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Topic: International Swapping Tips  (Read 5814 times)
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zzdia
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« on: February 18, 2012 09:43:33 PM »

Ok, so I'm an international swapper and I thought I'd put this out here so people won't be so afraid of swapping internationally. Yes, swapping internationally is more expensive, but there are ways to minimize the cost and get the most bang for your buck. (These are mostly based on my experiences)

- First up, if you're sending to a small country like mine, it will take some time for it to get there (a month is the norm for me). Don't panic right off, it'll get there in time. Patience is a virtue for both shipper and receiver. I've also noticed (maybe it's just in my country) that there isn't much difference in the time it takes to get to me in shipping priority and ordinary mail. I'd say go ordinary airmail because it's cheaper. I use ordinary airmail (even if it has no tracking number) and so far I've only had one package go missing from those I've sent out. If you've got perishables (say you're in the snack swap), express shipping is great. It's the fastest and it's got reliable tracking (but it's also expensive).

- Weigh your packages. Seriously, keeping a kitchen scale with you and being aware of the prices of the different weight ranges will really help you out. You won't get shocked by the price when you go the PO to send out because you've already done the weighing and calculating at home. You can split your packages into two to maximize weight limit for a certain price.  For example, our mail is weighed in grams. I once sent a package that was a little less than 350g. If I had sent it as one package it would be in the 251-500g weight and it would have cost me Php840, but I split it up into a 100g package (Php170) and a 250g package (Php420) and it cost me a total of Php590. Yes, it's a bit of work thinking about the weights and putting together your items into packages, but the savings are worth it.

- Still on the subject of weight, unless a box is absolutely necessary to keep what you're sending safe, go with either a padded envelope or even a regular envelope (I sometimes make my own envelopes from cartolina, it sturdier than a regular envelope even if it isn't as secure as a padded envelope). When you're weighing your package, weigh it along with the container, because that's how the PO will be weighing it. Also, wrapping your items within the package may add to the prettiness and the fun factor, remember that even the wrapping paper will contribute to the weight of the package.

I know I'm kind of rambling on, but I hope this helps someone out there! I just wanted to share. Smiley
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« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2012 04:30:04 AM »

Good ideas!

If you have bulky items that take a lot of space, but are soft and volumous, like something made of yarn, or sending materials like roving, etc, you can also vacuum pack the item too.  Either take a zip bag and squish out as much air as possible - or I actually have a vacuum sealer for food, and used that for some things in the past.  I remember trying to send a box to Israel and in the box, it was over $50 CDN, but when taken out of the box and squished into an envelope, it was $25. 

Or I sent a package of ground spice to a friend once.  Loose, it did not fit through the letter slot, so it would have cost me $10.  Carefully squished and and vacuum packed flat, I was able to send it as an oversized letter, so less that $2.  Something to consider for those stuff an envelope swaps too.

Vacuum sealing could help keep some perishables fresher longer, and keep things from banging around so much too if they are fragile.

Some countries have prepaid packages too, where you can fill it all you want, within reason, and it is just one flat rate.  Canada has letter envelopes, and soft envelopes like this, and the US has boxes (oh I wish we had boxes!!!).  I know I have pushed the envelope so to speak by stuffing the heck out of the soft envelopes and wrapping them in tape.  It must have weighed about 7 lbs, and I got glares and a lecture, but they still sent it!
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« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2012 01:25:02 PM »

Boxes themselves can also add to the weight, especially when you add a lot of extra padding to fill it up. As well as using envelopes I often wrap packages in bubble wrap or similar and then use a solid brown paper to cover it. This weighs less and means you fit the covering to the package rather than having to add filling to a box. I also suggest you think about the items you are making if you are worried about cost - be sensible about the materials you use and how heavy they are going to make the package. A few times I have wanted desperately to make something but have resisted because it would have made the cost of sending beyond my range. Generally the cost of sending is between $25-$50 Aust. Bookmark swaps have let me do it for around $10 for four partners and the highest cost has been $80.

Sending to other countries is a fun experience, have patience once you have sent and think about what you are making and how you will package it and you will enjoy it.
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« Reply #3 on: February 21, 2012 08:00:46 AM »

Thank you all for sharing these tips! There are so many awesome swappers around the globe and it's always fun to craft with them.

