Seven Gifts You Can't Send Through the Mail

One of the tragedies of the holidays is that it’s almost impossible to gather all of your loved ones together in one place to celebrate. There are going to be a few (or many) gifts that you won’t be able to deliver personally.

That means a trip to the Post Office. Unfortunately, not everything can be shipped, due to a combination of postal restrictions and various state laws.

If you’re thinking of shipping any of the following items as a gift this holiday season, be sure to check twice to make sure your carrier will accept the package and that the destination state allows its residents to receive what you’re sending.


If you were thinking of sending your favorite aunt a nice bottle of red wine, think again. Only select retailers carrying the proper permits can ship beer and wine to individuals. That means your best bet is to either order directly from a vineyard (presuming they’re equipped and licensed to handle the delivery) or gifting your loved one a beer or wine of the month membership and letting the club service handle the shipping.

Even then, however, you need to make sure the recipient’s state allows for the receipt of out-of-state alcohol. Many states have laws that strictly prohibit the transfer of alcohol across state lines.

Perishable foods

If it can spoil, the United States Postal Services does not want to ship it. Non-perishable foods are fine, but if your gift requires refrigeration to stay fresh, the USPS will not accept it. And don’t try to pack it with dry ice – that’s not allowed either.


If you want to send flowers, you’re better off leaving it to the professionals. Any sort of organic plant that has the potential to spoil, smell, or otherwise cause a threat to other packages will not be accepted. Additionally, foreign plants may pose a threat to the existing habitat, meaning there are likely local restrictions on what kind of plant life is allowed.

Lottery tickets

If you’ve got an uncle across the country who loves to play scratch tickets, be careful. As most lottery games are regulated by a local authority, there’s a good chance your uncle’s state may have restrictions in place that prohibit such games being transporting across state lines.


Perfumes that include alcohol are flammable, and you can’t ship anything flammable – at least not through the air. Ground transportation, however, is allowed for perfumes containing alcohol, so just keep in mind that if you’re sending perfume, it needs to be within the continental United States and it better not be a hurry.

Nail polish

Nail polish is also flammable. How flammable is it? That’s actually your responsibility to know. You’ll be expected to report the flashpoint and toxicity of the nail polish. Like perfume, USPS will ship it, but (depending on its flashpoint) you may be limited to ground transportation only.


Alright, I’m not sure which of your family members asked for cigarettes for Christmas, but they’re out of luck. You can’t ship cigarettes or smokeless tobacco products domestically or internationally. You can, however, ship cigars, but it’s a good idea to check the local regulations first, especially if you’re shipping them internationally.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

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