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Mailing Goods Home

I am curious whether anyone has mailed items that they have purchased home to the US from Europe or the UK specifically?

I am hoping to visit England next year for about 10 or so days and want to carry nothing more than a carry-on bag. If I make any purchases I would rather not truck them along and would be very content to just mail them home.

I have looked over the CBP website and the only detailed process seems to be for those who want to send along unaccompanied goods duty free. However, it seems for what I want, I just need to mail a package home. Customs will inspect the package and assess any duties turn it over to the USPS and I'll pay any necessary duties through my local post office. Has that been the experience? And how do I handle the process from the UK post office?

Posted by
1840 posts

We have sent things home by post from Scotland, Germany and Ukraine. Scotland and Germany were very expensive, but necessary. We found that some shops in Scotland would package and send items to our home. In that case they didn't collect VAT if we paid by credit card. The absence of VAT offset the cost of mailing. In two cases we went to the post office bought a box, tape and packing material, wrapped our own package and took it back to the post office to send. In that case you have to prepare a customs form.

Germany was pretty expensive and we had to buy a box, pack it, and mail it. The post offices in UK and Europe selll everything you need to prepare and mail a package. Mailing from Ukraine was so inexpensive it was unbelieveable, three plates arrived in perfect condition.

Posted by
552 posts

If you buy anything of sizable value, shipping should come with the purchase price. Let the shop owner do that for you so you don't have to waste sightseeing time in the post office.

Keep in mind that, no matter what anyone else says (and the shop owners will assure you that it's all 'grand fun'), I find that applying for your VAT refund is tedious and annoying at the very best. Get to the airport an extra hour early, for starters. It will take several months to receive a check, if it show up at all.

There's probably a formula you can devise to figure out the chances of getting your VAT back: If airport security makes you check a bag in one country that you we're able to sneak on with few hassles in another... Expect not to see a check from the more lax country. A much delayed check will likely materialize from the fastidious one.

Posted by
16894 posts

If mailing a packet from the local post office, you will fill out a Customs Declaration Form, declaring the value, purpose, origin, and nature of each item (e.g., gift, business, personal). You are allowed to send home a generous amount of personal shopping and gifts before the USA starts to charge any duty. See more at http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/kbyg/sending-us.

Posted by
1194 posts

I have mailed items home from Germany and France using flat rate shipping. It was under $50 both times. The package from Germany arrived fine, the package from France arrived with a huge puncture in it but the contents were fine. Both packages arrived within 2 weeks of my home arrival. I had some problems in France because I didn't have a chip and pin card. If I had that then I wouldn't have to stand in line for the purchase of the box/postage.
Both times were at the end of my trip and I included personal items so I could reduce the weight of my bag even more.
In both cases I thought the price was worth the convenience.

Posted by
4535 posts

All good advice so far. How you get it home depends on what you buy.

Larger, fragile or more expensive items you should try and have the merchant ship for you. Pay with a credit card for security and if shipping, you won't be charged the VAT. That usually about offsets the cost of shipping. And as noted, you don't waste valuable vacation time at the post office (they all pretty much feature long lines and bureaucracy).

For small things and things that are not heavy, I would seriously consider just bringing them along with you. Many people pack an extra duffle in the bag and fill it up with clothes, check it on the flight home and bring gifts and more valuable items in their carry on. You do typically get at least one free checked bag on international flights.

If shipping, the post office is cheapest and pretty reliable. Try and get the pre-paid boxes at the post office. You buy it, pack it and tape it up. Lots more self-service but at a lower cost. Keep in mind that often postal employees don't speak English well (outside the UK at least). If you have some extra clothing you can throw in the box for padding, do that to save buying peanuts.

There are also Mailboxes Etc. offices in most major cities. They will box, carefully pack and ship via one of the carriers like UPS. This comes at a cost but piece of mind if you want things packed well.

Posted by
11613 posts

I have sent things home from Italy, Poland and Austria. In Poland I used the national postal service, in Italy and Austria I used FedEx through Mailboxes Etc. Every package arrived on time and safely, except the one that FedEx lost - at its Memphis facility! Fortunately they have an excellent system in place for finding lost packages (photos of contents, key words found in contents), and an almost irreplaceable book and other personal items were found by their staff. So I can't help with UK specifically, but just take heart that it's a smooth process and if things go awry, depending on which carrier you use, there are remedies for retrieving your package.

Shipping wine from Ohio to New York was much more complicated.

Posted by
23434 posts

....If you buy anything of sizable value, shipping should come with the purchase price.....

Why ?? We shipped a number items from Europe and have never encountered that. Maybe it should, but it doesn't. Generally having the shop send it simplifies the process of avoiding the VAT. If it is an expensive item often times the VAT will cover shipping or close to it. As long as the custom forms is properly prepared then you will be fine. One year one of our items got hung up in the customs office in NJ for several weeks. Why??? we don't know but finally it was released. But pack it well cause it will get beat up and take insurance if offered.

Posted by
1420 posts

the only time I ever shipped stuff EVER was that I actually broke down and had the belleek store ship my stuff from them......no problems what so ever and the price seemed fair