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Need help with transatlantic move

ddrlegsddrlegs Registered User regular
edited May 2011 in Help / Advice Forum
I am planning a move to London, England from Portland, Oregon to occur in late September of this year. I fell in love with a handsome, adoring, geeky Brit at Prime last year and now am moving my life and belongings halfway around the world to be with him. Oh, and to attend law school. That too.

I have all summer to get things in order to move and have most things figured out, but still haven't quite sorted out how best to ship my heavier, bulkier items overseas. (Read: my gaming computer) My questions are these:

1. Will USPS or UPS really be that much nicer to my shipment than the baggage carriers would with luggage on an airline?

2. Is there a way to mark baggage 'fragile' in a way that airline staff would pay attention to?

3. What is the best way to package a computer, in either a shipping box or hard-case luggage? (Note: mine is a standard-size Antec case.) I will have tons of clothes, a few blankets, et c. that could be used in place of disposable packing materials if they work better.

4. What the heck is up with customs, anyway? If anyone could tell me how that works when shipping your own items to your soon-to-be address, that would be majorly helpful. Most everything I've found online regards sales or gifts, and my items don't fall into either category. I need help with valuation, too, if anyone knows about how much a gaming machine made to top standards two years ago would be worth according to customs. Also, another customs-related issue: do you have to declare your own used items? I might have 3 semi-large bags, so not declaring anything might look fishy. Nothing I'm bringing will be new, aside from personal prescriptions and some cosmetics. An abridged list of the items is this: clothes, used kitchen supplies, shoes, used electronics (lamp, computer, et c.).

I'm asking about both airlines and shippers because they'll end up costing about the same--with the knowledge I've been able to glean from several dozen websites, an estimate for a parcel through USPS or UPS runs about $175 for a box that would hold my machine; paying for an extra bag to check on my flight is the same amount. The only issue with the difference is treatment. If proper shippers will treat my package with more care, then I'll probably go with them--unless there's a way to get airline staff to not throw my bag around.

Or, alternatively, there might be a way to pack a computer that will protect it from any damage a shipper or baggage person could possibly inflict.

If anyone has ever moved overseas before, or even just to another country that involved complicated shipping and customs issues, PLEASE tell me everything you can. Thank you!

ddrlegs on


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    cmsamocmsamo Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I am looking at going the other way (UK->Canada) and google found me a whole bunch of companies in the UK that would come and collect, pack, and ship all my stuff.

    To send a couple of boxes of books, a computer, and a few other small things, they wanted £750 (about $1000 at current exchange rate?)

    It's not cheap, but they do everything for you.

    cmsamo on
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    Liquid HellzLiquid Hellz Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    ddrlegs wrote: »
    1. Will USPS or UPS really be that much nicer to my shipment than the baggage carriers would with luggage on an airline?

    2. Is there a way to mark baggage 'fragile' in a way that airline staff would pay attention to?

    1) I don't believe so, airline carriers use the same methods & systems as USPS & UPS for loading/unloading crap from planes.

    2) Don't mark it at all. I saw a special on Dateline or Mythbusters or something where they put a device in boxes that measured all kinds of bumps and speeds and stuff, then shipped it via the 3 major carriers. Stuff marked fragile seemed to get worse treatment then stuff not marked at all. Someone else can probably remember what show that was.

    Liquid Hellz on
    What I do for a living:
    Home Inspection and Wind Mitigation
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I would not take a gaming computer. I would take out the hard drive and the video card if it is a good one, and rebuild it at the other end. I would take them in my carry on luggage packed in bubble wrap. I did this when moving Australia -> Canada.

    If you absolutely must take it, the space it takes up is going to be roughly the same cost as rebuilding it, probably, or more if you are taking a lot of other things as airplane luggage too. Anyway, take everything out of the mobo which I would leave in the case, take at least the HD on board with you and pack the rest in bubble wrap. I would personally pack it as cargo hold in a suitcase.

    1. No, the mail is the same or worse than aircraft. I am sure if you courier it to yourself there might be some good fragile options but I'm sure they are $$$.

    2. Not in my experience. I asked a handler (a friend of friend) once, he expressed that they don't give a damn.

    3. I would bubble wrap the interior of the case now that its just the case and mobo and everything else wrapped separately. I really hope you're not taking a monitor as well.

    4. Customs. It is best to be over-prepared. You might not need all these things but there is ALWAYS a chance of being asked, and if you are prepared you will be calm and things will go smoothly.

