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Chosing The Best Packaging for International Shipping

No Comments    |    , ,     |    April 19, 2023    |    Reading time 8 minutes
cardboard boxes being loaded onto an aircraft for International airfrieght shipping

Taking the leap to international shipping

An e-commerce business which has enjoyed success at home might start to think about potential next steps. And spreading its wings by expanding further afield and shipping internationally could be one option. There’s a lot to consider before making such a move, but the rewards can be huge. Forecasts demonstrate that the predicted number of global e-commerce sales is only going in one direction: upwards.

International shipping might or might not be right for your company. A lot could depend on your product, i.e., its size, weight, fragility and lifespan. But it’s not just a question of product suitability; there are also other factors that come into play which you need to be aware of upfront. Trade tariffs or custom charges and added security measures imposed by some countries on any incoming packages, for example. The possibility of port congestion might need to be taken into account, especially if you’re shipping to somewhere incredibly busy, like Hong Kong or Singapore. This is because any hold ups will have an impact on both your shipping costs and your estimated delivery timeframe.

Finally, as if all these logistical considerations weren’t enough, it’s vital to be up to date with ever-changing fuel prices and international relations. Unfortunately, it seems politics really does come into everything.

One thing you don’t have to worry about though, when it comes to international shipping, is what to ship your product in: the corrugated cardboard box is ideal. It is, without doubt, the best external packaging there is and we’ll let you know exactly why in a moment.

Planes, trains and automobiles

First, bear in mind that the further your package has to travel, the more forces it will be subject to and the greater the number of risks with which it will have to contend. A ship will probably be involved, or an aeroplane, or both. There may well be a train, van or car in the picture as well. In some circumstances, we wouldn't rule out a scooter or a bike! Whether your package travels by air, ocean, rail or road, it will have to cope with being handled repeatedly and by many different operators, at origin and destination.

international shipping methods

The best external packaging for international shipping

So why is it then that corrugated cardboard is so perfect when it comes to sending packages round the globe? 

Strong but lightweight

Corrugated cardboard (not only according to us, but FEFCO as well) is incredibly robust whether you go for a single or double wall. This is because of its structure: a fluted inner encased on either side by cardboard. Even better, the structure which gives it this strength not only acts as a form of insulation against temperature variations, means it’s lightweight. In the world of international shipping, ‘lightweight’ is music in any language. Lightweight means less hassle, lower costs and less environmental impact.


Corrugated cardboard isn’t just environmentally friendly in transit though, it’s environmentally friendly full stop. It’s able to be reused, recycled or composted in whichever country it ends up. Across Europe, recycling rates of cardboard and paper are high and in the US, they’re also steadily climbing.

In many other corners of the globe, recycling board is being increasingly prioritised as we approach the mid 2020s. Where it might not yet be routinely recycled to the extent to should due to a myriad of complex socio-economic, geographical and political issues as well as still-developing infrastructures, at least it’s a material that’s reusable and biodegradable.

Smart and affordable

But as sustainable as cardboard is, it must also look good. It needs to look slick and it needs to stand out from the crowd. The standard and quality of packaging inspires confidence in consumers and it's been proven repeatedly that these feelings transfer to the all-important product itself.

Plus, there’s always the unpacking to consider: a smart, neat box signifies that a business is professional and that care and effort has been taken. It will provide a far more satisfactory unboxing experience

Finally, there must be no confusion when it comes to address labels: a messy, tattered box however functional, could make the correct delivery label hard to identify and this is not something you want to risk in the U.K. or overseas. This is where affordability comes in. Corrugated cardboard boxes are one of the most reasonably priced means of packaging. Brand new boxes look good for less.

Security features

If you've been paying attention, you'll know by now that cardboard boxes are heavy duty thanks to that structure which provides incredibly robust protection for your goods. Take our double wall cardboard boxes, for example, which have been rated as being above average on the box compression test. Or look at our crash lock boxes with their x-lock bases and glue to glue sealing, another good option.

Of course, any standard corrugated cardboard box can – with a little forethought – be rendered even stronger. It’s common sense really: reinforce the flaps at the bottom of the box with extra tape and make good use of ‘fragile’, ‘this way up’ or arrow stickers. Choose the right internal packaging as well and your product’s basically half way there before it’s even left the warehouse.

For even greater peace of mind however, you could choose a cardboard box that we've designed ourselves: FlyPak.

