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Topic: ot: Trying to figure out how best to send a package to England

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Subject: ot: Trying to figure out how best to send a package to England
Date Posted: 11/24/2010 5:03 PM ET
Member Since: 3/1/2006
Posts: 436
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Hi everyone,


Okay, I know this is probably a simple thing, but all the same I'm hoping for some quick words of advice.


The thing is, I?m a disabled person, so getting to a post office takes some careful planning. I want to be able to get everything in order, know how much I?m going to pay so I don?t have any unexpected surprises when I get there. For example, I don?t want to think I?m going to pay one price and they tell me that I have to pay $20 more. I don?t make good decisions on the spur-of-the-moment like that.


Anyway, right now I?m trying to figure out how best to send a package to England. I have two separate friends there I?d like to each send a small Christmas package.


What?s the best way to do this? It?s been a long time since I sent a package overseas, so I?m not sure how to go about this. I googled international shipping rates and came up with a list of USPS priority boxes. It said a four-pound box was $13.45 and a 20-pound box was over $40. I was like, yikes! What a big jump!


So this is where I am right now. For those of you out there who know, is it best to get these boxes, or can I just carefully pack up my gifts, take it there and have them weigh and slap on postage? Naturally it depends on the weight of my items. But I?m just wondering if this is an option, or am I forced to get these boxes? And if I get the boxes, where do I get them? Are they at the post office? Do I have to ask for them at the counter?


As you can see, I?m clueless. Some suggestions would be more than appreciated! Thanks in advance,


Date Posted: 11/24/2010 5:35 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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It does all depend on the weight. You don't _have_ to use USPS packaging unless you want to ship Priority Mail flat rate. 


If your package weighs less than 4 pounds, you can ship first class mail in your own packaging. If you have something small and heavy (like a book), it may be cheaper to use a flat rate envelope. 

Anything over 4 pounds has to go Priority Mail which is very expensive overseas. The USPS no longer lets you ship by boat, it all has to go by air (for overseas), that's why it is so expensive. 

You can use your own box for Priority Mail, or you can use theirs. You can pick up boxes at the post office or you can have them sent to your house for free, just go to usps.com

The big thing is you have to know the weight and dimensions in order to figure out if it's going to be cheaper to ship in a flat rate box or not. 

Date Posted: 11/24/2010 10:08 PM ET
Member Since: 12/21/2009
Posts: 579
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this site http://ircalc.usps.gov/

will let you calculate how much postage you use. Everything goes air mail. You have a choice of (1) First class / Small packet. Or (2) Priority flat rate. If your items are heavy you automatically have to use Priority. If you use your own box it'll ship by it's weight. If you use a flat rate box (USA priority box is OK!) then it may be more or less, depends how heavy.

I shipped books to Australia for an eBay auction, it cost $43!! But without the flat rate box it would have been over $60! I have a friend in the Netherlands I send XMas presents, I just buy her light weight things and they go small packet first class, I usually come out under $15.

What's important for you, as some one who doesn't get out easy, is having something that will give you an accurate weight. If you don't know how heavy it is, you will always be surprised. You can't buy international postage online, you can't put international packages in your box (because the customs form has to be done at the post office). But if you can get the weight right, know which way will be best for you, the trip should be harmless. :)

Date Posted: 11/25/2010 1:58 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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You actually can fill out the customs forms online, if you know the weight, but you still have to go to the post office and give it to an actual person, so if there are things you are not sure about, it's probably best to do it there at the post office where they can help you.

Date Posted: 11/28/2010 6:03 PM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2010
Posts: 2
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For books, you can also use AirMail M Bag, which can be cheaper than Priority Mail (if the box is heavy and flat rate boxes won't work).  It's good for up to 66 pounds and goes to most countries.  It can be slow, it can't be insured through USPS, and you would have to fill out the M Bag tag at the PO, but it's an option in some cases.  More info about M Bag is here:


Date Posted: 11/29/2010 12:48 AM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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You have to ship a _lot_ of books for an M bag to be cost effective o_O

Date Posted: 12/5/2010 5:11 AM ET
Member Since: 3/1/2006
Posts: 436
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Thanks for the responses. I'm just having another small issue.


I'm about ready to send my package. The thing is, I went on to order some of the international small flat-rate priority boxes from the usps.com website, but I only see the medium size listed. Am I missing it or is it located somewhere else? Can someone please help? I also tried to find a weight price for a small package under 4 lbs., but no prices except the priority boxes showed up.


I have a postal scale at home, so I can tell how much my stuff weighs. Unfortunately I just don't have the box. Oh, and just to let people here know, I'm not sending books. I've got some lightweight things here. Keychain, a shirt for my friend's son, etc. Depending on whether I can find the small international flat-rate box to see what everything weighs, I may or may not put in a few more items I have.


Any further help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Natalie B.

Date Posted: 12/5/2010 9:19 AM ET
Member Since: 8/25/2009
Posts: 706
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There aren't separate flat rate boxes for domestic and international.  All the Priority boxes supplied by USPS can be used for both domestic and international mail. 


You can't print postage for First Class mail through the usps.com site. 

Date Posted: 12/6/2010 1:08 PM ET
Member Since: 5/25/2009
Posts: 602
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You can order the small flat rate boxes through the USPS website, but it's awkwardly set up. You'll just have to keep digging around to find them. I'm sure your local post office also has some, it would certainly be faster to go there or have a friend go there and pick some up.

A small flat rate box is about the size of 3 DVDs. VERY small. Depending on the shape of the items, you can usually fit more in a flat rate envelope. You're not going to fit a t-shirt in a small flat rate box unless it's for a baby or small child.