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How Long Does Snail Mail Take to Arrive?

How Long Does Snail Mail Take to Arrive?

How Long Does Snail Mail Take to Arrive?


Snail mail is a term coined to describe what might seem an old-fashioned way of sending mail. Most people use e-mail or text messages to communicate with friends and family members today. But what if you want something more personal? Snail mail is still an option! 

 Once you've finished writing your handwritten letter to your friend, colleague, or loved one, you're likely headed to the mailbox to send it out. However, do you have any idea how long it will take for your snail mail to arrive after being sent out? The answer may surprise you! In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about snail mail and how long it will take to arrive.

SEE ALSO:  Simply Noted Makes Snail Mail Easy

Why Is Snail Mail So Popular?

While sending out snail mail these days may seem antiquated, most people actually prefer this type of communication. There's something special about receiving a handwritten letter or card via the US Postal Service that cannot be replicated electronically! It's not only personable but stands out more than an email or a text message.  

 Plus, snail mail is relatively inexpensive compared to other forms of communication like using SMS messaging through cell phone plans or purchasing calling cards. Stamps only costs $0.58, making it inexpensive to send a letter. 

 A handwritten card will show that you put in extra effort and consideration when sending a message, which may mean more to your loved one than if they received an email. If you're looking for a unique way to catch the attention of family, friends, or potential clients, this is the perfect method. Mail is easy to send and economical.

SEE ALSO:  5 Ways to Use Snail Mail

A woman pulling a letter out of an envelope.

How Long Will My Letter Take To Reach Its Destination?

Mail delivery times are complicated. The amount of time your letter will take to reach its final destination is metered by the way you send it and environmental factors outside of your control. Typically, mail will take anywhere between two to five business days for First-Class Mail service, according to the U.S. Postal Service. Priority mail express service shaves two days off of that time. If you choose standard mail services, you might be looking at upwards of 18 days, depending on the location you're sending mail to! However, the following factors can influence or change the delivery date, including:

The Type of Mail You Choose to Send

The type of service you choose has a lot of influence on your delivery time. If you need your delivery to get there quickly, choose express service. This guarantees next-day delivery, even on Saturdays. Priority Mail is the next service level down. You can expect service between one and three days. The budget-conscious and those who can afford to wait will be happy with standard first-class service, which generally delivers within two to five days.


Depending on the season, weather conditions such as heavy rains, snow, and hurricanes can cause your letter to arrive later than the standard time it takes your mail to be delivered.

Length Of Trip

The further away you send a letter, the longer it will take for delivery unless you've chosen a faster type of delivery service. We’ll learn about ZIP codes in a moment. The greater the distance between ZIP codes, the longer it will take. If you're sending snail mail across the country, don't expect to receive the item immediately!

Human Error

If you make any errors in the address, postage, or other pertinent information, your mail may be delayed or sent back to the original address. This is why it's essential to make sure each letter includes your name and return address, the recipient's name, and address, along with the proper postage.


Every holiday season, the post office receives a higher volume of mail, including Christmas cards, toys, and care packages, along with regular mail items. Unfortunately, this means that there is typically a delay in how long it will take your card to arrive at its destination. So if you're looking to send snail mail during Christmas, it's best to send it two to three weeks before the actual holiday! Remember that postal delivery times can change based on the time of year.

SEE ALSO:  You Should Be Collecting Physical Customer Addresses. Here’s Why and How

Close up of a residential mailbox.


Most of us are familiar with ZIP codes. The five numbers (in reality, nine in the ZIP+4) at the end of your address is the ZIP, which stands for Zone Improvement Plan. The codes represent a specific geographic area and help the postal service route mail efficiently. You start with the first digit, a stand-in for a block of states, as seen below.

