Lessons in Shipping Overseas

So, now that I’ve sold most of my belongings, I have been focusing my attention on packing. I’ve reduced a lifetime’s worth of accumulations to my one allowed check-in bag, 2 carry-ons, and Fed Ex shipment of 2 large suitcases, one smaller suitcase and a box. That’s it. That’s all I will own in this world…less than I’ve ever owned, and I used to brag about fitting my life into my car all but 11 years ago!

To say that I have been prone to freaking out this past week is a bit of an understatement. But I have my Bach’s Rescue Remedy at the ready along with a recording of the Moola Mantra which I’ve been listening to once or twice a day. I haven’t been eating much, but I think that’s probably good. My system has enough to process without a full belly. I have nightmares on a regular basis, too. Never experienced that before. It’s been an onslaught. One would think I’m making a huge, irreversible life transition. Oh…I am!

Which brings me to the topic of this post: shipping overseas. Forget the fact that I’ve had a recurring dream about a challenging flight overseas for the last 20 years of my life with the very suitcase I won’t be taking on the plane, thank you very much! That thing is going Fed Ex! I knew my options were:

  • luggage forwarding
  • freight
  • USPS
  • another shipping carrier such as UPS

I’m not even going to get into the whole translated inventory in triplicate piece of this. Needless to say, I’ve used a few trees to prove that I am who I say I am and that I have the right to move to France. My documents have documents. And I also won’t mention how the French Consulate failed to respond to my request last month for a document that would have made this all so much easier. So, back to shipping…

The first thing I had looked into early on was freight. I had this silly idea that I’d be taking more with me. I’m sure that would have been the way to go had I had at least 30 cubic feet of stuff. It would have run me about $850 to ship that amount. Alas, I only have maybe 20 cubic feet…maybe. So, it would have been a waste of space and money for me to go that route. Besides, I would have had to drive my stuff to a service center, the closet being an hour away. They would have picked it up, but that, of course, would have been extra.

So, I also looked at luggage forwarding. They do pick up. Some places price by weight and other places price per bag. Either way, it came out to be more expensive than I’d hoped. One carrier quoted me for $1200 and another for $672. That last number was looking pretty good in comparison to every other option so far. I especially liked that I could just send my suitcases without boxing anything, and that they would represent me in customs. It would be more affordable than checking bags on the plane as well what with the airlines charging what they do for extra baggage. Besides, I hated the thought of arriving in Bordeaux, exhausted, and likely terrified, and having to steer one of those luggage carts piled high with bags. I could just see myself breaking down at the carousel, a weeping heap of nerves.

Something prodded me to keep searching. So, I loaded the car and took a trip to the post office today. I wasn’t relishing lugging heavy bags back and forth just to get prices, but one must do what one must do. The post office offered me a great price. I would have been able to ship everything for around $350. However, once it landed in France, it would be a bit of a mystery as to what happened next. I’m sure it would have been fine, but…

My next stop was a store that represents several shippers. The guy at the counter was very knowledgable and helpful. He checked Fed Ex pricing for me, which was unfortunately even more expensive than the luggage forwarders and airlines combined! I was pretty sure at that point that I’d just go with a luggage forwarder. But as I mentioned, this guy was super helpful. He told me that we could ship everything as a “multi-shipment” and save. He called Fed Ex on my behalf and got a quote of $400! That even includes insurance!! So, that’s what I’m going to do. At that price, I may even add another bag. The great thing is that Fed Ex controls it in the US, and they also have some control in France. They’ll also work with customs and my triplicate documents.

So, if I may say, “Hurray & Amen!”

UPDATE 4/19/14

I brought everything in to the shipping place. They boxed all my suitcases (safer that way). I also did add one other bag. So for all my bags, four of them, which came to about 150lbs., it cost me $550. Everything will arrive in just one week…a week before I do! That works for me, since I have an address to send it to and someone who knows it is coming.