Dropping anything in the mail is a gamble these days. With recent slowdowns at the post office and the increase in home delivery due to the pandemic, the supply chain for shipping is becoming more overtaxed by the day.

That means that shipping when traveling can also become a burden. To get your goods to or from your destination safely requires a reliable shipping provider and knowing the particulars that may be very different than just sending something to the next zipcode across town.

To help, here are some basic tips on what you need to know when you ship large items during your next travel adventure.

Know when to ship. Yes, you’re free to ship your package whenever is best for you, but depending on the month or even the date, it could mean your package arriving right on time or delays that might screw up your plans.

Holidays, both domestic and international, drives delivery times. Don’t wait until the last second to ship, make sure to check a calendar to line up when you want your package to arrive against holiday seasons that could jam up the delivery pipeline. If you’re shipping to a country that may have bank holidays that are different than your own, your package may be sitting longer than expected. Weather conditions are also a factor. Are you shipping to or from a destination that is in the middle of hurricane season? Again, no one can predict when disaster might strike, but give yourself peace of mind and ship as early as possible to avoid any potential problems.

Get the address right. Streets, zipcodes, post office boxes do not follow the same protocol in every country. Every number counts. Make sure you get it right the first time to prevent your package from getting lost. That means including all relevant information – even a phone number or access code or doorbell name. The easier you make it for your shipper, the better chance your package will get to its destination on time.

Don’t reuse boxes. Too often people use the same cardboard box over and over until they’ve created a perfect situation for it to fall apart during delivery. Boxes are fairly cheap and you should a new one each time. It should not have remnants of old addresses or dents or tears of previous deliveries. Make sure it is strong enough to handle a long period of transit; you can do this by packing your items security and sealing it tight.

Know what is, and what is not, legal to ship. No one wants to get fined, or worse, by the authorities. Check with your shipper first to make sure that what’s inside the box is lawful. Weaponry and drugs are obviously forbidden, but what are the rules for liquids? Medical samples? Tobacco? Plants? Food? If you have a question about these or anything else, ask first before it’s too late.

Wrap your items correctly. Just because they are in a box doesn’t mean they are safe. Shipping while traveling or shipping to your travel destination implies that these items are making a long journey. Remember, just marking your box “fragile” or “handle with care” won’t cut it — They are just suggestions to the courier. Making sure your fragile materials remain intact is up to you.

So don’t just place them in a box, make sure they are protected once inside. If what you’re sending has a strong odor or may leak, wrap it in grease-resistant paper and bind it with strong packing tape. All powders, such as spices, should be secured in a strong plastic bag. Fragile audio or data discs should be bubble-wrapped as should anything delicate, such as figurines. If you bought vinyl records, make sure they are placed against flat cardboard dividers, or better yet, use mailers that are specifically designed for albums.

Sending home a map or a blueprint? For those, use a triangular tube that will keep them dry and from being torn.

Don’t over-seal your box. If you are sending internationally, customs authorities have the right to open your box for inspection. Do make sure your box is not sealed with layers upon layers of tape. Not only will that cause frustration among customs authorities, which might influence the inspection process, but it will also likely damage your box. And it goes without saying, make sure your box is not sealed with rope.

Get the dimensions right. Calculating the size and weight of your package is essential for your package arriving at its dimensions safe and on time. Don’t just rely on what it says on the box or online. If your package exceeds the required height or weight, they could refuse to ship. Instead, make sure the quote you get is accurate to the package. That way you can walk away with the satisfaction of knowing your package is on its way without a hitch. 

Be prepared

Traveling has become more complicated in the COVID-19 era, and so has shipping. The way to deal with both is to be prepared. Make sure you are planning far in advance when you plan to send and to receive your package. Also, don’t forget about the nuances that might be at play at the destination, or at the shipping point, that could influence the package arriving on time.

Choosing the right shipping company can make all the difference. This is what they do for a living, which means they know in advance what needs to be done depending on what is being shipped and where it is going. Having a partner that is reliable and helpful will free up time to do what you should be doing when traveling – Enjoy yourself!

About the Author: Rob Lee is the co-founder of Swift Passport Services, which is the leader in Passport and Visa expediting.

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