Shipping Packages Abroad
by Ruby Bayan
We all have friends and family living abroad. And one time or another, we feel the urge to send them something special -- something they can use, collect, or cuddle. We want the items to reach them on a particular date, safe and sound, and with the least impact on our bank accounts. Therefore, we want to pack the items properly, and send them through the best courier service we can find. Here are some tips you may find useful:
Pack It Right
The integrity of the items you want to send to friends and family abroad will depend on how well you pack them. Remember that couriers may need to toss, stack, cram, or expose your package to extreme climatic conditions. Your package may also have to ride conveyor belts and other automated equipment that could snag or damage the packaging. Therefore, be sure you pack your items properly as follows:
- Cushion each item. Use plenty of tissue paper, shredded paper, or bubble-wrap to cushion each fragile or breakable item from one another.
- Wrap the items in a lightweight gift box. Use wrapping paper and ribbons if appropriate. Otherwise, tape the gift box securely.
- Label the gift box with the recipient's name and address. In case the outside labels get ripped off, the gift box itself will have destination information.
- Put the gift box inside a shipping box. Some couriers provide shipping boxes for free. Use them. If you want to use your own box, be sure it's made of sturdy corrugated cardboard with no damaged or soft spots, and no missing flaps or puncture holes. If you are reusing a box, cover or cross out old addresses or markings.
- Use filler material. Be sure there is at least a couple of inches "padding space" between your gift box and the edges of the shipping box. Insert bubble-wrap, shredded paper, or foam peanuts into this padding space to cushion your gift box on all sides.
- Tape the shipping box securely. Use a 2- to 3-inch shipping tape (not masking or plastic tape because these come off under extreme heat or moisture). Tape down all the edges and flaps so that nothing will get caught in automated handling equipment.
- Address the package correctly. Use indelible marking pens. Write clearly. Use a sticky label or cover the name and address with a clear shipping tape for protection. Be sure you have the correct name and address.
Your shipping costs will depend largely on the weight and dimensions (also called "volumetric weight") of your package. Some couriers ship packages of specified dimensions regardless of weight, while most will charge according to weight alone. Be ready to provide weight and dimension information in case your preferred carrier requires both.
Consider Your Logistics
Before you sign up with a carrier service, you will have to consider a few shipping details:
- Urgency -- How soon do you want your package to reach your recipient? Overnight express delivery costs are considerably higher than regular (two days to one week) or surface (15 to 45 days) delivery.
- Shipping Date -- Some couriers charge higher on specific days of the week. Most don't pick up or deliver on weekends and local holidays. Cut-off hours are also enforced for receipt of departing packages.
- Insurance -- Most couriers offer free insurance (protection against loss or damage) up to $100 on every package they handle. You will be given several insurance options when you bring in your package.
- Special Handling -- You may have to pay a premium, but special handling options are available in all the shipping companies. Registered packages, advice on receipt, customs clearing, warehousing, and other optional services can be provided.
- Dutiable Goods -- You will have to confirm with the shipping company if your items are dutiable; meaning, they are non-paper items that have commercial value and will, therefore, have to go through customs clearing (a duty or tax will be charged) upon entering the destination country. Information on dutiable goods, and what paperwork is required, are available at the courier offices.
- Prohibited Goods -- Different countries have different ordinances about the importation of goods. All shipments are subject to these rules, therefore, ensure that your gift items do not fall under the destination country's list of prohibited goods. Examples of goods prohibited in all countries served by the major international couriers are: drugs, firearms, furs, live plants and animals, hazardous materials, pornographic materials, and articles of unusual value. Detailed, per-country information on prohibited goods is also available at the courier offices.
Choose Your Courier
It's the wave of the future, so even choosing couriers, carriers, and shipping companies can be done online. The most popular international courier companies, aside from the US Postal Service (http://usps.gov), are: FedEx (http://www.fedex.com), DHL (http://www.dhl-usa.com), UPS (http://www.ups.com), TNT (http://www.tnt.com), and Airborne Express (http://www.airborne.com).
All the major couriers have extensive Web pages that provide information and assistance. You can check on standard shipping rules, regulations, and options, as well as compute for estimate shipping rates.
Track Your Package
Another benefit we enjoy from the World Wide Web is the fact that we can actually now track and trace our shipments. All of the major carriers have tracking software available on their respective Web sites, allowing the public to interactively check on the status of a particular package.
Confident that you have chosen the most cost-effective carrier for your package, and that you are assured of your gift's safe and timely arrival at your loved one's home, the only thing you will need to deal with is how to respond to your recipient's overflowing joy and gratitude.
[First published at New2USA.com, 2000]