When one wants to move across the Atlantic, from France to the US, what is authorized and what are the options to bring in a lot of stuff?

I am not talking about furniture but about large suitcases. I expect to pack 3 to 4 large suitcases. I am worried about the cost of extra luggage on the plane.

Are there other options, like is shipping separately my stuff allowed? and is it possible at a reasonable cost (I am mostly wondering about the relative cost between the plane and the shipping options, if prices are really different). Do cruises have higher luggage allowance?

  • what country are you moving/shipping from? I think this makes a difference
    – dax
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 9:28
  • France, if that matters. I update the question.
    – Vince
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 9:36
  • you can use luggage to ship's service. here has a low charge for shipping.
    – rezakhan
    Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 6:44
  • Don't forget that voltage and plugs are different in US. Laptops and phone chargers will probably be fine. Hairdryers won't work. Probably worth bringing a French extension lead with four or six sockets and then cutting the plug off and fitting a US plug when you get there. Commented Feb 7, 2019 at 12:19

7 Answers 7


When I moved from South Africa to Poland I segregated my belongings. This varies if you are a single or married with children. I was single.

  • Can I buy this in Poland cheaply enough to leave behind in ZA?

    • Clothes, underwear, boots.
    • Basically I took the clothes on me and some 2 pair of clean underwear.
  • Is this expensive, fragile and irreplaceable

    • Notebooks, jewelry, family related things, important documents, birth certificate, passports, ID's, etc.
    • keep you bank account open and withdraw money on the other side. DO not take large amounts of cash with you. Just a few hundred bucks to keep you going.
    • Take it with you into hand luggage
  • Is this irreplaceable but NOT urgent for me?

    • Photo albums, gifts and sentimental items
    • Packed into a big box, taped and sealed it very well, and posted with the post office using a tracked, but land/sea freight that takes 2-4 months. On about 30kg it cost me slightly less than checked in baggage- But I did not need to carry it around with me. Send it to a friend.

Find a charity shop, 2nd hand cloth shop or markets on the other side to stock up on some clothes before you get your first pay check.


When I moved from the US to the UK I found it was much cheaper to use my baggage allotment on the airplane and ship the rest by air freight. It takes a few days more but it is much more economical as excess baggage charges on the airlines are astronomical!


Often shipping rates between countries are very different (shipping equivalent boxes to the US from the UK, France and Germany for example), so you'd probably do well to check the prices first - and when checking the prices for shipping, take into account that you'll probably want to 'deluxe' option - tracking at the least and probably insurance, etc. Write all the options down before you look at the alternatives so you have a good basis of comparison.

In the past I've shipped things from one country to another and at the end of the day cheaper cost isn't worth it if you end up with missing things. If you go this route, be sure you either only ship things you would be comfortable losing, or pay the money to have them as insured/tracked/protected as is possible.

Airlines often allow you to buy one or two extra bags for a reasonable fee (50 Euro/bag) if you buy in advance and online. I've found the best option (in terms of both finances and security) to be taking what you can on the plane and shipping the rest.


For transatlantic flights you generally receive a free baggage allowance of 1 or 2 checked bags depending on the carrier and class of your ticket. The price of additional bags varies with carrier, class, and sometimes route. For US Airways on transatlantic trips one bag is free, the 2nd bag costs $100 and the 3rd and 4th bags would cots $200 each.

Baggage allowances on cruises are a bit more relaxed. For example NCL says:

For your cruise, we recommend bringing up to two pieces of personal luggage, with each piece weighing a maximum of 22 kg. If travelling by air, there can occur different restrictions. So please check the baggage and hand luggage restrictions of your airline. Should your airline allow you to carry more luggage, this will be accepted on board, too...

You would of course have to keep your bags in the cabin with you. Cruises are generally more expensive than flights and have less options in terms of timing.

UPS does international shipping. I made up a shipment from Paris to NYC for a 20 kg parcel and it would cost about 300 EUR and take a week to arrive.

  • It's not just the number of bags, but the size and weight of them that matters. For example on that US Airways link, under the overweight/oversize tab, they show they charge $150 extra for transatlantic bags that are over 23kg, which is easy to exceed of the bag contains books, electronics, etc rather than clothes. And $175 if it's oversize. Those cruise weight limits are quite low as well.
    – Rob Hoare
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 1:32

If you are moving to take a job, do ask your employer if they cover relocation costs. My employer did (up to a modest maximum), so I shipped some of my belongings even though it would have been cheaper to buy new. It is more work to buy everything new, in particular since you have to find out the right kind of stores for kitchenware, hardware, the right kind of clothes, electronics, etc. My employer pays shipping, but I strongly doubt they would pay for me buying new (second-hand) stuff. Although this does not apply to everybody, it is certainly a factor to take into account.

  • OTOH, I know many smaller companies just give you some extra cash and tell you to deal with it yourself (whichever way you want, shipping, buying new stuff).
    – vartec
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 15:34
  • Right. In my case it was a major public employer, so rules are somewhat rigid (public funds, public scrutiny of tax money, and 5 years down the road a politician somewhere shouting out the scandal that some scientist bought sunglasses from tax money).
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 13, 2014 at 17:34

Depending on how much and how heavy you have few options:

Air freight

This is the fastest and easiest way, but it's also most expensive. Pricing is per weight, but there is also limit on volume. Minimum charged weight is 45kg (100lbs) which means minimum charge of about €100, subsequent charges actually drop. Here is example from US Airways Cargo:

Minimum weight: 45 kg.
Minimum airfreight charges: € 97.00
Up to 45 kg:    €   6.26 per kg.
45 - 100 kg:    €   4.75 per kg.
100 - 250 kg:   €   3.35 per kg.
250 - 500 kg:   €   2.86 per kg.
Over 500 kg:    €   2.59 per kg.

Sea freight

This is much slower, for example to west coast US it will take 5-7 weeks just sailing, not to mention waiting for available ship. On the other hand it's cheaper for heavy things, especially if you choose whole container.

Typically it's priced per volume, rather than weight. For smaller stuff there is option of sending boxes, priced per volume in increments of 1 cubic meter (example price: €300 1st m³ and €190 for each next m³). For relocating a lot of stuff there is and option of renting whole containers, which come in two sizes, 20ft (33m³) and 40ft (66m³). Prices on containers vary, but generally if you need to move more than 15m³, you're better off with whole container.

I've checked Dutch company Worldwide Baggage Services for information, I imagine there ought to be similar companies elsewhere in Europe.


This is only a partial answer, but you could consider going there by freight ship. There are travel agencies that offer cabins on cargoships. On a cabin you can bring quite some luggage.

Shipping separately is also an option and sometime quite interesting if you manage to find a handler. Sometimes they offer in terms of volumes and not in weight.

There is a related question on travel.se with a elaborate review of options

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