I think if you're just dipping your toe into internationally swapping, it's a good idea to pick a swap that has a pre-defined size. Something like a Hoopla or ATC or Altered Tin swap where the package is relatively small and you're only sending one item.
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2012 04:21:45 AM »

I really like one tiny thing and various wishlist swaps to keep the weight and cost down. That way I know I'll send something small and for the wishlists I can pick something lightweight to craft.

Another option is to let your partner stuff or fill the stuffie/pillow/heat pad to save on weight and bulk. (after talking to your partner of course). I received a set of awesome heat pads sent in a flat envelope and then filled them with rice myself. The cost would probably have been ridiculous to send them filled...
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« Reply #5 on: February 27, 2012 09:19:13 AM »

zzdia, these are great tips.  I was actually surprised last time I shipped to you.  It really wasn't all that expensive compared to a priority package I might send to someone in the U.S. 

And you are such a wonderful swapper, I hope these tips encourage more people to swap international.  I understand why but with some amazing craftsters all over the country, you can seriously miss out on some wonderful swapping experiences.  I still adore the artwork you sent me in the pinterest swap!

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Craftsunderground
« Reply #6 on: February 27, 2012 09:32:20 AM »

These are great tips. In almost every swap, I mail something from the US to Canada. Last time I also mailed to England, and before that to Australia. I had no idea of how to wrap or which way to send the items and it is difficult or impossible to decide it when you are in the post office.
I am going to get a scale and read up on the requirements. I really love shipping iternationally, but the cost can be prohibitive. I have only had one item go missing and that was to someone in Greece. I mailed it the day their PO went on strike. Neither package from that swap ever showed up Sad
I particularly like the tip to divide packages to get lower costs.
Thanks again.
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« Reply #7 on: February 29, 2012 04:52:51 AM »

A few more tips:

When sending to either Australia or New Zealand, please ask your partner about what can and can't go through Customs and Quarantine. We're both island nations, colonised fairly recently in the scheme of things, and we both work hard at keeping all sorts of bio-hazards (including, for example - dried lavender) out of our countries.

Just because everyone else is sending extras and a snack, doesn't mean you have to too. I just don't do extras - and I don't do them, because it increases the cost of shipping.

Remember that a 'large' item is not just size - it's also quality. You can make incredibly detailed and small, intricate items that could qualify as a large.
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« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2012 03:47:27 PM »

Some more tips if shipping from the us:

Don't use flat rate boxes for international packages. They usually cost more. For example one package I sent would have cost around $40 for a flat rate box or $20ish for an envelope. I sent a lot more than would have fit in an envelope for around $13. I have never had any problems sending the cheapest method. It still usually gets to my partner well before their package will get to me, even the time I sent weeks before they did. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get to them. I see no reason to pay 3 times more just for it to get to them only a few says quicker.

Smaller international packages don't cost as much as you think. I don't know how many swaps I have organized where people have said they couldn't afford to ship internationally and then they paid more (or about the same) to ship domestically. If your package is 1 pound or less (ie a scarf and small extras), it is quite affordable to ship internationally. I've even shipped to Canada a few times for less than domestic packages. It has been awhile since I checked, but it use to be around $9 for a 1 pound package to Canada (I've shipped some for $6) and around $11 to the UK.
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« Reply #9 on: March 02, 2012 11:54:43 AM »

Some more tips if shipping from the us:

Don't use flat rate boxes for international packages. They usually cost more. For example one package I sent would have cost around $40 for a flat rate box or $20ish for an envelope. I sent a lot more than would have fit in an envelope for around $13. I have never had any problems sending the cheapest method. It still usually gets to my partner well before their package will get to me, even the time I sent weeks before they did. It usually takes about 2 weeks to get to them. I see no reason to pay 3 times more just for it to get to them only a few says quicker.

Smaller international packages don't cost as much as you think. I don't know how many swaps I have organized where people have said they couldn't afford to ship internationally and then they paid more (or about the same) to ship domestically. If your package is 1 pound or less (ie a scarf and small extras), it is quite affordable to ship internationally. I've even shipped to Canada a few times for less than domestic packages. It has been awhile since I checked, but it use to be around $9 for a 1 pound package to Canada (I've shipped some for $6) and around $11 to the UK.

