Whether for small business, the holidays, military deployment, or otherwise, shipping packages through the mail is relatively straightforward. But there’s more to it than tossing your items in a box and dropping it off at the post office. If you want to ship efficiently and affordably and ensure your items arrive at the destination damage-free, there are specific steps you should take. That includes gathering the right shipping supplies and materials and following best practices when packing and sealing the box.
If you’re ready to pack a box for shipping like a pro, this guide will tell you everything you need to know – from the best packing materials and methods to tips for shipping during the holidays and shipping fragile items.
Use Recommended Shipping Boxes and Supplies
A standard cardboard box isn’t enough to pack your belongings for shipping. It’s crucial you use a variety of materials designed to keep items safe in transit. Here is a list of the packing supplies recommended by the packing experts at U-Haul.
Truth be told after you hand your package over to a shipping provider, there’s no guarantee it will be handled with care every step of the way. That’s why it’s essential you use corrugated cardboard, so your boxes are better suited to withstand the rigors of the journey. Unfortunately, boxes weaken after each use, so consider using a new shipping box, if possible, to give yourself the best protection from falls and other harm.
It’s also essential you choose a box that fits what you intend to ship. In general, your package should fit your item comfortably with little extra space. An excellent place to start is the U-Haul Book Box. It’s designed to haul a variety of small, dense items up to 65 pounds and is a versatile size for convenient shipping (12” x 12” x 12”).
Biodegradable Packing Peanuts
Boxes often shift during transit making immobilization a crucial part of packing. Biodegradable packing peanuts are an eco-friendly and non-toxic void filler perfect for keeping fragile items like crystal vases, collectibles, and glass figurines from shifting or colliding. Biodegradable packing peanuts are also anti-static so you can safely use them with your electronics. To use packing peanuts, fill the box about halfway, firmly push your item into the first layer, and reload the second half.
Enviro-Bubble® Wrap or Packing Paper
Individually wrapping each item is another crucial step in the packing process. The material you use depends on what you’re shipping. Bubble cushion like Enviro-Bubble gives the best protection for fragile items like glassware, dishes, artwork, and collectibles. Packing paper is also helpful for wrapping and cushioning items for shipping and is excellent for filling gaps in the box and preventing shifting. Use a strip of packing tape to secure the bubble cushion or packing paper in place after you wrap your items.
Not just any type will do. It’s best to use strapping, stop, or packaging/mailing tape when sealing a cardboard box. Avoid masking, transparent, painters, electrical, and flooring tape. To tape a box for shipping, tape the center opening leaving about 2-3 inches of overhang on the sides of the box. Tape the side openings with some overhang on both the top and side of the box. Use multiple strips of tape if necessary. Your tape should be in an ‘H’ shape after you’re finished.
Where to Buy Shipping Boxes
Shipping supplies, including boxes, tape, cushions, peanuts, and more, can be found just about anywhere you can find packing, moving, or home office supplies. It includes the thousands of U-Haul locations found across North America and Canada. Same-Day Delivery is available in most United States metro areas and suburbs for added convenience. Search for shipping supplies near you today:
How to Ship a Box
These days, significant couriers have made the shipping process simple. If you pack your box effectively, you can take it to the post office or courier, and they will do the hard stuff (weigh the box, print the label, attach the tag, use the correct address info, etc.) for you. All you have to worry about is whether you packed your box correctly. But just in case, here are five tips for shipping boxes, small and large:
1. Know what you’re shipping – Certain items are prohibited from being shipped. It can include hazardous waste, fireworks, postage stamps, currency, and more. Other items are restricted. It’s best to know ahead of time if your shipment has any restricted or prohibited items, so you don’t run into any unexpected problems.
2. Choose a carrier – There are a variety of pages out there. Some might be better for you than others, depending on your needs. For example, the postal service offers cheaper shipping in most cases, while a courier like FedEx provides faster shipping and more service options, like international shipping.
3. Use the correct address – When providing the shipping and return addresses to the courier (or handwriting them yourself), it’s essential to use envelope format and get all the details right. Forgetting an apartment or suite number could be the difference between a delivered and undelivered gift during the holidays.
4. Print and attach label – If you’re printing and binding the label to your package yourself, be sure it’s firmly attached to the box in a visible area. You may also want to leave a copy of the shipping label inside the package if the original is damaged or falls off. If you’re handwriting the shipping information, don’t forget to include the return address and print it legibly.
5. Hold on to essential information – After you drop your package off, remember to hold on to your tracking number and receipt. The receipt or package information will come in handy if your package doesn’t get delivered for whatever reason, and you need to find the shipping status. Many carriers print the tracking number on the receipt.
How to Ship Fragile Items
If you’re shipping fragile items like glass or dishes there are several more steps you should take to ensure your items aren’t damaged during transport. Because the truth is, you never know how many tumbles a box will take going from point A to point B. Tips for Shipping Fragile Items:
- Use a larger box than a normal so you can add extra interior protection; use a double-walled box for extra cushion and impact protection
- If shipping dishes, line the bottom and sides of the box with crumpled packing paper, Enviro-Bubble, or packing peanuts for added cushion.
- Wrap the item(s) in an extra cushion/wrapping material (Enviro-Bubble, packing peanuts, etc.)
- Purchase shipping insurance or Special Handling-Fragile service Add a ‘fragile’ label and mark the ‘right side up’
Tips for Holiday Shipping
Shipping a package during the holidays isn’t much different from sending any other time of year. However, the right supplies and packing techniques will go a long way toward avoiding holiday mishaps. Here are a few other tips to keep in mind.
Don’t Wait Too Long
Drop off your box with the carrier well ahead of time. You can pay for fast or even overnight shipping, but it’s best to get your package in the mail with time to spare in case there are delays as the holidays approach.
Watch Out for Batteries
When shipping toys or electronics, be sure that batteries are packed separately in the box in the manufacturer’s packaging. In addition, any package making audible sounds or movement will be delayed for obvious security concerns.
Require a Signature
Unfortunately, stealing packages off porches and doorsteps is all too common, especially during the holidays. As such, you may want to add a “signature required” service to the package if you’re shipping items of high value.
5 Tips for Shipping Military Care Packages
Shipping a care package is a fun tradition for military families. But it’s not quite as simple as shipping a package across town. There are a few extra things you need to make sure your deployed loved one receives the care package as intended.
- Get the Shipping Information Right – Use the exact address, including first and last name, unit, title, DPO/FPO/APO, and zip code.
- Secure Your Box – Use plenty of shipping supplies to seal your package at every seam. Use as many packing supplies as needed.
- Avoid Prohibited Items – Many everyday items can’t be shipped. Be sure you don’t include these in your care package.
- Complete Customs Forms – Filling out customs forms is needed for any package going overseas or outside the U.S.
- Use a Quality Box – Corrugated cardboard is the way to go. Don’t reuse a box or use a package that’s not designed for shipping.