The balikbayan box has become a staple among OFWs around the world. It surely feels like Christmas whenever your loved ones receive and get to open this big box of goodies from abroad. However, as you may have heard in the news or from your fellow OFWs, sending a balikbayan box doesn’t always result in a happy ending. Sometimes the box arrives waaaaaay delayed. Or sometimes the things inside the box get spoiled, destroyed, or stolen. Packing a balikbayan box takes more than just stuffing things inside a cardboard box—you have to think beyond (in fact stuffing has become a science to a lot of our veteran OFWs!). And to help you do that, here are some tips from us at OFW on Air on how you should go about packing your next balikbayan box:
- Plan ahead. As always, the best thing to do first is to plan ahead. Know what you are sending out first. Ask your loved ones for advice on what things would be good to send, or even do the assessment yourself. Know how you will be sending it out. Which company will you use? How much will it cost? How big a box will I be using, and how much weight can I put in it? These, and many more questions, should help save you a lot of time when you actually do start packing your balikbayan box.
- Pack in unique or useful things. When packing your balikbayan box, make sure that the things you’re sending off are worth it. Don’t pack in things your loved ones can easily purchase back home in the Philippines. Think about it more carefully. Maybe you can send them some things that are super cheap abroad but not so in the Philippines. Or you can send them things that can only be bought in the country where you’re working at. Just make sure that the value of the objects inside are worth the value of sending them off. Remember: your space in the box is limited, so make it count!
- Don’t pack fragile things. As much as possible, never ever pack things that can easily break. Don’t pack bulky appliances as well—in fact, refrain from packing appliances at all, unless you really trust the delivery service. Doing so will save you the trouble and headache of worrying whether or not these fragile things will arrive in one piece.
- Assume the worst. To be safe, we recommend you assume the worst that can happen to your box; that is, it may be tossed around a lot and handled without much care. With that in mind, pack your balikbayan box as securely as possible. Use a box with good durability. If you are packing in any lotions or other liquids, place them inside ziploc or plastic bags and secure tightly to reduce chances of spilling. If you are sending in clothes, you can wrap these around other items (like biscuits, noodles, cans, hard objects that may be dented) to serve as a “shock absorber”. Make sure your box is completely filled, so that there would be no empty space for your items to shift and move around inside during transport. Styrofoam boards are a good way to fill up a box because they weigh almost nothing and are easy to cut and shape according to the box’s dimensions. Finally, label the box clearly so that it won’t get lost in delivery.
- Make a list of what you’re sending. Note down the contents of your balikbayan box. Make two copies—one for you and one for your loved ones back home. This way, once the box arrives, your loved ones can check if there are any items missing upon receipt. Also, this will help when you are filling out customs forms for when you send out your balikbayan box.
- Send your box using a trusted delivery service. As we hinted at in tip #1, you should plan ahead regarding which service you will use to send out your balikbayan box. Choose a trusted delivery service! If you have list of options ready, we recommend that you visit each of their websites to gain more information about them and whether or not they seem legitimate. Of course, you should also search for reviews around the Internet regarding these delivery services. Ask your family and friends for comments and/or suggestions too! The more opinions you get regarding a delivery service, the better. Choosing a delivery service which allows you to track your box real-time is always a good thing to do. Once you have shipped it out, make sure to keep all documents regarding your shipment (and photocopy each to be sure) so that you have something to rely on in case your delivery runs into some problems.
We hope the tips we’ve given will help you prepare better for your first or next balikbayan box. You used your hard-earned money to fill up this box and to send it away, so please take all the precautions you need for it to arrive safe and sound in the hands of your loved ones in the Philippines. Happy packing, mga Ka-tsong!