Expert Packaging Tips for Headache-Free International Shipping

International Shipping how to package items

Packages that cross international borders are subject to more handling and scrutiny as they travel, so packing and shipping them requires more care and consideration than domestic shipments. 

They're more likely to be pushed, dropped or even battered while they move through customs, less sophisticated sorting facilities and numerous vehicles on the way to their destinations.

Here are seven tips from international shipping experts that will help your items get to their destinations safely and you better pack and ship orders internationally.

1. Don't skimp on the box.

Ship step one, pack your order with the best box you can.

It may be tempting to use what you have on hand, but boxes need to be large enough to accommodate the product and extra packing material to ensure your goods pack safe during shipment. 

The box you choose to pack your shipment must be sturdy enough to withstand the long trip, which includes many sorting and handling facilities. 

Don't try to "make do" with a box that's too small or that's made from flimsy paperboard when you pack items for international shipping. 

Use a corrugated shipping carton (also in video below) instead. 

If the item is pre-packaged in a paperboard box, keep the original packaging intact and ship the whole order in a cardboard carton: No need to individually pack goods prepared to be shipped to end users in the manufacturer's crating.

2. Check the box's weight limit.

A shipping box will usually have the weight limit stamped on the bottom flap. 

Overloaded boxes can rip or break during international shipping, so weigh your item and packing materials to make sure they're within the weight limits. 

Cardboard boxes lose strength over time, so if the box is old and the package is close to the weight limit, upgrade to a newer, stronger box as you pack items for shipping.

Check out: Ways Online Sellers Can Reduce Their Shipping Costs

If you need to pack and ship heavy items, crate pack boxes - often made with wood - are a sturdier solution but more expensive than cardboard when shipped.

3. Cushion the item well.

Whether you use packing peanuts, foam pads or bubble wrap, line the interior of the carton with at least 5 cm (2 in.) of cushioning material.

The item should also be wrapped in at least 5cm of foam or padding.

Place the padded item in the box and fill the spaces with more cushioning material from the bottom up.

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4. Use the proper packing materials.

If you're shipping specialty items such as breakable collectibles, electronics, artwork or antiques, you need to be extra cautious when you pack your box. 

Protect electronics with anti-static materials rather than foam, bubble blankets or crumpled paper. 

Use at least 8 cm (3 in.) of cushioning material around fragile items.

Note: Take extra care with fragile items. You will need to pack fragile items individually and note on the outside of the shipping box when shipping fragile products to alert the parcel carriers to be extra vigilant when handling your fragile items.

5. Check for movement.

Before you seal the package, close the box and give it a gentle shake. 

You shouldn't hear anything move. If you can hear the items shifting around in the box, add more packing materials until the item fits snugly - there should be very little wiggle room when you wrap items securely. 

Items that don't jostle around in the container are less likely to be broken or damaged, while securing small items will keep them from getting lost in transit or once the shipments are opened.

6. Seal the package well.

Make sure the outside of the box does not have any old markings, stickers or bar codes.

Don't wrap the package in paper which can tear or get caught in postal handling equipment. 

Use plastic tape to seal all the flaps and cover the seams. The heavier the package is, the more tape you need to reinforce the seams. Heavy items benefit from extra love as you pack to avoid a heavy heart as they ship.

7. Label the package properly.

Addresses should be written in uppercase letters only to avoid errors by automated sorting equipment. 

The label should also include the full name of the country rather than an abbreviation. 

International addresses can be written in the recipient's language, but the country, city and province should be written in English. 

See also: The Consumer Psychology of Product Packaging Shape, Style, and Label

Write the foreign postal code above the country name to avoid sorting errors and delays. 

Most international packages also require a customs form, which should also be printed in capital letters and filled out completely to ship on time. 

Take the customs form with you to the shipper, who will determine the best location to attach it as the last step in your pack and ship process.

Wrapping Up: How to Pack Items for Shipping

Packing and shipping a product internationally requires more care than shipping domestically. 

Packages that travel overseas or through multiple border crossings take more abuse, so always use sturdy boxes and don't overload them. 

Using extra cushioning (bubble wrap anyone?), especially for fragile easily breakable items, and packing the items tightly will help protect them on the way. Using packaging that is both secure and effective for the item will save on costs in the long run.

Clear, legible addresses in both the foreign language and English will also help the postal handlers get the package to the correct destination, avoiding delays or items going to some other place. 

Finally, properly completed customs forms will help prevent delays and get the item to the recipient safely when your deliveries require international shipping.

Now you know how best to to ship your items! Time to pack.

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Kais Khadhraoui
Kais Khadhraoui
I'm the CEO & Founder at Fulfillment Bridge. I spent more than 12 years providing cutting edge financial solutions to global banks and stock exchanges and running successfully Multimillions projects at global scale. I decided 8 years ago to start my entrepreneurial adventure in the eCommerce industry. I discovered similarities in both fields which made it easier for me to provide high quality eCommerce related services inspired from the Fintech world. My ultimate goal is to create a leading eCommerce solution following the high standards adopted in the financial industry. When you are looking to take your ecommerce to the next level and partner with a logistics provider that specializes in global ecommerce solutions, you can get in touch with me on LinkedIn.