Shipping Something Extremely Fragile

Updated on January 10, 2019
M.6. asks from Woodbridge, NJ
7 answers

It is time to pass along my grandmother's dowry china to my oldest daughter. The problem is she lives across the country - literally. I can't think of an opportunity for me to drive it to her or for her to drive it to me that would work. Ideas of how to ship it safely to her? It's too large of a box to even take with me on a flight (even if I split it into the next two trips). She doesn't live in a state that is often drove to from here so posting on Craigslist or Facebook looking for someone driving to her location isn't a good option.

Thanks for any ideas you have!

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So What Happened?

@Birdsfreakmeout: Yes, the china was offered to her first as the oldest child, and if she didn't want it, it would go to the next oldest daughter and so on). When I initially offered, she actually took about a month to think about it before she said yes. She has already purchased a cabinet to show/store it in, so she is definitely wanting it. The reason I am wanting to pass it along now is we are moving and I already have to pack it up, so this seemed like a good time to transfer it to her (plus, she has that cabinet ready to go). Good question, though!

Thanks for all the suggestions! It actually makes my stomach hurt to think about trying to get this to her in one piece! I've had to move it a few times myself (when I have moved over the years - I received the set when I got married) and I never let the movers touch it, I pack it myself, put it in my vehicle to ride with me, and unpack it last after a move after storing it in a safe location so no one accidentally opens it.

I did see an idea online about using a cooler inside a box since the crush point on those coolers is really, really high! You guys also had some phenomenal suggestions - especially not sending the entire set together in the same box just in case. I wouldn't even have thought of that. I'm not flying to her, nor her me in the near future so taking them on multiple flights would take a long time to get them to her and since we are moving now, I'd like to get them to her rather than move them yet again.


More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

Talk to professionals. They have tips and tricks for this. For example, when I moved a long time ago, I had movers although I packed myself. They told me that all plates should be on their side in the box, with a clear "this side up" label on all sides. They said that if plates are stacked on top of each other, the ones on the bottom can break because even with bubble wrap, any bump in the road makes the weight from all the other plates jam down onto the the bottom plate. If they are on their sides, then there is nothing on top of each plate so no weight to crash down and break them.

(disclaimer: this is what they told me. I have no independent knowledge that this is true.)

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answers from Norfolk on

You can ship it but it will take lots and lots of bubble wrap and packing peanuts.
You might need to make smaller packages so the size is more manageable.
Talk to Fed Ex or UPS.
They've shipped everything and then some - all shapes and sizes.
They can advise you how to handle this.

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answers from Dallas on

I think you should call a UPS Store and see what their procedure is. My guess is they do that kind of stuff a lot and you can get it done easily...but not cheaply. There are special boxes to hold plates, glasses, etc. that make shipping safer and stores like that will have all that stuff on hand.

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answers from Portland on

The key thing is to make sure they don't rattle around. I have a china tea set that is a child's one, and the old fashioned ones came in boxes where you had to shove the pieces in to this styrofoam fitted for each piece. That thing has been dropped so many times and none of the pieces have ever broken.

When our family has done this kind of thing, we fly it (my mom has from Europe) in pieces, wrapped in tissue, but securely in suitcases - each visit, over time. If it's not needed immediately - could you do that? How often is she going to use this set? My mom successfully brought tea sets over, etc. securely insulated in her clothing. It worked.

If you want to send it all in one go, I suggest going to UPS or Purolator (I prefer UPS personally. I think you get insurance and they would just package it up for you, or at least sell you the appropriate supplies and be done with it.

A friend of mine just mailed a package to the other side of the country at Christmas time and it cost quite a bit, however, you can decide how long you're willing to take to have it shipped and that can reduce the cost.

Good luck :)

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answers from Washington DC on

i take fragile or weirdly shaped stuff to UPS and let the experts handle it. it costs, but it's worth it.

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answers from Boston on

My sister-in-law received her grandmother's china - packed by God knows whom. It came in pieces. She was devastated. I took the pieces to a crafter friend who makes garden stepping stones with china shards and she did a marvelous job on some images important to my SIL - she got some and so did her daughters, but it's not the same.

Split it up. For several reasons. If anything breaks, at least there are other boxes. Get a big old roll of bubble wrap from places like Staples or other office supply stores. Fed Ex stores sell the same thing - check prices. The rolls are perforated like paper towels but you can cut further to size if needed.

By all means, talk to the pro shippers, but this is not something they can replace if it gets broken. A TV set or vase is different from an heirloom. If I were doing it, I'd go down to my local liquor store's stash of free boxes, and get some of the dividers that separate and protect wine bottles. I'd separate/flatten those and put them in between plates and bubble wrap. So, plate, bubble wrap, cardboard divider, plate, bubble wrap, cardboard divider.... Cut the cardboard for bread plates and saucers. Take extra care with teacups or serving platters or sugar bowls that have handles - double wrap those. Plan on boxes with a whole bunch of air so you aren't packing things too tightly. And don't pack anything too close to the sides of the boxes. Get a roll of packing tape and secure the bubble wrap around each plate, saucer, etc. Don't just assume a sheet of it will protect enough - you want to be sure things are cushioned if they shift side to side, not just with weight from above.

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answers from Seattle on

I ask this question with respect....
Does she want the china? I mean....I think a lot of younger folks are trying to not clutter up their lives. I don't know any young people that have fancy dishware and every day. I don't actually know anyone my age (early 40's) that have two sets of dishes either. It's just not a thing anymore.
BUT...if she does want it....why are you trying to ship it out to her now? Is there a reason you can't hold onto it until you see her again? Whether it be in a few months or a few years? If the china really is that important to the both of you I can't imagine that I would ship it...I would be too worried that it wouldn't make it all in one piece.

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