True.  True.  Good additions, craftaddiction.  I used to ship priority for every package, domestic and international.  Now I ship first class for all.  I think part of the reason folks think they need to ship priority especially for international is that little note in the swap information that says you have to ship air for international.  Do they even ship by boat these days anymore?  The postal worker where I ship packages is why I stopped shipping priority for international packages.  He looked at my package and told me that I would save over 18 dollars if I just bought an envelope and shipped first class. He also told me it would get there in about the same amount of time.  It was a revelation for me.  My international packages shipping costs are quite comparable to my domestic depending on weight. 
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« Reply #10 on: March 02, 2012 07:29:57 PM »

True.  True.  Good additions, craftaddiction.  I used to ship priority for every package, domestic and international.  Now I ship first class for all.  I think part of the reason folks think they need to ship priority especially for international is that little note in the swap information that says you have to ship air for international.  Do they even ship by boat these days anymore?  The postal worker where I ship packages is why I stopped shipping priority for international packages.  He looked at my package and told me that I would save over 18 dollars if I just bought an envelope and shipped first class. He also told me it would get there in about the same amount of time.  It was a revelation for me.  My international packages shipping costs are quite comparable to my domestic depending on weight. 

Oh, there's still sea mail. But it takes up to three months to get anywhere. But yeah, shipping internationally, going with the cheapest air method usually works. I think the problem with priority shipping, when you're doing it internationally, your PO can only guarantee that within your own country, but it's out of their hands once it reaches a different country.

I think that would be another good tip: don't forget to ask about your choices. From your postal workers, or even other people or craftsters who've sent internationally before. Most POs have a price list available for all shipping options and weights. And don't be afraid of the cheapest method. As long as it's sent by air, it still has a pretty good chance of getting to its destination within a month.
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« Reply #11 on: March 02, 2012 08:02:43 PM »

Well see...what do I know?  Heh.  I am wondering then if the US still does sea mail or not.  Typically for international, I'm only given the option of first class, priority, or express...all go by air as far as I know.  If sea mail is still an option here in the USA then my postal workers don't offer it. 
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« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2012 03:20:26 AM »

Randomly, the USA also now has a $9 Security Surcharge that will be added to all parcels over a certain weight (my post office insists it's 454 grams while the Australian post website says 500 grams) and while it wouldn't impact a bookmark (or similar) swap it's something to keep in mind for 'big' swaps.  Undecided
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2012 07:58:36 AM »

Randomly, the USA also now has a $9 Security Surcharge that will be added to all parcels over a certain weight (my post office insists it's 454 grams while the Australian post website says 500 grams) and while it wouldn't impact a bookmark (or similar) swap it's something to keep in mind for 'big' swaps.  Undecided

Eek! Thanks for sharing, I had no idea!
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« Reply #14 on: April 06, 2012 06:11:03 AM »

Same Continent International:
If you can't swap worldwide, you could still look into the fees for neighboring or closer countries. For example, sending from the US to Canada isn't very expensive, and for a European swapper sometimes Europe is still in the budget when worldwide isn't.
You can let your organizer know which countries are good for you to ship to and which aren't. You'll greatly increase the number of awesome swap partners you could have. As an organizer, I know how sad it is when there is a perfect match in your swap and you can't bring them together.
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« Reply #15 on: April 10, 2012 09:06:56 AM »

What about A US to Mexico package? Has anyone sent one? I have to send a package by the 20th. Any suggestions?
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« Reply #16 on: May 11, 2012 07:59:37 PM »

Well, I just learned something interesting today.  

I am part of the matchbox swap and thought that sending the smaller package out would save me on shipping.  I reused a couple of boxes to pack my items in, and one was a box for allergy tabs and the other held a wrist support - small boxes.  The largest was maybe 4"x3"x2", and both very light.

Imagine how far my jaw dropped when he told me that shipping to the US by the cheapest option for the one of the boxes was going to be over $28, and for express, it would be over $40!!!!!!  

It turns out that packages smaller than 14cm (about 5 inches I think, standard letter sized?) in width or whatever are charged more.  Something about not being able to stick on the standard shipping information stickers, etc.  I was able to buy those bubble mailers and stick each box in those, and they were the right size.  After I did that, they weighed a bit more, but now cost less.  Even with the extra cost of the mailers, and airmail, they camed to about $20 less EACH, than the cheapest option offered before sticking them in the envelopes.

