Published: Dec 17, 2012 11:45 AM EST

TAMPA, Fla.- Some Post Office locations in the Suncoast District are offering extended holiday hours.

The Postal Service website, www.usps.com, is open 24/7. Customers can mail packages using debit or credit cards and their packages will be picked up by their letter carrier free of charge.

Customers using the Postal Store online can purchase stamps, get holiday shipping information and holiday supplies. Nearly everything done at the Post Office can be done online.

The Postal Service wants customers to be aware of the following:

- Receive discounted shipping costs: Skip the trip to the Post Office by using Click-N-Ship on usps.com/holiday and receive up to a 16 percent discount off your shipping costs. Customers can print their own mailing labels with postage from the convenience of home or office. And by requesting Free Package Pickup online, customers can have the Postal Service pick up packages from homes and offices across the country. The service is free regardless of the number of packages being requested at usps.com/pickup/.

- Confirm addresses: Print addresses clearly in all CAPITAL LETTERS and be sure to include all address elements — apartment numbers, suite numbers and directional information for streets. For example: 123 S MAIN ST. or 12456 ELM ST. N. Include both “to” and “from” information on packages — and only on one side. Never guess a ZIP Code. Visit usps.com to find all ZIP Codes.

- Use a sturdy box: Select a box that is strong enough to protect the contents. Leave space for cushioning inside. Do not reuse mailing boxes — they weaken in the shipping process. Customers can purchase ReadyPost boxes at a local Post Office or at the Postal Store on usps.com. Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes and envelopes are free. And if you’re not sure — customers can use our convenient Flat Rate Boxes that come in a variety of sizes and once again are always free. Remember—“If it fits, it ships®,” for a low flat rate.

- Pack delicately: Cushion contents with shredded or rolled newspaper, bubble wrap or foam peanuts. Plain air-popped popcorn is also good for cushioning — it’s inexpensive and environmentally friendly. Pack contents tightly to avoid shifting during transit. Always use tape designed for shipping, such as pressure-sensitive tape, nylon-reinforced craft paper tape or glass-reinforced pressure-sensitive tape. Do not use wrapping paper, string, masking tape, duct tape or cellophane tape.

- Remove batteries and fragile items: Be sure to remove batteries from toys. Wrap and place them next to the toys in the mailing box. Customers should include the new batteries in the manufacturer’s packaging. And stuff glass and fragile, hollow items, like vases, with newspaper or packing material to avoid damage. When mailing framed photographs, take the glass out of the frame and wrap it separately.

- Mark your calendars: Last, but not least are the all-important mailing and shipping deadlines. Be sure to take note of the following mail-by dates to have your package arrive in time for the holidays.

Dec. 17 Global Express Guaranteed

Dec. 20 First-Class Mail

Dec. 21 Priority Mail

Dec. 22 Express Mail

The busiest mailing day for holiday cards/packages is Monday, Dec. 17, when more than 655 million pieces of mail are expected to be processed — compared to 538 on an average day. The busiest delivery day for letters will be Wednesday, Dec. 19 and the busiest day for packages will be Thursday, Dec. 20.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.