This is how much postage costs - and last posting date before Christmas 2020

Although you will be able to meet with some of your nearest and dearest over the the Christmas period, you will still be restricted by how many people you can enjoy celebrations with.

For those you sadly won’t be able to visit this year, you may be considering having a gift delivered.

If you want to ensure your seasons greetings reach your friends and family before 25 December, here is what you need to know about postage and deliveries.

How much are 1st and 2nd class stamps?

In 2020, a standard 1st class stamp costs 76p, up 6p from 2019.

A 2nd class stamp will set you back 65p, only 4p up from last year.

A letter weighing up to 100g and 0.5cm thick can be sent using one of the two stamps, but anything larger incurs a greater cost.

Both stamps come with a compensation of up to £20.

Firstclass items should be delivered the next working day - including Saturdays. Items sent 2nd class are delivered between 2-3 working days.

How much do parcels and larger cards or letters cost?

Larger letters will cost anything from 88p to £2.95 depending on their weight and stamp, none of which can be thicker than 2.5cm thick.

A second class 100g letter is the cheapest, whereas a 750g 1st class postage will set you back the most.

Calendars which are flat and no larger than 35.3cm long and 25cm wide can also be sent using this option.

Parcels range greatly in price, from £3.10 for a small parcel up to 1kg to £33.40 for a medium parcel of 20kg sent first class.

Small parcels can be a maximum of 2kg and measure 45cm long x 35cm wide X 16cm thick.

If your parcel is less than 2kg but has larger dimensions, it will be classed as a medium parcel and charged accordingly.

Medium parcels must be below 20kg and measure 46cm wide x 46cm thick.

Prices vary across margins of 1kg, 2kg, 5kg, 10kg, and 20kg maximums.

For anything larger than 20kg and 46cm by 46cm, you will need to send it via ParcelForce Worldwide (up to a maximum of 30kg and maximum size of 2.5m and 5m length and girth combined).

Find all the prices of parcels on the Royal Mail website.

Does the shape of my parcel matter?

Cylinders and tubes - usually containing blueprints, signs, banners, posters, artwork, pencils, fragile items and paintings - are charged separately than standard boxed items.

Cylinders must have a maximum length of 90 cm and the item plus twice the diameter must not exceed 104cm.

If the measurements do not exceed 104cm and the parcel weighs less than 20kg, it is accepted as a medium parcel and priced accordingly - this usually works out cheaper.

The benefit of using a cardboard mailing cylinder is they are sturdier and the design is dense, thick and strong.

When should I send my parcels and cards?

The Royal Mail has recommended the latest you should send parcels are:

- Friday, December 18 for second class mail

- Monday, December 21 for first class mail

- Wednesday, December 23 for special delivery

No parcels will be delivered or collected from 25-28 December, as well as New Year's Day,

In Scotland, 4 January will also be a bank holiday and no services will be provided.

Will I know when my parcels have been delivered?

To ensure your loved ones receive their gifts safely and securely, you can check online to see if your parcels have been delivered, or if attempts have been made to deliver your parcel.

You can track your parcel online when you post at a Post Office branch.

Royal Mail does not offer a tracking system, but you will be notified when your parcel has reached its destination.