Help me not have to jump through one more logistical hoop nightmare
May 23, 2010 8:26 PM   Subscribe

What is the safest and cheapest way to ship 4-7 boxes (and possibly an iMac) overseas?

I have about 4-7 boxes of books and clothes that I'd like to ship overseas, from California to York, England. I'd like to know what experiences you have had with the shipping option you used (and what the options were)? I'm a bit overwhelmed by the google search results. Also wondering if there's a media rate for books. If so, I'll repack everything so that books are all in the same boxes, and clothes are elsewhere.

Your suggestions about which services to use and how to pack these boxes is most welcome. Shipping travel time is not important, but shipping cost is. Thanks!

I will not actually be shipping the boxes. But I will be (re)packing them in the next two days, including a plan for shipping (so that they will be packed appropriately and ready to go). I may or may not ship all nine boxes and/or the iMac, depending on what the cost/method will be.
posted by iamkimiam to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: And by 'nine', I mean 'four to eight'. Sheesh, numbers are my bane.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:28 PM on May 23, 2010

Will you be making the same trip as the boxes or are you packing for a friend?
posted by defreckled at 8:46 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: I'll end up at the same destination as the boxes, probably around August. But I will be traveling (without the boxes) until then. I leave in two days, and the boxes will be shipped by someone else who will send them in August, when I say when, where, and how. I need to figure this out now, so that they are packed correctly and nobody will have to open or re-arrange them.
posted by iamkimiam at 9:20 PM on May 23, 2010

I don't know about England, but I've shipped boxes from the U.S. to Japan (and vice versa), and there are two basic options available to you--by plane or by boat. You said "safest and cheapest", but those may be mutually exclusive. By boat takes much, much longer and there's more time for unscrupulous folks on the boat to pilfer. I once sent a suitcase full of things from Japan to the US. I had a lock on the main part and those contents were intact. I had forgotten about some (thankfully) unimportant items in a small side pocket and by the time it arrived that pocket was completely empty; who knows at what point that happened. (I know this is anecdotal; take of it what you will)

However, shipping by boat is also much, much cheaper, so if that trumps safety you should go that route.
posted by zardoz at 9:22 PM on May 23, 2010

Coming the other way last year I used Pickfords, who are part of, or partners with, Allied. (I'm sure you can see the point of choosing a company with 'in-country' representation.) Everything got here fine, though it took a couple of months, which is normal. I had a similar amount of stuff, at the low end of your 4-8 boxes estimate--basically just [a small selection of] my books. Shipping it all door-to-door cost me a couple of hundred pounds, so say three hundred dollars; I used boxes that they provided--sturdy, right sort of size--but packed them myself (you can pay extra to have them packed for you). The container got customs-inspected, so I had to pay another $60 or so on delivery, but otherwise everything went smoothly--they dealt very efficiently with me arranging it all at (embarrassingly) short notice, too, well enough that I'll be using them on my way home.

That trip was from Scotland to New Jersey; I'm assuming that from the West Coast it'll be more expensive (they'll cost it for you with a quick phone call, or you can use the get-a-quote thing on the website), though probably not as much more expensive as the doubled distance might suggest: the expensive bits are picking the boxes up and getting them into the container, not having them sit in the container for a while longer as the ship goes through the Panama Canal.

There wasn't a special rate for books, or at least I didn't hear of one--might be worth asking. Good luck with the move, and enjoy York!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 9:24 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you use a mover like the one mentioned above, do note that there are maximum weight limits per box and they will most likely want you to purchase and use their company's boxes. So be prepared to have your friend do some repacking for you. You also need to include an itemised list of what is in each box for customs and insurance.

We shipped from Australia to UK and the options were air (2 weeks, we sent a few things this way) and sea (12 weeks + we sent 6 boxes). Being in the US air may be more affordable. Make sure you pay for customs clearance and delivery on the other side. We didn't do this for the air packages, and had to go out to BA Cargo at Heathrow to pick everything up. A real pain.
posted by wingless_angel at 1:01 AM on May 24, 2010

Sell any books that aren't "special," and re-buy them on the other side.

It doesn't make much sense to ship items that are cheap and heavy halfway around the planet. Of course, if the books are unique or expensive (ie. textbooks), this advice doesn't help you much.

Alternatively, at risk of sounding like a troll and dodging the question, this might be an excellent time to consider buying a Kindle.
posted by schmod at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2010

I recently used uShip to get a couch, bike, and many heavy boxes moved from from Washington, DC to Dallas, Texas on the cheap ($650). I recommend the process. Here's the international shipping directory, but you'll really just want to put an shipment request into the system and see if you get any bids.

Otherwise, you might see if you can find a car being shipped overseas that you can store your items in.
posted by Outis at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2010

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