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International Shipping Options for Small Items

Phuc Le
November 13, 2023

The extended lockdown period provided an opportunity for many to explore new hobbies, ranging from creating fire escape gardens and crafting clay earrings to experimenting with bread making and knitting. The possibilities for indoor activities are abundant! However, let's be honest—most of us don't need an overflowing collection of chunky, hand-knit scarves and hats. So, why not transform your hobby into a side business by opening an eCommerce store? Engage in your passion, produce unique items, spread joy, and earn money - it's a quadruple win, right? Well, not entirely. Both seasoned and novice sellers are aware that international shipping costs can quickly accumulate, even for small packages, potentially turning into a significant expense.



Shipping need not be a complex process. To ensure you make informed decisions, it's essential to conduct some research before you even reach for the packing tape.

1. Properly Package Your Items:

Custom packaging can reinforce branding and provide added protection to fragile items, reducing the risk of damage during transit. This can lead to improved customer satisfaction and repeat business.

2. Take Precise Measurements:

Accurate dimensions are essential for calculating shipping rates. Shipping carriers often use dimensional weight to determine pricing, as it reflects the space a package occupies in their vehicles and warehouses. This practice helps carriers optimize their transportation networks and pricing structures.

3. Weigh Your Package:

Small packages are typically weighed in pounds or ounces, and the weight (dead weight) directly impacts shipping costs. Accurate weight measurements are vital to ensure you're charged correctly and to prevent any potential issues or delays in the shipping process.

4. Calculate Rates:

Shipping rate calculators, such as those offered by shipping carriers or online shipping platforms, use precise package details, including weight and dimensions, along with origin and destination addresses, to determine shipping costs. This automated process ensures transparency and accuracy in pricing.

5. Book and Pay:

Booking and paying for shipping services through an online platform or at a courier's physical location streamlines the process, allowing you to choose the most cost-effective courier based on your preferences and budget. This step helps secure your shipment's timely delivery.

6. Print Your Shipping Label and Send the Package:

Printing shipping labels and attaching them to your package is essential for clear identification and tracking. Customs documents, when required for international shipments, facilitate smooth clearance through customs authorities. Using high-quality adhesive tape ensures that labels and documents remain securely affixed to the package. Dropping off the package at a courier location or scheduling a pickup ensures it enters the shipping network promptly.



When engaging in international shipping, it's imperative to navigate the customs process smoothly. To prevent any undesirable delays or complications, it is essential to address the customs regulations, taxes, and duties promptly.

There are two primary approaches to consider: Delivery duty unpaid (DDU) and Delivery duty paid (DDP). In the case of DDU, the customer is responsible for covering any applicable fees, while DDP means the merchant takes care of these costs. The decision between these options is typically made by the merchant. It's important to note that if the duties are not paid in a timely manner, your shipment may be held in customs until the outstanding fees are settled. This can result in extended delivery times and potential customer dissatisfaction. Therefore, careful consideration of customs procedures and duties is crucial for a seamless international shipping experience.



When you need to ship small items, finding the right shipping solution is crucial for cost-effectiveness and customer satisfaction. Small packages are often associated with a wide range of items, from documents and letters to products sold by online retailers. Here, we'll delve into a variety of shipping options that cater to small parcels both within the United States and around the world, offering a comprehensive overview of each service.

1. USPS First Class Mail:

This service is ideal for items weighing under 13 ounces. It is particularly well-suited for sending thin, flat items, documents, and letters. However, it's important to note that USPS First Class Mail does not include package tracking services. This can be an excellent option for personal correspondence, but it may not be suitable for businesses or individuals who require tracking capabilities. 

2. USPS First-Class Package Service:

For packages weighing under 16 ounces, this service is a budget-friendly choice, especially for online retailers. It offers package tracking, a crucial feature for maintaining customer trust and competitiveness in the e-commerce landscape. With package tracking, you and your customers can monitor the progress of shipments, ensuring timely and reliable delivery.

3. USPS Priority Mail:

If you're dealing with small items that weigh more than 1 pound, USPS Priority Mail is one of the cost-effective ways to go. This service not only includes package tracking but also provides insurance for your goods. Insurance can be particularly valuable when shipping valuable or delicate items, as it offers added peace of mind.

