Packaging 101 for holiday shippers

Long-stem wine glasses packaged properly.

UPS® Packaging Solutions teaches you how to pack shipments easily and effectively.

At UPS® Packaging Solutions, engineers drop, crush and shake thousands of test subject boxes to see how well the packaging holds up and protects the boxes' contents. So Quint Marini, the solution's packaging engineering manager, knows more than a few things about proper holiday packaging.

Share these top 10 tips for packaging shipments like a pro.

While shipping managers are already savvy to many of his tips, if you don't live and breathe shipping day in and day out, you may need a few pointers – and if you're like many of us, you're shipping something this holiday season. Here, Marini shares his top 10 tips for packing your holiday shipments.

1. Choose the right size box. Aim for 2 inches of space between your item and the box in every direction. Boxes smaller than that may not protect your item well, and bigger boxes may cost more to ship.

2. Use new boxes. A box can lose up to 50 percent of its strength after one shipping trip, risking damage to its contents.

3. Pack breakables tightly. If you're shipping, say, cookies or coffee mugs, pack them together as tightly as possible. First, protect each item individually, then bundle them together as a single unit so they aren't moving around inside your box.

4. Contain contents. Empty space inside your box leaves room for bouncing around. Put loose fill on the bottom of your box, add your item and surround the sides and top with loose fill. To keep your product even more secure, put fill in the bottom of the box, add a sheet of corrugated cardboard, then put your item on top of that.

5. Protect perishables. If your items are sensitive to heat, cold or humidity, pack them to withstand the elements. Ice packs, dry ice, Styrofoam sheets and silica gel packets can help your perishables stay fresh. Find out more about using dry ice.

6. Choose the right fill. Soy-based peanuts, wadded paper and shredded corrugated cardboard are good options. Steer clear of newspaper – it doesn't give much support.

7. Remove old labels. Extra labels on the package could increase the odds that the package is missorted.

8. Place the label on top of the box. Avoid placing it across a seam, which can sometimes shift and tear a label.

9. Tape the box the right way. Marini recommends taping the center seam and then the two side seams, so the strips of tape form an "H." Use the same method on the top and the bottom of the box. The H-style method helps keep your box aligned and maximizes its strength. Run your tape the full length of the seams to help prevent the flaps from popping out.

10. Use the right tape. Use 2- or 3-inch-wide pressure-sensitive plastic or nylon-reinforced tape. Leave the duct tape and masking tape for home-improvement projects.

Hey, there, shipping managers, have additional tips for occasional shippers? Tell us below.  


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