The Great Package Race, 2013

A student project sponsored by The Supply Chain & Logistics Institute, Georgia Institute of Technology

And they are off...!

This is the Holiday Edition of the Great Package Race and like many holidays it will be a stress test: We are sending our packages during the busiest few days of the year for package delivery. Our recipient is... Santa Claus, himself!

In November we received confirmation by email from “Cristina Elf and the Friday Elves” that Santa would receive our packages. On Friday 13 December, we sent four packages to the Jolly Old Elf himself, at Santa's Workshop Village, on the Arctic Circle, 8 kilometers north of Rovaniemi, Finland. The packages will be received and held for Santa at Santa Claus' Main Post Office, which is described as being “located in an impressive building of handsome natural stone and aged pine, with a splendid landmark of the Tower of the Christmas Elf in front of it.”. The address is:

Joulupukin Pääposti
(Santa Claus' Main Post Office)
Itella Posti Oy

Here is some interesting information about Santa Claus Village, and here are some statistics on letters to Santa.

The packages contain Georgia Tech paraphernalia: t-shirts (XXXL, of course, to fit Santa), baseball hats, and coffee mugs (also usable for egg nog, mulled wine, or other seasonal beverages). You can see the boxes being packed for Santa here.

(Read about the idea behind the race and past races here.)

The start: 13 December

We went on-line to fill out shipping forms for each shipment. We took the UPS, DHL, and FedEx packages to a nearby Kwik-Copy; and we took the USPS package to a nearby postoffice.

On Friday night we received an email notification that our UPS package had been delayed for want of a “commercial invoice”, even though we had filled out the form on-line. Unfortunately, our package sat all weekend. On Monday morning UPS phoned to ask that we fax a copy (even though it still existed in our on-line account at UPS).

The scorecard as of 2017 Saturday Atlanta time, 21 December

We have a winner: DHL delivered on Tuesday 17 December, two days ahead of the next competitor.

To: Santa Claus Village, Lapland, outside Rovienmi, Finland
Carrier Service Cost Delivery Tracking # Comments
DHL Express Worldwide $155.70 17 Dec 1501h local time: Winner! 9966224656 6 hops total: Atlanta to Cincinnati to Leipzig to Helsinki to Oumu to Napapiiri Rovaniemi
USPS Global Express $95.42 19 Dec 1102h local time 8398498334 Atlanta to Memphis to Paris to Vantaa (Finland) to Napapiiri Rovaniemi
UPS Worldwide Saver $99.79 19 Dec 1440h local time 1ZA5A2420490341738 Finally underway 16 December after being held up for paperwork mistakenly claimed to be missing. 9 hops: Atlanta to Hapeville, GA to Louisville to Philadelphia to Koeln (Germany) to Malmo Sturup (Sweden) to Vantaa (Finland) to Helsinki to Tampere (Finland) to Napapiiri Rovaniemi. Our package was signed for by “Elf”
FedEx Int'l Economy $162.70 23 Dec 1435h local time 875471244031 No updates from 1042 19 Dec,until delivery

The routes

After local pickup, each package was driven to a local freight terminal, sorted, and then flown to one of the major sortation facilities the carriers operate in the mid-western US: UPS uses Louisville, KY; FedEx uses Memphis, TN; DHL uses Cincinnati, OH.

Jin Lee has prepared a beautiful interactive map of the routes traveled, and will continue to update it until all packages are delivered. (Note the controls in the upper right-hand corner of the window.)


Finally, it is worth observing that this year most carriers seem to have had problems with delivery during the Christmas holidays.

Next events

We welcome suggestions for subsequent competitions, where we will be sending a set of GT baseball caps, t-shirts, etc. somewhere in the world. Send us an address, preferably with accompanying telephone number and email address, and we will race the hats by vying package couriers to your parents, nephews, nieces, etc. All that we need is sufficient address and a promise to document the delivery.

Check out the companion event, The Great Container Race, in which we sent 40-foot shipping containers full of medical supplies by alternate routes and carriers to a hospital in Ghana.


Thanks to Carole Bennett, Kathryn Raley, Meka Wimberly, and to my students for help in preparing and sending the packages; and thanks to the recipients for documenting their arrival.