4. UPS SurePost:

When you need to ship small packages weighing less than 10 pounds, UPS SurePost offers a cost-efficient solution. However, to take advantage of this option, you must sign a contract with UPS. While this can help reduce costs, it's important to note that delivery times may be relatively longer compared to other services. Assess your shipping priorities to determine whether cost savings outweigh the extended delivery times.

5. FedEx SmartPost:

Similar to UPS SurePost, FedEx SmartPost is a reliable choice for small packages weighing less than 10 pounds. This service also requires a contract with FedEx. However, it's important to be aware that delivery times may be somewhat slower, which should be considered when selecting this option.

6. FedEx Overnight:

If you have an urgent package that requires next-day delivery within the United States, FedEx Overnight offers the fastest transit times. As with any expedited shipping solution, you'll need to be prepared to pay a premium for the speed and reliability it provides.

7. DHL eCommerce:

When it comes to shipping small items overseas, DHL eCommerce is one of the most cost-effective options. With this economical service, delivery times can range from 10 to 16 days to most destinations around the world. It's important to balance cost-efficiency with shipping times, especially for international shipments.

8. DHL Express 12:

If you're looking for a combination of cost-efficiency and speed for shipping small packages internationally within 1-2 days, DHL Express is a dependable choice. This option is ideal when you need a balance between cost savings and faster delivery times for your international shipments.

Ultimately, choosing the right shipping solution for small items involves considering a combination of factors, including package size, weight, destination, delivery times, and cost. By carefully assessing your unique shipping requirements, you can make an informed decision that ensures efficient and economical shipping for your business or personal needs.



Shipping a small package internationally doesn't have to break the bank. However, it's essential to navigate the complex landscape of shipping costs wisely. When exploring the most economical way to send small parcels across borders, you'll need to consider several key factors that can significantly impact the overall cost.

1. Package Weight:

The weight of your small package plays a central role in determining the cost of international shipping. Generally, shipping services charge based on weight, and the heavier your package, the more you can expect to pay. It's important to be aware of the weight thresholds used by different carriers, as they might offer better rates for packages falling within certain weight ranges. For instance, packages weighing less than 1 pound often qualify for lower-cost shipping options.

2. Package Dimensions:

Beyond weight, the dimensions of your package can also influence shipping costs. This aspect is particularly important when dealing with carriers that employ dimensional weight pricing. In such cases, the size and shape of your package, along with its weight, are considered. If your small package requires a flat envelope or a larger box, dimensional weight surcharges might apply, leading to increased shipping expenses.

3. Carrier Selection and Rates:

Different shipping carriers offer various pricing structures and discounts. Rates can vary significantly between carriers, and each one may have specific cost-saving opportunities for shipping small items internationally. It's worth exploring the options provided by various carriers to find the one that best aligns with your shipping needs and budget.

To pinpoint the exact cost of shipping your small package internationally, using a shipping rates calculator is highly recommended. This tool provides a precise quote based on the unique weight and volumetric dimensions of your package, ensuring you choose the most cost-effective shipping method for your specific situation.



it's worth considering the following practical suggestions to enhance the cost-effectiveness of shipping small packages internationally:

  • Packaging Efficiency: Streamline your packaging process to minimize both the size and weight of your small packages without compromising the security of the contents. Selecting appropriate packaging materials and reducing excess space can effectively lower dimensional weight surcharges.
  • Diverse Shipping Options: Investigate a range of shipping alternatives, encompassing standard and expedited services. Surprisingly, choosing a slightly longer delivery time can substantially reduce the overall cost of international shipping.
  • Exploring Shipping Agreements: Take the time to explore whether shipping carriers offer agreements or discounts, especially for regular or bulk shipments. Depending on the volume of your shipping needs, you might be in a position to negotiate improved rates and enjoy more cost-efficient international shipping.

By carefully considering these factors and conducting comprehensive research into the available carrier options, you can make well-informed choices, ultimately discovering the most budget-friendly solution for shipping your small packages internationally. This strategic approach not only aids in saving costs but also ensures that your parcels are delivered to their destinations efficiently and reliably.

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