If you want your overseas gifts to arrive in time for Christmas, last airmail posting dates from Royal Mail standard service are nearly upon us. Last dates range from next Tuesday, 5 December, for Australia (2 kilo pounds 18.23) and USA (2 kilo pounds 15.26) to 12 December for France (2 kilo pounds 7.37). For a supplement of pounds 2.70 you can gain an extra day or two with Royal Mail's Swift Air which speeds up the amount of time it will take your parcel to get to the airport in this country, extending the deadline for USA to 6 December and Australia to 8 December.

However, don't worry if you miss these dates - if you're prepared to pay a lot more there is a wide range of alternatives. Parcel Force's International Datapost offers express delivery to the USA in one working day (2 kilo pounds 35.95), Australia in four working days (2 kilo pounds 42.25) and France one working day (2 kilo pounds 31.55). Parcel Force advises customers to allow an extra day over the Christmas period.

Securicor Omega Express (0345 200345) gave us the following door-to-door quotations for a 2 kilo parcel (excluding local import duties): London to Los Angeles, USA pounds 33.15, with the package delivered the next working day; London to Sydney, Australia pounds 50, within 2 working days; London to Paris pounds 20, delivered next working day. They advise checking with their office in advance on local shut-downs and advice on documentation.

TNT (0800 776333) gave us these prices for their fastest service for a 2 kilo package. Anywhere in Britain to Los Angeles pounds 43.05, last pick up date is 20 December for delivery on 21 or 22 December. To Sydney, pounds 47.40, last pick up date 19 December for delivery on 21 or 22 December and to Paris pounds 32.85, last pick up date 21 December for delivery on 22 December.