If we do say so ourselves, FlyPak is perfect for international shipping for a few reasons. Firstly, it has been specifically constructed to get rid of the pain points that cause a lot of e-commerce businesses no end of trouble. With FlyPak, for example, there's no need for void fill. What's more, its structure (adjustable, variable height wings and flaps that fold inwards) mean lateral movement of products is prevented and as a result of this internal strength, it can also be stacked without being deformed or crushed.

However, maybe the best thing of all about FlyPak, the thing that really gives it its wings, is its tamper evident design. Don't just take our word for it: this isn't our opinion alone. DPD has put FlyPak through a whole slew of stringent tests as regards impact and security and has given it their seal of approval when it comes to shipping high value goods internationally. And the proof is in the pudding. One of our customers - a well known mobile phone supplier - has been able to boast of a 90% reduction in theft since using it. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better? Well, it's the same cost per unit as standard crash lock boxes.

Internal packaging: protection that works with the cardboard box

When choosing a cardboard box, whether you go for standard, crash lock or FlyPak, the number one criterium must be that it is the correct size for the product, i.e., neither too big nor too small. A product must have minimal room for manoeuvre, held in place as it were and this is where product retention comes in; the right product retention is key in order for damage or breakages to be avoided.

Specific and targeted

Product retention is sometimes used as a general term to mean void fill. However, some cardboard packaging (like FlyPak) has specific retention designed purposefully to keep a particular product in place; we’re talking here about moulds, inserts and dividers, all of which act as protective crumple zones, cradling the products inside the box and preventing them from being squashed, crushed or thrown about. Their job is to ensure that valuable and delicate products are secure in transit.

Suspension packaging is also a method product retention. This clever technique uses a combination of corrugated inserts and film to keep an item even more centrally located as it sits within the outer packaging of the cardboard box. Suspension packaging has proved especially good for shipping valuable electronic items, clamping the product as it does between two ‘cushions’ and out of harm’s way, so fragile components are put under no stress whatsoever.

General void fill

Void fill might not be as nifty or as individualised as specialist product retention, but it’s still popular and justifiably so. It has proved its worth time and again to be the right choice, especially where products are being shipped that come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It doesn't hurt that it's cost effective too. Nowadays, there are many sustainable choices as far as void fill is concerned: water soluble packaging peanuts, shredded paper, honeycomb paper, paper void fill, paper cushion material, to name but a few.

Void fill is lightweight, flexible and it still – like specialised product retention - prevents movement. But any kind of product retention facilitates multi-product packaging, that is the number of items being packed in the same box, enabling every cubic millimetre of space to be used.

Empty space doesn’t just pose a risk for your products, believe it or not, thin air is also expensive to ship. When packaging isn’t as considered or effective as it should be, empty space can abound. 

Eliminating empty packaging space by using the right internal packaging avoids product damage and it will also save businesses and indeed, entire economies, a small fortune in unnecessary shipping fees.

The environment will be grateful too, because, put all that air together and it equates to a lot of shipping containers that didn’t actually serve any real purpose except contribute to carbon dioxide emissions. 

To conclude...

Internationally shipping is complex and expensive, but the pay off can be worth the risks. Don’t take a gamble with your packaging, however. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one and this certainly holds true for the corrugated cardboard box. It’s one of those products that, despite modern tweaks and evolving features, retains its basic characteristics and quite rightly. Sometimes, to use anything else, would be akin to reinventing the wheel. Corrugated cardboard boxes are smart, secure and sustainable and trust us, they'll help your international e-commerce business be smart, secure and sustainable too.

To talk cardboard boxes or to see whether FlyPak might be the perfect choice for your products, call us on 01234 414 775. To talk to us about anything else, call us on this number too. We're always thrilled to hear from customers no matter how small, large or established their business are and we're always happy to help get those packages delivered safely nationally or internationally.

This article was written by...

Jo Hilton

I studied at the University of St. Andrews and have an MA in French and German. For a number of years, I worked for a Swiss financial institution and lived in Hamburg, London, Zürich and NYC before retraining as a primary school teacher and settling with my family in Cambridgeshire. When I'm not at school, I write content for various blogs and edit academic research articles for clients at ETH Zürich and the University of Munich. I'm also in the process of completing a Masters in Crime and Thriller writing at the University of Cambridge, so behind me you'll find a trail of fictional dead bodies and actual biscuit wrappers.

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