So if you think smaller should be cheaper- sometimes it's not!
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« Reply #17 on: May 14, 2012 12:24:09 PM »

I want to send a package to the UK and honestly, I am more confused than ever. It seems I would need to bring the item and several types of packaging along to the post office so that I could be prepared for any contingency.
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« Reply #18 on: May 14, 2012 12:29:16 PM »

I want to send a package to the UK and honestly, I am more confused than ever. It seems I would need to bring the item and several types of packaging along to the post office so that I could be prepared for any contingency.

Hehe, I do that a lot, actually Wink I always weigh my package right on the post's scales, and fill it up there, or change the packageing - sometimes I even bring packageing tape and paper and create/decorate the package in a quiet corner of the post Wink
I highly recommend to leave some room for errors and not close the package before you've had it on the post office's scales.
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2012 06:46:38 AM »

I want to send a package to the UK and honestly, I am more confused than ever. It seems I would need to bring the item and several types of packaging along to the post office so that I could be prepared for any contingency.

I do that and often see others do the same. Sometimes they share packing tape  Smiley

I'm finding all these tips very helpful. One thing I was told recently when planning to send to the UK from the US was that if your envelope is actually a package (it's bulky or rigid or whatever) it's not any cheaper to use it instead of a box. It made perfect sense (because they price it as a package, not an envelope) but it was an aha moment for me  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #20 on: July 02, 2012 10:53:29 AM »

I really like one tiny thing and various wishlist swaps to keep the weight and cost down. That way I know I'll send something small and for the wishlists I can pick something lightweight to craft.

Another option is to let your partner stuff or fill the stuffie/pillow/heat pad to save on weight and bulk. (after talking to your partner of course). I received a set of awesome heat pads sent in a flat envelope and then filled them with rice myself. The cost would probably have been ridiculous to send them filled...

It is! I made that mistake last swap of sending some prefilled bean bags to my partner in the states. The weight ended up costing me a ton! I wish I would have thought to just ask if it was ok if I sent them unfilled!!
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« Reply #21 on: August 07, 2012 05:04:31 AM »

I live in Ireland and so all of my packages are international and I have learned a few things over the years.

1. Start with the kinds of crafts that you decide to send. I do bookbinding but almost never send heavy crafts like that overseas, it is just too expensive. Always consider lighter materials BEFORE you start to craft.

2. Volume is also important, as Annchen said above, if it is say a throw cushion, could you agree with your partner to send the cover and s/he will fill it.

3. Volume is important so choose crafts that are very squashable! Use fabric items to pad and cushion anything less squashable, rather than adding weight with packaging.

4. From here at least, sending anything in a box (no matter how small) is almost always significantly more expensive. So envelopes are the way to go. Again you have to consider what you are making, most post offices jump, chew and mutilate all packages, no matter how well packaged. The last item I recieved, the postman actually threw it in the window, it bounced off the sink onto the floor, everything was in some way damaged, mostly repairable fortunately.

5. Padded, paper envelopes are not generally the best choice, you can buy thin plastic envelopes in large sizes, they have no padding, they are very light and incredibly tough. Use these! But always write on them with a ballpoint pen, not a sharpie or other felt tip, to make sure the address doesn't rub off. Plastic evelopes will also protect your precious items from rain..trust me, they will find rain somewhere along the line.

6. Talk to your partner about customs for their country. Europe has strict rules and adds duty to anything coming from outside of Europe. Some customs officers apply these rules more strictly than others. If for example you send a package to me and put a notional value of $100 on it. When it arrives to me, I will have to pay $33.50 to receive it!!!...so in every case to Europe (even if it kills you) always put NO COMMERCIAL VALUE on the customs declaration form.  I had thought that gifts were exempt from this duty. but in my last tussle with customs officers, I learned that even gifts are not exempt from duty!

7. as was mentioned before, check with your partner about local regulations, for example I cannot send kinder eggs to the USA (and I have never done so Wink ... honest injun ..lol) You can't send anything that might have bugs or seeds to Australia, like herbs.

8. Log onto your postal service online, weigh everything and work out the cheapest method of posting, it will save you an awful lot of money. And a personal tip..never pay for weight that you don't send. For example our postal costs go up in 1/2kg increments so if my crafts weigh in with about 1/4kg to go before I reach the next level, I will throw in extras, snacks etc to make up the weight. i figure if you pay for it, then use it!!

and keep on swapping with us folks from other countries, it is fabulous to receive things from a different country. It can be surprisingly reasonable to send from the USA to Europe if you know these tricks..

happy swapping!
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