How do I move a small amount of household goods from overseas?
September 21, 2016 2:22 PM   Subscribe

I'm selling my home in Panama. I have a few things (a painting, a 3-5 boxes worth of stuff) that I want to take back to Hawaii. What's the best and/or least expensive way to get it back to Hawaii? Details inside...

Most of the larger items (furniture, for example) will be sold before the sale is finalized. I have some things (old documents, 1 3x4 ft. painting, and maybe enough assorted knickknacks to fill 3-5 cardboard boxes) that I want to take back to Hawaii (this will be what's left after selling/donating/discarding everything else.) What's the best way to do that? I will only have a carry on when I go to Panama, so I could check up to two bags (or boxes)... or maybe I should just ship it all, but will a shipping company handle such a small amount of items, and is it worth the cost? Help me figure out the best way to get these things back home!
posted by KillaSeal to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you just mail them? Is there an address on the other end you can send to? Maybe I'm making assumptions about the mail system in Panama, but whatever parcel shipping service there is (FedEx, DHL, etc.) will have the ability to track and get insurance on some boxes. And you can use their online services to get some rough quotes.
posted by clone boulevard at 2:45 PM on September 21, 2016

Cheapest would be sea freight, which must be available quickly in Panama. You can probably find a freight expeditor who can stick your stuff on a boat or even negotiate a flight cargo fee for you.
posted by parmanparman at 2:46 PM on September 21, 2016

I ran some numbers through UPS's online calculator. 5 boxes 30 lbs each would be about $1500 from Panama to Hawaii, UPS Expedited, 1 week door to door.
posted by zippy at 3:46 PM on September 21, 2016

Drop it down to 3 20lb boxes and it's $800
posted by zippy at 3:50 PM on September 21, 2016

By sea, LCL (partial container) if you are not in a screaming hurry. Take the painting off the stretchers and roll it up unless it's super-valuable. Otherwise it would need to be crated. You will be charged by the cubic dimensions. Freight forwarder is another term to google.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:04 PM on September 21, 2016

I think that you'd save money by packing what you can in luggage and checking it through the airline when you fly to Hawaii. Do you know anyone with an American Post Office Box in the states? My cousins in Panama get their mail in Florida and it's sent on to them. I think that you could send your larger items through US Mail if you have the right connection.
posted by jennstra at 4:11 PM on September 21, 2016

I would go through UPS if you can. Matson is the big shipping line that ships by sea to Hawaii from the US, so they probably have rates for Panama. I only shipped my car and it was fine. I shipped my personal belongings via partial container to the New Jersey in a different move, and they smashed all of my ceramics and furniture so it was useless junk when it got there. I shipped my computer in its box through UPS and it arrived in mint condition.
posted by effluvia at 5:31 PM on September 21, 2016

The stuff you'll want most quickly, take as checked luggage (making sure the bags aren't overweight, you really can't beat ~$25 for a large suitcase), and send the remainder by surface mail. Surface mail could take a few weeks (I have no experience with panama -> hawaii specifically) and there may be yet another level of cheapness available if you're happy to pick up the boxes at the depot instead of a service that will deliver to your door.
posted by anonymisc at 5:55 PM on September 21, 2016

thanks for all the answers! after culling it down to the stuff I really wanted to keep, I managed to fit everything into one luggage and one additional carry on bag...worked out great!
posted by KillaSeal at 5:54 PM on October 24, 2016

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