What Does In Transit Mean USPS? (Explained)

Miami, USA - August 6 2019: USPS car parked at the building


If you keep an eye on your tracking with USPS, you may sometimes see an update that states the package is in transit.

If you’ve never seen that status before, you may be unsure what it means.

Here’s what you need to know about what it means for a package to be in transit.


What Does In Transit Mean USPS?

Delivery person carrying parcel box to send to customer


In transit means that the package is currently working its way through the USPS logistic chain.

It might mean the package is heading to another sorting or distribution center.

It might mean that the package is heading to a post office.

It usually doesn’t mean that it’s heading to your door.

When the package is heading to your door, the USPS will usually switch from in transit to out for delivery.

As such, if you see that your package is currently in transit, it’s still coming to your area.


How Long Does A Package Stay In Transit?

Delivery man with cardboard box


The length of time your package remains in transit depends on the type of service you purchased.

The USPS has different delivery times based on its priority.

If you want something to arrive soon, you usually purchase a more expensive stamp or envelope to get it delivered quickly.

If you don’t care how long it arrives, you likely use standard mail.

Here are the different mail classes and how long you can expect your mail or package to remain in transit with them.


1. Priority Mail Express

Woman signing parcel delivery papers


The fastest way to get mail or packages delivered somewhere is with Priority Mail Express.

It’s also one of the more expensive methods.

However, if you choose Priority Mail Express as the shipping method for your item, you can expect the package to only be in transit for a day or two.

That’s because USPS tries its best to deliver Priority Mail Express packages in one or two days.

Since out for delivery doesn’t count as being in transit, you might be able to knock off a day from the total time.

For example, if a package takes two days to arrive at its destination, then it may remain in transit for the first day

At the end of the first day, it might arrive at the post office in the area for its final destination.

On the second day, the package gets sorted into the mail trucks.

It’s no longer technically in transit.

Instead, it’s out for delivery because the mail carrier is delivering the package to the address.

As such, Priority Mail Express only spent a day in transit.

It might even be shorter than that.

If the distributor is close to the person who bought the product, the package may only spend a few hours in transit.

Then it might arrive at the post office.

The post office will then hand the package off to a mail carrier who can deliver it either the same day or the next day.

Priority Mail Express sees one of the shortest in-transit times because it’s supposed to be a fast method of shipping.

People pay extra for the service to get their mail and packages to their destinations as soon as possible.


2. Priority Mail

USPS Priority Mail Regional Rate Box


A step just below Priority Mail Express is Priority Mail.

While Priority Mail Express has a guarantee to arrive at its destination within a day or two, that isn’t the case with Priority Mail.

When you choose Priority Mail as your method of shipping, your package might arrive anywhere from the next day to three days after it gets shipped.

That isn’t guaranteed, however, so it may take a day or two more than three days.

However, the USPS does its best to get Priority Mail packages delivered within three days, at least.

That said, you can expect the package to remain in transit for anywhere from one to two days.

If the Priority Mail delivery is running late, then it might remain in transit for an additional day or two.

It stays in transit until it reaches your local post office.

It only switches to out for delivery when it’s on a mail truck and heading for your address.

As such, if you order something with Priority Mail, you can expect it to head your way for anywhere from one day to three days.


3. First-Class Mail And First-Class Package Service



If you’re expecting mail, then one shipping method you might see is First-Class Mail.

If you’re buying something that’s going to come in a package, you might see First-Class Package Service.

Both of these are similar services in that they offer about the same delivery dates.

They only differ based on the material that they’re carrying.

First-Class Mail covers all things related to mail and envelopes.

First-Class Package Service covers all things related to packages.

Both of them have delivery ranges spanning from one day to five days.

Those delivery dates aren’t guaranteed either.

That means it may take longer than five days to arrive.

That said, if you’re ordering something and you choose First-Class Mail or First-Class Package Service, your mail or package might remain in transit for anywhere from one to five days.

If something happens that delays the delivery, it may remain in transit for a few more days.

Once the mail or package arrives at your local post office, it is no longer in transit.


4. USPS Retail Ground

Delivery man holding cardboard packages with qr codes


If the shipping method you used for your package is USPS Retail Ground, you can expect it to remain in transit a bit longer.

Ground travel is a lot slower than air travel.

USPS trucks have to obey speed limits on highways.

They’re unable to travel as fast as an airplane.

Since it takes the truck driver longer to arrive at certain locations, they also have to rest more.

That adds even more time to the transit time.

As such, the in-transit time for USPS Retail Ground deliveries can be quite long.

In most cases, you can get a package or mail delivered through USPS Retail Ground for anywhere from two to five business days.

As such, at the very least, you can expect that the package or mail is going to be in transit for one day.

If it takes longer to arrive, the in-transit time might increase to two or five days.

Your package and mail are also not guaranteed for delivery between two and five days.

It may take longer.

The USPS considers the days as business days.

If a weekend falls during that time, your package or mail may not make any progress at all.

For example, a package that’s supposed to arrive in three days might end up arriving in six days if a weekend falls somewhere during that time.

Your transit time may not extend, however, since it isn’t technically in transit anymore.

There’s just no one working to continue its journey to you.

