Shipping to France
Updated: Feb 20
When my husband and I decided to move to France, we had to figure out what we were going to do with our "stuff". Some people make the choice to sell most of their items and only bring what they can in their suitcase and others ship their items across the ocean. We love our furniture and had invested money into it and we had a bunch of equipment that we wanted to bring with us. After doing some research, we decided to ship our items to France. Now, we are fortunate that we had a place to move to, we did not have to search for a place to live, but we still had to to get our house goods there!
There are a couple different options when it comes to shipping your items. The easiest and most cost effective way to ship your goods is via container on a boat. Do the research! Find out what companies are actually going to get you your items to your location. We had sold our home and had put the things we were shipping into a storage unit in downtown Orlando and the company we chose picked up our items from the storage unit, helped pack all the furniture into the boxes, packed it into the container, drove the container to the shipping yard, carried the container across the ocean, picked up the container at the port, unloaded the container into a moving van, delivered our items to our apartment, and carried them up one flight of stairs. We had too many items to share a container, so we ended up shipping a smaller 20 ft container. We did not fill up the container, but that's what it ended up being. It is more cost effective if you can share, however, the timelines can be difficult to manage while you are moving because you are relying on multiple peoples' shipments.
Different shipping companies provide different services and I would definitely get more than one quote. Shop around and talk with different carriers and read the fine print!
One of the things you will have to do is write down a list of what is in your boxes. Many companies provide the service of packing the items for you in boxes for an additional cost. We did it ourselves and it helped save money and time when it came to the pickup of the shipment. Plus, I had a full inventory list of all the items that were in each box and they were numbered. There have been reports of boxes or items missing or damaged, it is important to have this information for insurance and insurance coverage. I think all in all we had a few glasses that broke and that was it!
*Pro tip: Take a picture of the container that your items are packed in! Including a picture that shows the container unit number.*
Customs. We did receive an extra bill from the carrier when our shipment arrived at the port in France. This is not uncommon. Carriers can do their best to try and get a full and accurate quote to cover all miscellaneous fees, but they're not perfect. Just make sure that you have a few hundred dollars or euros on the side saved to cover any of these additional costs, otherwise your shipment could be held or discarded. I do believe our cost was incurred because the container was stored at the french port for a couple of days before it was picked up by the moving company. All ports charge for storage and due to the arrival date of the container and the scheduled pickup, we incurred a charge. C'est la vie!
When you book a company to ship your items, read the contract. Keep a copy of the contract on hand. Keep a copy of the inventory on hand. Keep a copy of the payment on hand. Keep a copy of the receipt of payment. Keep the contact information of the shipping company and the moving company on hand. Have the ability to dispute any interruption or random charges. The moving company wanted to charge us for carrying the boxes and furniture up the stairs, but it was in our contract that they would carry it up one flight at no additional fee. They also did not want to take all the boxes from the furniture with them when they left, but that was also in our contract. They simply did not want to have to drop them off at the déchetterie. Keep them accountable for the contract they agreed to!
We chose International Van Lines as our carrier. https://internationalvanlines.com They did a great job and were very communicative throughout the process. As you are doing your research, you are going to find good and bad reviews about each company. Reviews are helpful, but you cannot simply rely on reviews, especially because there will be more negative than positive ones out there. It is human nature to be more apt to write a review if something bad happened. Call the company, speak with a representative or two, get all the information and quotes, and do your part to make the move easier (pack yourself, keep inventory, be prepared to know how much you will be shipping).
Shipping your *things* across the ocean can be daunting, but for us, it was our way of making our space our home again. A little bit of comfort was important and I am so glad we have our keepsakes and furniture.