I want my stuff back!!!
November 18, 2018 9:17 PM   Subscribe

What is the most affordable yet reliable way to get a box (or 2) of random things from Virginia USA to Melbourne Australia?

I've got some stuff in storage at a friend's place in Virginia, held there when I moved from the US a few years ago. We're currently going through what I have and figuring out what I'd like back, now that I'm sure I'll be in Melbourne for the long-haul. It's mostly books, paper, knick-knacks, and some clothes - no furniture, nothing large.

When I moved the other direction, I'd sent a 20kg box via sea mail (cost me about $200) and it worked out fine. I don't know how many kilos will need to be shipped the other direction, but I can't imagine it to be more than 40kg max. If I knew anyone coming from Virginia to Melbourne I'd ask them to bring some stuff for me in their suitcase, but I don't know such a person and also I don't have any trips to the US planned anytime soon (besides, it'd cost me like $2k for airfare, not worth it).

Would sea mail from the US still be a decent option? What else would turn out to be cost-effective and reliable? I don't need the items immediately, but I would like them to arrive.

Other complication: I may be moving in the next few months, so if I'm doing a slower option like sea mail, it'll likely need to go to a PO Box. Is that doable for large packages?
posted by divabat to Grab Bag (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had stuff shipped from Canada to Melbourne via sea mail, probably 50kg or so, a decently large moving box. It took about three months but it got there!

There was no insurance available for sea mail, and I don’t think there was tracking either, so it was a bit of a crap shoot. Ymmv since you’re shipping out of the US, of course.
posted by third word on a random page at 10:01 PM on November 18, 2018

Dunno about shippers, but for your destination address, sign up for an Auspost parcel locker. Gives you an address and the lockers are a decent size. I expect you'd get a "come pick this up" message if it were too big.
posted by pompomtom at 11:27 PM on November 18, 2018

The USPS discontinued its outbound international surface mail service ("sea mail") in 2007. Something about return packages, presumably from commercial shipments, according to WP. It sucks.

Cheapest international option as a private (non commercial) shipper is First Class Package service, which is basically Air Mail. They have some flat-rate boxes for certain countries; I don't know off the top of my head if Aus is included, but that might be worth looking into.

I'd price out the other usual suspects: FedEx, UPS, DHL. My guess is they will be about the same, and not a bargain.

There's a size where it becomes cheaper, if you are okay with surface shipping, to go through a freight consolidator, but the big ones may not be willing to handle a single package. In my area there are freight consolidators who specialize in certain Asian countries with a big expat population here in the US (basically they buy a container's-worth of space and fill it with random packages), but you'd have to find one that goes to Australia. And there's increased risk of getting something held up in customs, or so I've heard, with those companies.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:54 AM on November 19, 2018

The most affordable way is to not ship any of the books.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:00 AM on November 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

Piggy-backing on DarlingBri's comment, can you skip out on the books and purchase new/used, in either physical or digital form, once you are settled in Melbourne? We did a big purge prior to combining households, and have ended up either purchasing digital copies, or just using the library when the reference books are needed.

It will save you a ton of space and weight, shipping-wise.
posted by RhysPenbras at 8:36 AM on November 19, 2018

Response by poster: The books are not going to be available in Australia, and/or will cost just as much to buy & ship new/used. There's not a lot of them and they're not even the majority of it, just some I knew would be hard to replace!!
posted by divabat at 2:53 PM on November 19, 2018

Piggybee might help? It may be a little while until somebody is on that exact route though.
posted by solarion at 8:05 PM on November 19, 2018

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