Held in Customs.

The long wait to avoid…


 Walk along the river. River Thames, London, England. December 2014.

Well, dear readers, I am happy to announce, after two months of being without a phone (the kind that doesn’t cost you for everything you do and existed before cellphones could “flip”), my phone will be back in my possession by tomorrow afternoon. To say I’m excited is a major understatement.

What I’ve learned from this whole fiasco is something I talked about in my packing adventures back in September: shipping will rob you blind.

If you remember, I talked about my debate between bringing an extra suitcase which weighed just under the maximum limit (50 pounds) and shipping a few boxes so I wouldn’t be burdened carrying the extra suitcase while moving into my new flat. The extra bag cost me between 50 and 85 dollars, but I had everything I needed the moment I arrived. My mother was able to bring my guitar over for free as an extra by checking it at the gate for safekeeping when she visited.

Continuing from the phone fiasco, my phone—along with a few other items from home, since we’re shipping around Christmas—in a box around the size of a pair of boots’ ended up costing just shy of 285-300 dollars in shipping and customs fees alone. How, you might ask? Well, with about 60 dollars to get my phone home, about 150 dollars to ship and cover everything, and another 75 dollars give or take to get the box out of customs (and their surprising extra fees), everything just starts to add up (and we’re not counting the various cost of replacement items from a music player, watch, and camera I had bought to replace all the things my phone used to do).

So, what to do if you are away from home long enough to need something shipped to you?

In my case, I should have started by getting some insurance in London for the things I would definitely need replaced if something happened to them – that way I could have replace the phone right away. Or, if you haven’t done that, contact your insurance and see if there’s a way to replace what you need wherever you are and get reimburse for what you plan covers. Either of these will save you money and get you the replacement faster than dealing with shipping.

Even if whatever you need can’t be dealt with through insurance, you should compare the cost of buying replacements where you’re staying to the cost of sending whatever it is you had at home. Do your research but count on things going wrong and round up any possible costs in terms of shipping—everyone I know has had trouble with it this year, so it’s not just bad luck.

When it comes to people wanting to ship you things (like presents for the holidays or birthdays, or other gift-giving events) avoid having your packages travel internationally. If someone is going to visit, have them pack it (it’s a great excuse—ask my mom and the guitar which I know have in my room!).

If no one’s planning a trip out, think about giving your account information—such as amazon—to the person sending you the gift. If you are somewhere long term—which I hope you are if you are having things sent to you and not just send things out—you are most likely going to set up a local account. That’s the account you give them and they’ll be able to input their payment method and purchase an item to ship that is already in your area—no international travel necessary. Just make sure not to open those email reminders if it’s a surprise and delete their payment info later so you don’t accidentally use their card later! This is how my mom got me my Christmas presents this year and it was super quick and easy.

If shipping like this isn’t an option either, remember money and a card is simple and easily shipped, and it is always appreciated.

Besides monetary issues, shipping also comes with some serious time issues, especially when moving internationally.

Like I said, I’ve been without my phone for two months now (half the time I have lived here!) but most (well more like just over half) of that time, the trouble was getting things done back home, not shipping issues. My parents shipped my parcel out on December 19th from Southern California and it’s scheduled to be dropped off at my London flat tomorrow, January 14th. Yep that’s almost a whole month.

My customs payment was also handled through a third party which was convenient because, at least, I could pay online and I didn’t have to go and find the post office/ customs office that was holding my parcel as other friends did. However, here’s where to take note: when you pay your ridiculous customs fee so your items can be released, if you are given the option to deliver the next day, say yes. As it turns out, despite you paying for your property to be released, if you do not state that you want your package delivered, your package will go into holding until you directly request its release. On top of this, you will only discover this extra hoop when you get tired of waiting and track your package online. While you get an email receipt for paying your fee, there is no other indication that there is more to do.

On the upside, the girl on the phone was very nice and got my package released promptly; A very small silver lining but it’s there none the less.

Anyway, my advice, if something has to travel internationally, and it’s not accompanied by a friendly face that will be staying with you for a bit as well, avoid shipping it.

Well, until, next time, travel well.

This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.

Held in Customs.

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