Cheapest way to ship stuff to move overseas

My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

It’s been a while. Life here has been mad with our recent decision to move overseas. We’ve sold the house, liquidated everything we owned and created a large tome worth of paperwork in the form of a “Visa application”. So here I sit, in a vacation rental 20 feet from the beach awaiting the verdict of whether the UK will grant me a spousal visa with a bag of clothes and things to my name.

It was hard to purge everything, mainly because I am having a hard time stopping. Just today I took two things out of my suitcase, like I need the room or something. Old habits die hard though I guess. Before I met my husband I had lived out of my suitcase for a year traveling along the east coast. Purging has always been therapeutic. So when my husband said he wanted to spend $$ shipping crap to Europe I almost died.

What on earth could you possibly want to keep let alone spend money to ship over there?

Apparently, quite a lot.


We had 20 boxes of clothing, electronics, keepsakes and O’s toys to ship. We started researching our options. Finally we settled on a company called UPakWeShip. We went with them because we didn’t have a lot of time to screw around with filling out forms and waiting to hear back with “custom quotes” from companies. They are very transparent about costs and packages on their websites, a gorgeous service log full of all inclusive prices which is instant bonus points in the land of technology. I had a boat load of questions and a very patient man named Pete was quick to provide the info that we needed and answer them.

This process is confusing, even in the least confusing provider like Upak…where their entire process is documented brilliantly. You will have questions, don’t hesitate to reach out and ask questions. Seriously.

We initially were interested in their UCube service, where they drop the crate off at your house, you fill it up and then they come and pick it up, but we ended up about 20 miles outside of the radius of their closest port in Cape Canaveral. They would still be able to pick it up, but it would have cost a few extra hundreds of dollars, so my husband decided to go with the “baggage shipping” service and just drop the boxes off at the port one day.

So I got to packing…without watching the videos first.

Learn how to Pack UPak Style

Do yourself a favor and watch/read the “how to pack” materials closely, don’t just assume you know how to pack. Four days into an intensive game of Tetris, I stood proudly over my stack of boxes with my spreadsheet on how many cubic inches all the crap took up before my husband came home. Everything fit into 50 cubic feet of boxes.

“Nice, but it has to fit on a 40″x48″ palette, and not go above 45″ in height” which, if stacked together, my 50 cubic feet of boxes would not do “we’ll need to repack it all.”




Here’s how they measure: all your boxes get thrown on a palette, you MUST keep your boxes within the 40″x48″ confines of this palette. The height is up to you depending on how much you want to pay. This height is where your cubic feet usage is calculated from. They measure from the highest point up from where your bottom boxes meet the palette (not from the floor). So for 50 cubic feet, you have about 45″ in which to stack your boxes. So if all of your boxes take up 45″ but then you throw an ironing board in the mix, your height will be calculated to the top of said board, no the boxes regardless of the empty space in between.

So we gathered and scrapped and borrowed boxes that would fit together to form the holy mix of “all spaced used” harmony. I ended up cutting some massive 18″ cubic boxes down to fit the remaining space at the top (18″x18″x7″). Get creative.

What to Pack In

Double_and_single_wall_mediumInitially we were just going to pack in rubbermaid totes. God knows we had enough. When we first put our house on the market I just bought a ton and threw everything in them to store out of sight while staging the house. The problem with plastic totes, as Pete explained is two fold: 1.) even the best quality ones crack and 2.) they don’t fit together snugly. The base tapers in which means wasted space. When you are paying about $22 per cubic foot, every inch matters.

What we ended up using is double walled cardboard boxes. You thought all boxes were created equal? So did I, but no. Doubled walled boxes are extremely more sturdy. You will want these. We packed a few of our dual voltage electronics back in their original boxes but made sure to fill the extra space with more stuff like Cat-5 cords and things to make the most use of space. Extra space = collapsing, I’ll go into more details further down.

Use smaller boxes when possible, and keep all boxes under 5 cubic feet max. Large boxes have a tendency to get real heavy, really quick. Keep books and heavy things in smaller boxes and use clothes, blankets and empty product boxes (if necessary) to fill in the space left in the larger boxes if you find yourself approaching that 50 lb. maximum weight mark quickly.

Customs Inventory

I spent days…DAYS inventorying stuff. I have a spreadsheet with over 2000 items of my son and husband’s things when everything was said and done. It was horrible. You will need to take inventory of what is in every single box. I assigned each box a letter, each letter had it’s own tab on a spreadsheet. There are no tricks to make this part less sh*t-tastic, but you will survive, I swear.

However, when you create the lists be sure to watch what you are naming things. Seemingly common terms like “Stuffed bear” could get your shipment flagged by customs for illegal taxidermy. Even my husband’s conspiracy theory books got their titles skipped and a general “Religious book” assigned to it.

Packing and Taping

Things go in things. Leave no empty space in your boxes or it could cave in from the weight on top of it. Even if that box is on the top of your palette, there may be something else that ends up on top somewhere along the way. Use lightweight things to fill the space like blankets and clothing.

I made this masterpiece for you for the next part:


Tape the box at all seams. Once down the center of the flaps, then again on the left side of the flap, slightly overlapping the seam, then again on the right. Three layers of tape over the seam on the bottom, then tape along the two open edges. Do the bottom before you start filling the box, then the top when you are done… with all the boxes. It’s a beast to go back and reopen all the boxes if you need to move stuff around. Just add one quick temporary piece down the seam on the top if you need to toddler proof them while you work.

As a finishing touch tap along the side seam of the box….the one running down the length of the box that’s usually glued when you first get them? That one. It can split open if you aren’t careful.

Fill in the Signs

They will send you signs to print out, fill out and paste to the box once you complete you shipment reservation. You’ll need to attach two signs to each box: one on the top, one on a side. 40 signs you guys.


Tape the Signs to the Box

And make a cool gif.


Tape those signs on tight, too. I went through 3 commercial size rolls of packing tape on this stack.


Once you get all of this done, your account rep who you’ll be in contact with after reserving your shipping spot will provide the details on how to get your boxes where they need to be and how depending on your location and service you use. After that, it is just a waiting game. We dropped our boxes off at the port on August 27th. Just today we received the email saying the shipment has made it to the UK and is waiting to go through customs. 14 Days until delivery!


I guess it would be a good idea to get over there soon then? 🙂

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My family and I travel while I run my company Purveyor of Geekery

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