Some countries and international organizations impose restrictions on what you can send to certain individuals, organizations or countries. For us, this means that we have to be very careful about what we place inside the care-packages, letters and boxes that we’re sending to our long distance partner.

If you don’t follow these restrictions and guidelines you run the risk of having your items confiscated which means they’ll never reach your loved one.

It’s very confusing though, trying to figure out what you can and can’t ship internationally. Guidelines within individual countries are usually much easier to figure out since there are fewer restrictions. But the restrictions for international shipping can be overwhelmingly long and confusing since they can vary and change according to the country you’re shipping to. Sometimes they just don’t make a lick of sense to us at all which doesn’t help.

It would be nice if we could provide you with a simple list of things you can and can’t send to all countries, but sadly that’s not possible. However we can provide you with the next best thing: a set of guidelines and steps you can follow for your own individual shipping purposes. Here are the steps that will help make shipping international items that much easier for you.

1: Compare what you are sending your partner to the appropriate list of acceptable goods per country.

While we can’t provide you with a list of acceptable items to ship per country there are other websites that can. It’s their job to keep up with the changing laws and regulations surrounding international shipping, so you can be sure that the information is accurate and up to date.

You can use these websites to check that the items inside your package are allowed to be shipped to the country you’ll be sending them to.

• The United States Postal Service provides a rather comprehensive list of “Country Conditions for Mailing” per country. You can scroll through this list to find the restrictions on the country that you are shipping to and then you’ll be able to avoid putting those items in your packages.

The Australian Government Department of Agriculture has this list of goods that are not allowed to be shipped into Australia. If you’re sending a gift to a partner in that country, comparing the contents of your package to this list is your best bet if you want the package to reach your partner.

Royal Mail provides this comprehensive A-Z list of items that can’t be mailed into the United Kingdom as well as highlighting the areas where there may be exceptions.

Canada post has a very organized, alphabetical list of items that can’t be shipped to many countries. Just click on the corresponding letter to find the country you’re shipping to. It even lists countries that aren’t included on the USPS’ list of “Country Conditions for mailing.” This is our favorite list by far because it is so organized and easy to navigate.

2: Don’t be afraid to ask questions at your local Shipping Center.

It’s their job to help you. So if using the lists above is a bit too much for you to handle –ask someone. And you don’t have to wait until you get to the actual shipping center to do so. You can call ahead and talk to someone on the phone before you even begin to fill a box with your goodies. Some shipping companies even have live chat on their websites for those of us who aren’t so good on the phone.

Doing this will save you a lot of time, energy and hassle. Not to mention you’ll have a lot less to worry about because you checked and double checked that everything in your package is secure to send with someone who should know exactly what they’re talking about.

And if you’re feeling unsure about any information you receive, remember: it’s okay to call a different shipping center for a second opinion.

3: Ask someone who has done it before.

The LDR Community is always open to you. Any question that you have about shipping an item to a specific country is something that someone else has already done before. If after following the two steps above you are still feeling confused or concerned that your package may not arrive with all your items in tact (or worse, it may be destroyed!) Then ask a member of our vast community of Long-Distancers.

There are several forums across the World Wide Web full of people who are eager to give and receive advice –including our own. Don’t be shy! They can give you the assurance that based on their own experiences & advice the packages do arrive safely at their destinations.

We hope this short guide will reduce the confusion of what you can and can’t ship internationally.

photo © 2009 Clive Darra, Flickr