As an adventure and (multiple) outdoor sports enthusiasts, you have to be ready for all types outdoor sports when staying in New Zealand. The land of the long white cloud offers countless opportunities for action sports and you will find perfect conditions just around the corner – wherever in NZ you are. Unfortunately this didn’t make it much easier, to decide what gear to take with and what to leave behind. Here you will find my guide to how I shipped 110 kg of excess luggage with airfreight. The approach can be applied for travelling to any country on the planet. Any tips & tricks how to save even more and risk less? I’d be glad if you let us know in a comment! 🙂
The plan was to stay in NZ at least for half a year and we were right at the start of the Kiwi summer, which offers great conditions for kitesurfing, surfing, hiking, freedom-camping, paragliding and much more. After a lot of thought I decided to take with 7 Flysurfer kites and 2 Flyboards, 2 wetsuits, 2 harnesses, 1 Skywalk paraglider + harness & rescue shoot, camping equipment including a Hilleberg Jannu and Mammut sleeping bags, pads and Kovea stoves, camping cutlery and pots, etc. In the end I managed to stuff all the sports equipment into 3 large Mammut duffles, each around 110 l volume and a 200 cm long boardbag. In addition I took with a 140 cm long boardbag as on-flight luggage.
Emirates offers you (07/2016) 30 kg on-board luggage (depending on which Economy ticket you purchase), which is a good deal compared to other airlines flying to NZ. This includes one bag, which may not exceed total dimensions of Length+Width+Height = 300 cm. So it is totally fine to bring one boardbag onto the flight. However, the cost for additional luggage with Emirates are ridiculous, when it comes to the weight concept. As opposed to the piece concept (which is applicable when flying to the US or Canada), the weight concept does not foresee the possibility to add additional bags (each up to 23 kg) for affordable prices. You can learn more about the difference between the two concepts here. To give you an idea, for only 5 kg on top, Emirates would charge 306 EUR / 336 USD (= 61,2 EUR per extra kg) on my route to New Zealand! By shipping all my sports equipment with air freight cargo, I was able to lower that rate to 4,2 EUR per extra kg. This is only 7% of the cost of taking it with as on-board luggage!
Is sea freight an even cheaper alternative?
Note that I will not go into the possible options of sea freight (either full container load (FCL) or less than container load (LCL)). This is because this option
- has a long transport time (between 6 and 20 weeks depending on route)
- is not that much cheaper compared to air freight for oversize luggage as “little” as 110 kg (when you want to ship your whole household, this is a different story of course).
Different options to ship sports equipment with air cargo:
There’s different options for shipping your sports equipment and other luggage around the world with air cargo:
- Door – Door: The most convenient and the most expensive solution. A courier will come and pick up the bags (usually at the curbside of your address), deliver them to your freight forwarding company, which will take care of export to the selected destination and cooperate with a partner firm at your destination country, which takes care of handling and customs clearance. A local courier will then deliver the bags to an address of your choice at the destination country.
- Door – Airport: The luggage will be picked up at your address, but you will have to arrange for customs clearance at the destination airport yourself. In my opinion, this only makes sense, when you have no space in your car on the way to the airport or don’t have a car available. The additional cost for a courier are usually in the order of 80 EUR – 150 EUR.
- Airport – Airport: This was my preferred choice, as I was close to the airport in Munich and we did have a preliminary base in Auckland, very close to the international airport. It is obviously the most economic option as you have to drop off your bags at your freight forwarding companies warehouse and also clear them through customs by yourself at the destination airport.
What do you need to do?
For shipping sports equipment with air cargo, you will have to work with the following institutions:
- At your departure airport, you will need a freight forwarding company, which handles personal effects and takes care of the export clearance, books the luggage with an airline offering cargo and handles the luggage at the airport of departure.
- The airline that your freight forwarding company cooperates with, will work together with a specific handling agent at the destination airport. This company will arrange for the unloading and hand out your luggage either after / before customs clearance*.
- When booking airport – airport or door – airport, you will need to clear your bags through customs.
* It depends on the local regulations. In New Zealand for instance, I first had to pick up my (sealed) luggage. Then I had to take it with me to customs & biosecurity, explain to them what was inside my bags and obtain the allowance to break the seal. Upon our return to Munich however, my luggage was only handed out to me after I had obtained the customs clearance of a gentle customs officer.
How much does it cost?
Note that the offers of different companies differ by up to 1,700 EUR! Hence it is definitely worth the time to search the internet for all local freight forwarders in your area and also consider a door – airport solution to have your gear shipped from one of your countries major airports. This will give you a wider selection of competitive offers from different freight forwarding companies (which usually base at the major airports in your country).
For shipping the bags from Germany to NZ I did utilize the services of a small freight forwarding company at Munich airport, called Leanflex. To my surprise, I was forwarded to them by the Emirates service line, even though they do offer cargo by themselves. Their quote was 582 EUR, which seemed very fair. This is why I didn’t bother to keep on searching and request more offers from other forwarding companies but instead booked the shipment right away.
On our way back I didn’t have a small and reliable freight forwarder at hand, which did leave me with no choice but to conduct extensive research and ask for quotes of countless forwarding companies all over New Zealand. It was crazy to see how much prices would differ. Also the very large companies usually do not handle personal effects, so it is really about finding that smaller sized firm, which has good deals with the airlines (gets a good rate) and hence can also make you a good offer. International express companies such as FedEx or New Zealand Couriers did not seem to offer attractive quotes (exceeding 3,000 NZD)!
The freight forwarding companies will usually calculate their offers based on either the actual weight, or the volumetric weight, whatever is larger. The formulas for calculating the volumetric weight differ, but mostly it is calculated as either
- Length x Width x Height / 6000 (dimensions in cm -> cm^3)
- Length x Width x Height / 5000 (dimensions in cm -> cm^3)
- Length x Width x Height x 167 (dimensions in m -> m^3)
After countless e-mails and calls I did finally decide to go with UB Freight at Auckland Airport. The guys were really responsive and Arron, the GM took care of all my inquiries himself. His offer to ship all my stuff with Emirates Sky Carge was NZD 145 for documentation handling and security and NZD 6.00 kg. In the end he didn’t even charge to wrap the bags in plastic (I was scared that the zippers of my old boardbag may fail) or for storing the bags at his warehouse for some days (which usally is around 5 EUR per day). Everything worked like a charm and I can highly recommend Arron and his team at UB Freight.
Is insurance available?
Whilst some companies offer insurance at varying cost, others don’t for such small shipments. After a lot of thought I decided to save the additional bucks and instead trust the company. If you really want to be sure, you will have to work with a company that offers insurance for your chosen amount representing the value of your shipment.
Bureaucracy and trouble to expect
I did talk to customs beforehand on the phone and had to fill out a personal effects baggage declaration. I did worry a lot that I would face much trouble of not getting my kites into the country without prepaying toll and import tax (15% = VAT rate in NZ). When we arrived after a seemingly endless journey, this however was no problem. They did ask me, if all the stuff was mine and signed the papers without evening opening the bags.
As a returning citizen you should not be worried too much. Usually there’s no drama and when I came back to Germany there was no issue.
From my working experience I know, that shipping scientific measuring devices for water quality analysis and other measurements into e.g. Sudan or Ethiopia is a nightmare. Customs will try to find any possible way to squeeze additional money out of you before releasing your bags. If travelling to developing countries in e.g. Africa I would do a lot of additional research beforehand to be sure that this will work.
Safe travels and I hope this was helpful! 🙂