    - Have printouts showing your current funds in bank accounts, or if you are carrying it all as cash, show the previous balance and withdrawal information. The limit seems to be 10k Euro, so if you're rich don't carry more than that in cash leave it in the bank.

    - Here's the form for personal belongings:

    The form is very specific it seems to answer some of your questions.

    I have to say... you're taking things like lamps and kitchen supplies? Why? They do have that stuff there - just go to a thrift store and buy some new-to-you stuff.

    To answer your question about valuation, just check craigslist for computers, get a general estimate for something of similar value, you don't have to go overboard on the calculation just be general.

    onceling on
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    spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    If you do take your whole PC, make sure the power supply has a 110/220 switch on it. If not, it will be utterly useless. Don't bother to ship the monitor unless you can verify (sticker on the back) that it will operate on 220-230 volts.

    Same goes for all your other electronic devices. Most of them will probably not, but some may.

    spool32 on
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    L Ron HowardL Ron Howard The duck MinnesotaRegistered User regular
    edited May 2011
    When a friend of mine moved a couple years ago, she literally sold just about everything. She had about a week's worth of clothing - just what you can fit in a suitcase, and her personal things (toothbrush, makeup, etc) and bought everything once more after she had moved.
    If I were in your shoes, I'd just sell the computer. If the contents on the hard drive are valuable, just take that with you and rebuild another computer once you've moved.

    L Ron Howard on
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    JansonJanson Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I agree with onceling re. the computer.

    I also did a transatlantic move and took pretty much everything except my computer (to me, the cost of shipping was easily worth the hassle of selling things, and then re-buying most of them on the other end). I HIGHLY recommend They moved 14 boxes door-to-door, West Sussex to San Jose, California, for 350 pounds. They also provided the boxes and packing materials. I believe I just had to provide the tape and fill in some very easy paperwork.

    They took everything through customs for me, and the only additional fee that cropped up was a $50 x-ray fee. When I unpacked at the other end, only one glass was broken. :)

    Edit: this was from UK>USA but they will do the other way, too. 3-4 boxes with them may still be cheaper than excess baggage on a flight - I'd definitely recommend getting at least a quote.

    Janson on
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    SkeithSkeith Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I had to ship a computer from California to Hawaii a few years back with UPS. Marked it as fragile, and when I received it on the other end it was in bad shape; the metal that the power supply had screwed into was torn and the thing had bashed into my heatsink, and the computer as a whole crapped out maybe two weeks later. So you want to disassemble the thing as best you can and put it back together later if you don't just sell it. If you got the first route, remove the video card, PSU, hard drive(s), possibly the RAM. Whatever's left should be alright, but insure it anyway.

    Skeith on
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    tbloxhamtbloxham Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    I'd highly advise the 'bring nothing that you don't have to' route. It will be cheaper and easier for you and you'll find that you weren't using 99% of your stuff anyway.

    Anything you do have to bring beyond standard luggage find a professional package service who will move it for you, and ideally pack it for you. If you get any one of the forms wrong and end up paying taxes on the items or to reclaim it it will end up having been cheaper to just buy the thing new.

    tbloxham on
    "That is cool" - Abraham Lincoln
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    oncelingonceling Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    One other thing to remember about aircraft luggage. You can't just show up and say "oh here's my other 8 bags for cargo, I'll pay excess baggage fees". Excess baggage, fees or not, is entirely dependent on how full and heavy the plane *already is*. You don't just have the right to take as much as you want if you are willing to pay, it is really a case of whether they *also* have room for it. Show up as early as possible for baggage drop, no matter what, and always check in ASAP, even online in advance when you can.

    I would recommend limiting yourself to what you are allowed (which is usually 2 suitcases already I think, depending on the airline) plus one extra suitcase that you'll pay excess fees on, maximum. Ship everything else through another party. When you go through customs, the goods with the shipping company are considered "Goods to follow" - that is, things that you have documented on a thorough list that you can show them but are *not accompanying you right now*. Always have your shipped goods METICULOUSLY detailed. Will you need the list? Probably not, but if you don't have it, I guarantee they'll be able to SMELL your fear and they'll ask for it, LOL.

    onceling on
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    ceresceres When the last moon is cast over the last star of morning And the future has past without even a last desperate warningRegistered User, Moderator mod
    edited May 2011
    When I did this I left pretty much everything, but it was also 1999 and I didn't really have a computer worth moving.

    ceres on
    And it seems like all is dying, and would leave the world to mourn
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    Skoal CatSkoal Cat Registered User regular
    edited May 2011
    While your considering what to bring and what not to bring, also consider how much extra space this guy has for your stuff.

    Skoal Cat on
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