Packing and Shipping

It is SHOCKINGLY expensive to ship things to the UK. Originally we thought we’d ship a couple of things and then just bring a ton of suitcases, but someone I know who works at a major international airline warned me that it could be very expensive AND it’s possible we wouldn’t be allowed extra luggage.

Yikes. If you’re moving during vacation season, there could be some limits on luggage extras, so I cannot stress strongly enough to check with your airline. In the end, it’s likely a safe bet to just plan on bringing two checked bags and one carry-on per person traveling. We were lucky enough to use miles to travel business class, so we managed to book one extra bag (five checked bags total), and our weight limit was higher than if we’d been traveling coach. That basically accommodated all of our clothing and toiletries, along with some of the items needed for our cats.

So, what does that mean for your other things? Well, I love books. And I wanted our books to come with us. Books are heavy, so in each of the boxes we shipped, about half were books, and half were other items. In the end we shipped five medium-sized boxes (we purchased the heavy ones from Home Depot). We also used a lot of tape; the one lesson we learned from that is to tape up all the seams AND all of the edges. All of our boxes arrived, and the only damage was to glass items I didn’t cushion well enough, but half of the boxes were splitting at the seams.

We decided early on that we were not bringing any of our furniture with us. We had some lovely pieces that I was sad to part with – some we sold to random folks, some we sold or gave away to friends, and some our renter ended up purchasing. But so many flats in the UK come furnished or partly furnished – many, many more than in the US – so we decided we’d find a furnished flat and supplement with Ikea furniture (which we did, but more on that later).

There are options out there for shipping in pods, which are generally flat rates based on size. But those also mean the items might not arrive for three months, and that didn’t seem worth the cost. In the end we just barely ended up spending less on our shipping than any of the quotes we received, although we probably also shipped less than we could have.

Each of the five boxes we shipped cost about $350, and were shipped via USPS. We were able to track it all the way through, but local independent shop that handled the paperwork and such for us did warn that we might not be able to track our packages once they were turned over to the UK.

We also shipped some art. We have some we paid to be framed back in the US; the company that framed them essentially unframed them for us for free, and charged $20 to un-frame ones they didn’t originally frame. Two of our items were framed using acrylic, not glass, and so could be shipped as is. Those two shipments were in addition to the five boxes.

What made it easy for us was that my partner’s new company allowed us to ship to their office. Once we found a flat, we were able to just get a van taxi and move it all over to our new place.

We didn’t ship or give away everything, however. Our wedding china is stored in two boxes in the crawl space under a friend’s staircase. We also didn’t ship two boxes worth of photo albums, which now live at another friend’s place. We might ship those to us if we want them later, but for now they are safe and sound. And finally, we have a nice record player and collection of records that are living at a third friend’s place.

Downsizing can be fun; the key is to not immediately upsize once you get to the UK…

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