The race to deliver holiday packages is on.

The U.S. Postal Service will deliver packages seven days a week, beginning Nov. 17 through the holidays, including Christmas Day. The expanded service, which is being offered in major cities and high-volume areas, will be offered at select Twin Cities post offices, but the dates, locations and whether it will include outstate offices hasn't been decided, Minnesota Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki said Thursday.

The expanded service is in response to an expected double-digit growth in the number of packages that need to be delivered during the holidays. With the increase in online purchasing and enhancements to its priority mail product line, the Postal Service expects to handle 450 million to 470 million packages — about 12 percent more than the same period last year.

"Every household in America relies on us to get their packages in time for the holidays, and we take great pride in taking on that responsibility," said Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe. "Football has its season. But the holidays? That's our season. That's crunch time for us, and year after year, we step up our game."

For those wanting to skip a visit to the post office, customers can go to the Postal Service's website at usps.com, where they can print shipping labels, order free priority mailing boxes, purchase postage and request free next-day package pickup.

Mary Lynn Smith