Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Da Shippin' News - 2

All righty then...think I'm getting a handle on this packing and shipping thing.

By way of preface though, I'm still just scratching my head at the dearth of information and good advice about how to do all this. I'd have thought that with numerous people arriving in Riyadh every day to live, the expats would have a system for how to get their stuff over there.

Here's the deal in case you're wondering how you're going to do it yourself.

There seem to be two options:

1) Use a freight forwarder or other shipper to send your stuff
2) Take your two free bags, two carry-ons and then simply add a third box as "excess baggage."

I chose #2. Yes, you pay dearly for the excess, but it's wayyyyy cheaper than the freight forwarder...unless you're taking a whole household of stuff, or have more than, say, 7 boxes.

I checked with a local freight forwarder (who lackadaisically took 10 days to respond, by the bye) and his quote was $1,500.

Since I'm traveling via two different airlines, I had to deal with both. What you'll find is you need to pack and budget for the more restrictive airline.

United (UA) allows two free pieces of checked luggage:
a) 50 lbs or less
b) 62" in total dimensions.
If your free pieces (or any piece) exceeds the 50 lb limit you pay $150 for overage from 50-70 lbs. (I didn't check beyond that.)

Each additional box or luggage item is $250, same restrictions.

Saudia (SV)
allows two free pieces of checked luggage:
a) 70 lbs or less
b) 62" in total dimensions or less (you add the three dimensions and it can't exceed 62")
Each additional box or piece is $138, with same restrictions above.

With this information, I knew that I had to go with the UA 50 lb limit, even though SV allows 70 lbs.

Doing the math, it appears that I need to keep my two free pieces strictly within the 50 lb/62" limit to avoid severe penalty.

I doubt I can get everything into two boxes, so I'm fixin' to add a third excess box, within the correct specifications and pay the $250. UA assures me that this takes me straight through to Riyadh.

Apparently, part of the cost for the freight forwarders is that your package has to be received or handled by one of their agents there to pass customs...or maybe just to be downloaded. Also, the package does not arrive when you could be before or later.

The trick, it would appear, is to get boxes as close as possible to the 62" space limit. I'm going to purchase three 20x20x20 boxes from the UPS store, though I could get them from U-Haul cheaper. But I think the UPS boxes might be a bit sturdier.

Tip: Although 20x20x20 only adds up to 60", the box specification refers to the inside volume. Thus, such a box really comes in more like 61" and some change. I'm not sure how fussy the airlines are going to be, but why chance it?

I considered using a very large suitcase, maybe buying one from Goodwill, but suitcases add about 5 lbs to the total weight, what with wheels, handles, zippers, dividers and so on. And I reckon that if you multiply that by 3 boxes, it could add up to 15 extra pounds of junk I can haul over.

My friend has a bag weighing device so I'm hoping to get that measurement pretty fine-tuned.

As a final option, if I get to either my two-box or three-box capacity and find that I have just a bit of overflow -- not enough to fill a full box, I can send a U.S. mail package which will arrive who-knows-when (probably 3 weeks) for what I'm surmising would be about $50.

Needless to say, I'll be packin' and storin' like crazy this weekend.

Other notes
1) These size/weight restrictions apply to these respective airlines' domestic and international flights. United may have different (more generous) limits for international flights.
2) If you're flying business class or better, you may be able to up your size/weight limits. Of course, your packing chores still have to conform to the most restrictive limit.
3) In case you're wondering, today's title comes from the 1993 novel by Annie Proulx, The Shipping News, set in Newfoundland. One of the characters, a Newfie, likes to pronounce the term as "da shippin' news." See? You get all sorts of fun information on this blog!


  1. Veeds - Do you cook? If so - remember to gather all of your favorite spices, they are limited here. Bring an excess of deoderant, shampoo, etc. the brands are different and also limited. Just to make you feel more like home...

  2. I've been known to commit cooking, but since my favorite spice is actually bologna, you can get an idea how adventurous my culinary talents go.

    I thought the Middle East was the home of fancy spices?

  3. I mean things like chives, and poultry seasoning and dill. I can't find them anywhere. Don't even get me started on half and half. I can only dream of a decent cup of coffee.

  4. Maybe you could substitute frankincense and myrhh.