If you choose USPS Retail Ground as your shipping method, you can expect an in-transit time that lasts anywhere from a day to several days.


5. Parcel Select

Smiling delivery man in blue uniform delivering parcel box


Another service you might choose from the USPS is Parcel Select Ground or Parcel Select Lightweight.

Both of these shipping methods are similar.

Parcel Select Ground has an estimated delivery time of between two and five days.

As such, its in-transit time can be anywhere between a day to five days.

Parcel Select Lightweight has a bit longer expected delivery time.

If you choose this shipping method, your package might arrive between two days and eight days.

As such, the in-transit time for a Parcel Select Lightweight package might be one day or it might be as long as eight days.

Since the USPS also doesn’t guarantee delivery with these two services within that time frame, the transit time might take longer.


6. Package Services

Young mailman isolated in yellow


The USPS also offers a variety of different package services.

Some of them include:

  • Media Mail
  • Bound Printed Matter
  • Library Mail

If you’re expecting something from one of those services, you have an estimated delivery range of two to eight business days.

Since these services aren’t guaranteed, it may take longer than even eight days to arrive.

As such, the in-transit time may take anywhere from a single day to eight days.


7. Periodicals

Man reading newspaper at home


The USPS also has a certain range of delivery days assigned to periodicals.

If you’re expecting a periodical in the mail, it can take anywhere from three to nine business days to arrive.

Clearly, periodicals spend some time in transit.

At the very least, you can expect your periodical to spend two days in transit to your location.

At most, the periodical might spend nine or more days in transit.

That’s because they do not guarantee the delivery of the periodical within that time frame.

It may take longer to arrive.

If it does, its transit time might also take longer.


8. USPS Marketing Mail

Cropped view of man holding bright and yellow envelope


A final type of mail to consider is USPS marketing mail.

The USPS has an estimated delivery time of three to 10 business days.

Like with periodicals, you can expect your marketing mail to be in transit for at least two days.

At most, it might be in transit for 10 or more days.

Marketing mail has some of the longest transit times.


Does In Transit Mean The Package Is Moving?

Delivery man with cardboard box checking document list


If you see that your package is in transit, you may wonder if that means it’s moving.

That is sometimes an accurate assumption.

In most cases, a package that is in transit means that it is moving from one destination to the next.

It might be from one distribution center to another.

It might be from a distribution center to your local post office.

However, just because it says the package is in transit does not mean that it is always moving.

For example, if it’s night, then there’s a good chance that it’s no longer moving.

Unless it’s a priority package, it will sit on whatever truck or plane it’s on until the next day.

If it’s traveling by ground, there are also moments when the driver may need to stop for food or to fuel up on gas.

The package is still technically in transit, but it isn’t technically moving at that point.

As such, you may sometimes see that your package is in transit, but that doesn’t always mean that it’s moving.


Does In Transit Mean USPS Lost The Package?

Smartphone with the USPS logo on the screen.


You may have some concerns when you see that your package is in transit for a long period.

You might think that this means they lost the package.

When a package is in transit, it does not mean that the USPS lost it.

In most cases, it means that the package is heading to your location.

That said, if your package remains in transit for some time longer than its expected delivery date, there’s a chance that they might have lost it.

To determine if your package should have arrived, it’s worth knowing the type of package that it is.

For example, if it’s a Priority Mail Express package, then it should only take, at most, two days to arrive.

The USPS guarantees Priority Mail Express deliveries within two days.

However, if it’s something like a First-Class Package, it can take anywhere from a day to five business days to arrive.

Since USPS doesn’t guarantee delivery by the fifth day, it may take even longer.

They suggest waiting at least five days from the day it was first mailed.

If your package still hasn’t arrived by then, it’s worth contacting them or the seller to find out what’s going on.

In most cases, there may have been a delay which is why your package is still in transit.

In rare cases, it may be in transit because it’s lost.


Can You Pick Up A Package In Transit?



When your package is in transit, you may wonder if you can pick it up while it’s traveling.

That depends on its location.

You can make use of USPS’s services like Package Intercept to stop its movements.

When you use this service, USPS will hold your package for you.

You can then travel to the location where the package is and pick it up yourself.

That said, you probably don’t want to use the service if the package is still in a different state.

Otherwise, you’ll have to take a long trek to pick up your package.

You can also tell the USPS to hold your mail.

When the package arrives at the post office, they’ll hold onto it for you.

You’re then able to go to your local post office and pick it up yourself.

This skips the delivery portion of the transit.


What Is The Difference Between In Transit And Out For Delivery?

A USPS (United States Parcel Service) mail truck and postal carrier make a delivery.


If you watch your tracking enough, you may notice that sometimes your tracking information goes from in transit to out for delivery.

The difference between the two terms is slight.

When your package is in transit, it means that the package is on its way to various locations.

It is not on its way to your address.

When you see that the tracking states that the package is “out for delivery”, this means that a mail worker is delivering your package to your door or mailbox.

It’s no longer heading to a different location.

It’s coming to you.



One of the most common phrases you’ll see in tracking a package is that it’s in transit.

It means that the package is moving from one location to the next.

It can sometimes take several days of travel before the tracking updates to “out for delivery.”

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