How to ship a parcel

How to ship a parcel

Editorial team Published on 7/5/2023

These days, shipping a parcel has become commonplace for many of us.  We send parcels when returning goods to online stores, giving presents to friends and family, or selling our old stuff. And for e-commerce companies – even small ones – sending parcels has become, ahem, part and parcel of their everyday business.

Sending a parcel is much easier today than ever before: you can compare rates and terms online and many couriers will even pick up parcels directly from your home or workplace. That said, the many options out there can be tricky to navigate.

Shipping a parcel: a guide
Shipping a parcel: a guide

In this article, we’re going to explain how to ship a parcel, step by step. We’ll outline everything you need to do, including pitfalls to avoid and best practices to follow. The five main steps are:

  1. Choosing the courier best suited to your needs
  2. Checking shipping restrictions and prohibited items
  3. Packing the parcel carefully
  4. Writing the shipping address properly
  5. Shipping the parcel!

How to ship a parcel: couriers and web platforms

First, you need to work out what type of shipping service you need. Are you sending it abroad or just in the UK? Do you want the courier to pick up the parcel? How big is the parcel you’re sending?If you’re an e-commerce firm – and have a high volume of parcels to ship – it’s worth calling a range of couriers to try to negotiate preferential rates. But if you’re an ordinary member of the public, you’re better off looking on courier websites or comparison sites.

To get started, here’s a list of the main couriers operating in the UK:   

  • Bartolini. Denominato anche BRT, è il corriere leader in Italia.
  • TNT. An international courier with a good presence in Britain.
  • UPS. One of the world leaders in shipping and renowned for its reliability. It has a strong presence in the UK and specially designed services for e-commerce.
  • DHL. One of the best known international couriers, it even has its own fleet of aircraft.

The past few years has seen the emergence of new online shipping services – like ParcelHero or Packlink – that let you complete the entire parcel shipping process directly from a single website, and choose the cheapest courier. These platforms often also offer introductory discounts and/or the chance to collect points that can be redeemed for rewards later.

We’ve already covered the ins and outs of low-cost shipping in a previous article.

Checking shipping restrictions and prohibited items

Once you’ve chosen the right courier or shipping service for your needs, we advise you to take a couple of minutes to check a few important details on shipping restrictions and prohibited items. In parcticular:

  1. Check that your parcel doesn’t exceed the courier’s size and weight limits
  2. Check that none of the parcel’s contents is on the list of items prohibited for shipping
  3. If you’re shipping abroad, make sure that the parcel’s contents can be sent to country in question
How to ship a parcel: restrictions and prohibited items
How to ship a parcel: restrictions and prohibited items

Sending personal items, documents and food is not usually a problem. However, it’s prohibited to send:

  • Dangerous or illegal items
  • Weapons
  • Items that are harmful to health and the environment

What’s more, if you’re shipping abroad, you should check that the contents of the parcel are not subject to IATA restrictions and are permitted to enter the destination country. If they aren’t, customs authorities may intercept your parcel and send it back, levy taxes on it or even destroy it.

How to ship a parcel: packaging

Properly packaging a parcel requires care and the right materials. Proper packaging will ensure that the contents arrives intact and prevent nasty surprises for the recipient.

If you’re an e-commerce company, it’s also important to ensure your packaging is attractive. Using packaging that carries your branding or is environmentally friendly will make a good impression on your customer and ensure they remember you for the right reasons. Customised adhesive tape is a great way for branding your parcels!

How to ship a parcel: packaging
How to ship a parcel: packaging

When shipping items in a personal capacity, it’s fine to re-use old boxes or packaging from previous parcels, but make sure that it’s intact, in good condition and, above all, sturdy. Basically, the packaging must be suitable for the contents being shipped.

Here are our packaging tips:

  • Use boxes that are new or in good condition, preferably made of corrugated cardboard
  • Protect the contents of the parcel with extra packaging: bubble wrap, more cardboard or polystyrene
  • Choose a box that’s the right size for the contents: it should be held securely inside the parcel, without excessive use of additional packaging material
  • Use a good-quality adhesive tape, taking into account the packaging material, the parcel weight and shipping duration. E-commerce companies can even use customised adhesive tape.

How to ship a parcel: the address

It might seem obvious, but when shipping a parcel it’s crucial use the correct and full address.

How and where to write the address will depend from one courier to another: for example, couriers require you print a pre-filled address label. Make sure you follow the courier’s instructions carefully!

How to ship a parcel: the address
How to ship a parcel: the address

Another tip: don’t rush when filling out the address. Make sure it’s complete, in other words, that it contains the following:

  • Basic information: street, building number, post code, town and country (for international shipping)
  • Additional information: if the parcel will be delivered to a block of flats, you might want to indicate where exactly the courier should leave the parcel. If you’re shipping to a company, it’s a good idea to include the name of the person or department for which the parcel is intended (for example: “For the attention of John Smith” or “For the attention of the Human Resources Department”).

Lastly, if you’re re-using old packaging, remember to cover up any leftover addresses or barcodes to prevent any confusion.Lastly, if you’re re-using old packaging, remember to cover up any leftover addresses or barcodes to prevent any confusion.

Got all that? Now you’re an expert on sending parcels, you can ship with peace of mind!