or find a nearby location, click here. For details on The UPS Store comprehensive Pack & Ship Guarantee, click here. In addition, make sure to read these detailed packaging guidelines to ensure your package arrives safely.