How do savvy drifters shift their stuff across oceans?
June 4, 2011 7:37 AM   Subscribe

How should I move 2m^3 of stuff from Australia to the US?

We're looking to move from Australia to the US in the next few months. I've been looking into options for getting our stuff there and the problem is proving to be a little complicated. I'm looking for solutions that worked for other people.

The particulars:
1) The list of things that need to come isn't absolute. We will not be bringing our car, furniture, bikes or appliances. We will be bringing our clothing, our picture frames and some treasured kitchen gear. Everything else (the rest of our kitchen stuff, serving dishes, linens, the books etc) has a question mark. The exact cutoff will depend on costs and logistics.

2) We are moving from Canberra (not a port city) to San Francisco (port city). We are able to survive 6-8 weeks without our household goods by staying with family before we fly.

3) We have family who can store our stuff at both the origin and the destination.

4) Our plane tickets allow for 4x50lbs in baggage.

5) Adding up all the stuff that I would potentially want to bring (beyond the four suitcases) in my head, I estimate 1-2 m^3 (6-12 tea chests which are 42cm x 45cm x 62cm or thereabouts)

6) Our situation has a lot in common with this post. The main differences are a) the ocean in question and b) we are wondering about kitchen gear which wouldn't lend itself to excess baggage as well as the shoes, books and clothes in the other post.

I have found five possible options:
1) Removalist. I have requested some quotes, but the companies come across as a little perplexed that I don't actually have any furniture, just cartons.
2) LCL Shipping. This is less-than-container-load shipping. A pallet is 1.9m^3 so this would be way less than a container load.
3) Unaccompanied baggage. This would be nice because it is fast. It seems really expensive (since it is air freight).
4) Accompanied cargo. A friend told me that you can add cargo to the hold on the plane you are traveling on at a pretty low rate. I can't tell how this is different to excess baggage, but it was recommended as a cheap option. I learned about it in the context of bringing carpets back from Morocco, so I don't know if it extends to cartons of kitchenware.
5) Excess baggage. (I mean the policy that airlines have to allow an extra bag at an exorbitant rate, not the shipping company called Excess Baggage.) Looking back nostalgically on my youth, I recall this was about $100/bag. Surely the rates have increased.

Are these the options that people use when they move overseas? Are there other choices? Can anyone recommend one method over another? Any genius schemes for splitting our gear into air and sea freight (my current algorithm will prioritize urgency of need with weight as the secondary consideration)?
posted by emmykm to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I would call these people, and see if they have a way to connect the service in Aus to US. I've got to believe this isn't a problem that hasn't been encountered before, and one "pod" is almost exactly 2 cubic meters.

This might be helpful as well. (Their non-expedited freight rates don't seem terrible.)
posted by gjc at 7:49 AM on June 4, 2011

I recommend Seven Seas. They will ship you boxes to put your things in and their prices are reasonable. I used them on a move from Chicago to Paris and am currently using them again for a move from Paris to Hong Kong. I've had no problems with them.

They start at USD $200 for the first box and $100 for every box afterwards. If you prefer to use your own boxes, they can do that too but the process is a little more complicated.

The only problem you may have with them is that they are a sea freight shipping company, and the time frame will be around 60 days from pick up to drop off. They also have an air shipping service which is more expensive, but I haven't had any experience with that.
posted by C^3 at 8:02 AM on June 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I recently shipped similar sorts of things from Australia to the US though I did include a few pieces of small antique furniture, antique collectables and a rocking horse. I went through the Australian moving company "Wridgways" (I don't know how to do links sorry) they were very helpful, and not at all bothered by the fact that I wasn't shipping furniture and most of my stuff was boxes of books, kitchenware and clothing. I did end up with just under 10 cubic metres of stuff though (I have a LOT of books), but they shipped by LCL at a very reasonable price. I paid extra for them to pack it all and supply packing materials and do most of the customs paperwork as US cutoms can be a bitch. You can save money and pack your own stuff.

You have a lot less stuff than me by the sounds of it, so you might want to look at freight companies instead, I am not sure if they would go on weight or volume.

Any questions feel free to memail me
posted by wwax at 8:31 AM on June 4, 2011

I second Seven Seas - used them to move from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur, and it's not going to be problem if you don't live in a port city. Packing supplies are included in the fees, door to door service. But like C^3 said, the goods take a long time to arrive if you chose to ship by sea, and the person signing off on the papers has to be the same person receiving the shipment, so you'll need to be in SF before they're due to arrive.
posted by peripathetic at 8:42 AM on June 4, 2011

My sister did this about two years ago and was charged AUD$150/bag for excess baggage on Qantas.

This Qantas website suggests you are allowed a maximum of two pieces of excess baggage at AUD$105 each if you pre-pay before you fly.
posted by Shal at 10:07 AM on June 4, 2011

i have used qantas freight to move cartons...similar situation to you.
posted by dripped at 10:22 AM on June 4, 2011

if shipping with a company, then you'll probably need to use their boxes, as they are designed in such a way to not be too heavy and fit together nicely.

We shipped 3m3m Bolivia to Australia - the biggest concern at customs was the plywood crate it came in! We also shipped a couple of suitcases from the US to Australia (via Air) and a box from London to Australia (also air?).

The biggest issue was that we weren't told/family wasn't told when the USA->AUS stuff had arrived, so we had to pay a storage fine/fee for not picking it up right away (not that we knew it was there!)

Door to Door is more expensive, but wow it's nice! When we picked up the crate from customs in Melbourne we thought we could take a series of car loads, but were informed we had to take the whole thing at once, so we had to rent a pick-up truck (ute) to get the crate home.

We had estimated 2 m3 but ended up with just under 3, so add a little to your mental calculations.

Hope this helps even though we were shipping the other way!
posted by titanium_geek at 4:04 PM on June 4, 2011

3m3 *from* Bolivia
posted by titanium_geek at 4:05 PM on June 4, 2011

(and they don't do tea-chests any more, well, that's what we were told!)
posted by titanium_geek at 4:07 PM on June 4, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the ideas so far! I'm going to look into them.

(Additional ideas or experiences are still appreciated!)
posted by emmykm at 2:39 AM on June 5, 2011

I've used twice, once for air and once for sea freight and have been very happy. Reasonable prices and service minded staff.
posted by heytch at 1:49 PM on June 5, 2011

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