International Shipping

I thought it would be easy to decide what to send to Australia and how to ship it all. I was wrong.

This is turning out to be one of the most difficult processes about moving. At first I thought I’d just take a few of my favorite items – some books, DVDs, clothing, religious items, and at least one box dedicated to feminine hygiene products (that’s a whole other blog entry). But then I thought, what about my photo albums? And my arts and crafts supplies? And these shoes? And that handbag? Then my mother saw an opportunity. How about this new set of towels I’ve never used? Why don’t you take these place mats?

I decided then to dedicate one box to each category of items. One box of books, one box of other media, one box of clothing and accessories, one box of religious items, one box of household goods and decor, and one box of aforementioned  feminine hygiene products. My boxes are 12x12x12 and whatever doesn’t fit, stays (for now).

I went through my bookshelf and was pleasantly surprised to discover that parting with nearly one-third of my library was easy. I offered my books up to friends who have gladly taken them off my hands. I grabbed a box and packed it up with half of the remainder of my library. I was impressed and pleased I’d be able to take so many books with me. Then I weighed the box: 35 lbs.

Finding a good and affordable shipping solution has been challenging. The United States Postal Service (USPS) once had a surface option. It took a month or so for shipments to arrive by ship, but it was fairly inexpensive. That option is no longer available and air mail is the only way to ship now. My box of books costs about $280 to ship to Melbourne. It’s my heaviest box (I think), but it’s not the only one and that’s a pretty steep price. I began looking for alternatives.

FedEx and DHL are just as expensive if not more or don’t offer the right service for me. UPS couldn’t even find Melbourne in its online shipping tools. I started looking at international shipping companies and found UpakWeShip, whose customer service was not very good, and Nex Worldwide Express as well as some other companies. The problem I ran into is that many international shipping companies specialize in large shipments such as a full home and vehicles, and they have weight minimums. They laugh at my poor little boxes.

I may have found a solution in a local company called Move Management. It offers door to door service and will accept my boxes. The cost may be comparable to that of USPS, but if all my boxes are heavy and there are at least ten of them, it will result in a much lower cost per box, and I’ll be able to ship more of my personals. The downside is the shipment takes three months to arrive, but I can live with that. If I ship them soon, I won’t have to wait long once I’m in Melbourne.

So, I have to give this some thought. I suppose that what I need to do is just pack everything I want to take, see how many boxes I end up with, and how much they weigh. That may be the only way to obtain a good estimate of the shipping cost whether I go with USPS or Move Management. Meanwhile, I imagine Theo is panicking and wondering just how much stuff do I really have.

I would love to hear from my fellow expats living down under or anyone who has made an international move. How did you move your items across the globe?

About the image: Container ship by jdnx on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)




  1. How badly do you HAVE to have that stuff here with you? Can you buy it new more cheaply than you can ship it? Will you really miss it if you don’t have it? Do you know if you will have to pay any duties or fees on the shipment when it arrives in Australia? If so, will the cost of that make shipping it unaffordable?

    I left most of my stuff behind and it sucks big time. Some things are irreplaceable. Other things, I could buy new here when and if I eventually need them. Eventually, I will make a big trip back to America, have a huge garage sale, give stuff away to friends or charities, and then store whatever I can’t or don’t want to take with me at my parents’ place. Unless you are shipping a whole household (and like you, I wasn’t), this is the reality you have to deal with. Do you love Theo more than you love your books or your trinkets? Is it really economical to ship towels when you can just buy new ones the next time Adairs has a sale? Can’t you just burn your DVDs and CDs onto your computer for now?

    It’s no fun getting rid of new or nearly new things or even old things that have sentimental value, but a lot of those things you can sell (and recoup some of the money you spent on them, yay!) or you can always give them to someone who can get good use out of them. I have gifted a nearly new bed, a huge desk, office chair, and every kitchen thingy imaginable to my housesitter. He’ll get good use out of them when he is there (easing my guilt about just leaving it in storage) and then when it’s time for him to move out, he’ll take them with him and I don’t have to worry about what to do with them. I certainly don’t have a use for them here.

    Another option to consider, is to fill up one or two extra suitcases (or very sturdy boxes with lots and lots of tape and suitable interior protection) and just check them at the airline and pay the $100 per piece extra fee. I’ve only had to do that once (for my bicycle), but that’s because G and I usually fly together and I only allow him to bring enough stuff for himself to fill half the small suitcase and then I get to fill up his big suitcase and the other half of his small suitcase with my stuff.

    • Much food for thought here.

      I’m leaving a lot behind. My furniture, bed, computer – I don’t need those things and I’m not attached to them. Some things will go into storage and others I’ve given away or will attempt to sell. A lot of clothing, shoes, and handbags will stay because that’s easily replaceable. Most of my media is digital, but I have some rare and out of print books that will come with me and the rest will stay behind.

      In the end, it’s not very much, which is why an international shipping company is overkill for me. USPS will probably be the best option.

      Thanks for your comments! And I’m impressed you traveled with your bicycle! I love mine, but it’s one of the items I’m selling.

      • I only brought my bike because it was cheaper than buying a new one. It was $2000 new in America when I got it four years ago and is still in great shape. To get a road bike of similar quality would have cost over $4000 here! So I bought a hard case for $350 (which I’ll probably sell) and paid $100 for the extra bag fee. Easy-peasy.

        Think carefully about spending money on monthly storage fees. If you leave it in storage for more than a few months, it will just end up costing you more than it would to ship it. If you’ve got a relative or friend who can store it for you, that would be better.

        I do NOT advise USPS for large international shipments. You’ll get much better loss and damage protection from a company like UPS and they tend not to manhandle the parcels so much. They might charge just slightly more, but they are more likely to get it to you intact!

  2. Oh, what I mean by “storage” is the closet at home, haha! I currently live with my mother on property we own and she’s not going anywhere so I can safely leave my things here.

  3. Reading what you are going through now is reminding me of what we went through six months ago. We didn’t ship anything, but packed everything we would be taking into 12 suitcases and checked them (there are 5 of us, so we only had to pay for the two extra suitcases for a total of $160 (I think we just got lucky with the guy who checked us in)). It was fascinating to see what each of us thought was important (7 lbs. legos??) and what wasn’t.

    Good luck!

    • Haha! This week, my family is in Disney World. My nephew packed like a month ago and my sister went through his bag a couple of days before the trip to discover more toys than clothes. 🙂

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