  • 0 = Connecticut (CT), Massachusetts (MA), Maine (ME), New Hampshire (NH), New Jersey (NJ), New York (NY, Fishers Island only), Puerto Rico (PR), Rhode Island (RI), Vermont (VT), Virgin Islands (VI), Army Post Office Europe, Central Asia, and the Middle East (APO AE); Fleet Post Office Europe and the Middle East (FPO AE) 
  •  1 = Delaware (DE), New York (NY), Pennsylvania (PA) 
  •  2 = District of Columbia (DC), Maryland (MD), North Carolina (NC), South Carolina (SC), Virginia (VA), West Virginia (WV) 
  •  3 = Alabama (AL), Florida (FL), Georgia (GA), Mississippi (MS), Tennessee (TN), Army Post Office Americas (APO AA), Fleet Post Office Americas (FPO AA) 
  •  4 = Indiana (IN), Kentucky (KY), Michigan (MI), Ohio (OH) 
  •  5 = Iowa (IA), Minnesota (MN), Montana (MT), North Dakota (ND), South Dakota (SD), Wisconsin (WI) 
  •  6 = Illinois (IL), Kansas (KS), Missouri (MO), Nebraska (NE) 
  •  7 = Arkansas (AR), Louisiana (LA), Oklahoma (OK), Texas (TX) 
  •  8 = Arizona (AZ), Colorado (CO), Idaho (ID), New Mexico (NM), Nevada (NV), Utah (UT), Wyoming (WY) 
  •  9 = Alaska (AK), American Samoa (AS), California (CA), Guam (GU), Hawaii (HI), Marshall Islands (MH), Federated States of Micronesia (FM), Northern Mariana Islands (MP), Oregon (OR), Palau (PW), Washington (WA), Army Post Office Pacific (APO AP), Fleet Post Office Pacific (FPO AP)

The next two digits represent the sectional center facility that narrows the view to a specific state/region. The last two digits further funnel the mail to specific metropolitan or rural regions. 

 Take the ZIP Code of 47722 as an example. Checking the chart above, we see that the 4 could mean Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, or Ohio. To clarify, we look at the 77, which we learn is Vanderburgh County in Indiana. From there, we narrow our view down to the area around the University of Evansville with the 22.

What Is The Easiest Way To Get An Accurate Delivery Time?

One of the easiest ways to get accurate USPS delivery times estimates for your snail mail delivery is to use the Originating Service Standards Map, which USPS provides. This map will allow you to choose the type of service, mail class, the zip and city name of the recipient, as well as the originating zip code. 

 The Originating Service Standards Map will give you an accurate delivery time for your mail. If you have any deadlines, you'll want to use this map to make sure you choose the suitable mail class so you can send your letter out early enough. 

An image of a ZIP code map with the mail originating from New York.

The colored bands shown in the map above represent delivery zones. You can see we’ve told the map our mail originates from New York, NY. The area directly around New York is purple, meaning any destinations in that area will arrive in a maximum of two days. 

 The shaded green area is further from New York, and this added distance increases delivery times to three days. The blue area adds another day, increasing our maximum delivery time to four. And finally, for our friends out in California, on the other side of the country, we’re looking at a five-day window.

 It's important to remember that these are estimates. There is no guarantee that your delivery will be made at the exact date and time it suggests. There may sometimes be a delay due to the factors listed above. However, this does help you to decide how early you should send out your letters, especially if you're sending them for a specific holiday or celebration.

Tracking Your Snail Mail

If you're worried about your snail mail making it to its final destination, you're not alone. Enough people wanted to know the exact date and time that their mail would arrive at its destination, that the post office introduced Informed Delivery to all customers. As a result, you can not only leave detailed instructions for packages and track your delivery but also preview the front of incoming mail on your phone or computer. This demonstrates the post office's commitment to making improvements across the entire mailing process. 

 And if a delivery is missed, you can easily use the program to reschedule. This makes it simple to know how long it will take for your snail mail to arrive.

SEE ALSO:  When You Should Order Christmas Cards - Ultimate Guide

A lovely handwritten letter.

Write Beautiful Snail Mail Without The Hassle

Snail mail is an excellent way to stay in touch with loved ones. However, it can be hard to get your letter across the country without knowing if it will make its way there on time! To save yourself the stress, make sure to correctly calculate the distance it needs to go and choose the correct postage for your letters. 

 The best way to show you care is through a handwritten note. However, writing all of your messages by hand can be exhausting. At  Simply Noted, our handwriting machines use real ballpoint pens to create gorgeous handwritten cards, notes, and mailers without the hassle. 

 You can send birthday, thank you, and holiday cards, along with invitations and custom cards in the time it takes to create an email. And the result is far superior — a touching, handwritten card, lovingly created special for your recipient. No matter how large your mail volume is, we can help.

 Snail mail takes longer than email, yes. But you know what they say. Good things come to those who wait.

SEE ALSO:  How to Impact People With Handwritten Cards

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