Why you should secure your Balikbayan Box – A personal story

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Damaged Balikbayan box and a TSA inspection note

In a years time I think I post a total of 2 articles per year in regards to Balikbayan Box and packaging.
I know it seems redundant but my reason for this is due the ever changing trends and price increase when it comes to sending balikbayan boxes home.
Todays post is a great example on why I always emphasize on making sure you secure your box and its contents properly based on my recent Philippine trip experience.

Back in June 22 I flew for a quick 2 week trip to Manila. My whole flight experience was a disaster – no thanks to Delta in which I suffered a missed and cancelled flight and every leg of my connecting being delayed.
Days prior to the trip, I started prepping up one Balikbayan box to serve as my second check in luggage.
While most travelers prefer a regular suitcase, us Pinoys and many other Asian travelers opt to use shipping boxes to cut down on the weight. A regular suitcase can weigh about 8-10lbs while a balikbayan box weighs between 2-3lbs.

Since mine was such a short trip, I didn’t want to use such a big box that you would normally see in LBC or Seafood City. But this gave me an idea. See here in the US. Most balikbayan boxes have size options and normally are in a rectangular shape. However in the Philippines, they only sell ONE sized box and is in a weird and oddly dimensioned square shape.

I prefer the rectangular boxes because they serve better as a garment luggage options plus I can fit longer items in them like a kite and one time a small, retractable fishing rod.
I had the idea of using one bigger balikbayan box and insert a slightly smaller one in the inside to use for my return trip back. All rectangular in shape.

For the bigger box I used a 24x16x18 box from Seafood city (medium sized). The smaller box which i bought in a shipping store was sized 20x15x15. You can also purchase similar box options from Staples, Office Depot and even The Container Store.

As always for protection, I lined my box with plastic in case any liquid from the inside contents spills or protect it from outside moisture.
I did not seal/tape the top of inner box thoroughly since I will be using it for the trip back and the outer box top will be the one securely sealed.  From there I started packing.

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Smaller shipping box inside my balikbayan box. Tip: Get double corrugated heavy duty

Anything that I was bringing with me that came in a bottle and had liquid contents had their caps taped and bubble wrapped.  I even used tupperweare for some items and stuffed them with tissue as added protection.
As seen with the photos below. I bought a few items that would break or squish easily like perfume, jams, peanut butter, bottles of olive oil. I used some bedsheets & towels I was taking home with me to act as a buffer at the bottom and pretty much sandwiched anything fragile with clothes, towels, bubblewrap and even foam.

IMG_9488I also weighed every item with a small digital and portable weighing scale you can buy off Amazon & Walmart to keep track and make sure I dont go over 50 Lbs per luggage. I always leave at least 5 lbs leeway. I make sure to pack the box tight so that it can withstand other luggages being stacked on top of it. Luckily my work had a lot of extra packaging materials I was able to use. Then we sealed off the box with heavy duty packaging tape, duct and masking.—-These three will come in handy later again.

Going back home to Manila despite the flight cancellations, my luggage suffered only little mishaps. The box had a few bumps and scrapes and since I even duct taped the box corners, these acted as buffers and reinforced the box.

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Securely sealing my balikbayan box

However my trip back to the US was another story. The good news, as predicted having a rectangular sized box is a better to fit most of the souvenirs I bought from the Philippines and the shape was just perfect and everything packed snugly.
Flying back, I had several transfers and connections. I would be doing Manila-Tokyo-LA-San Diego. Thats up to 3 transfers for my check in luggage.

I already had a feeling that the travel would be rough on my box so I decided to clear tape the whole outside of the box….Unfortunately I ran out of the clear packaging tape 3/4 of the process and had to use some very cheap duct tape…that wasnt sticking.

Two things happened when I finally got my bags back to San Diego.
1. My balikbayan box had a rip/torn hole on the one small spot where there was no clear tape over it.
2. My other suitcase was opened by the TSA during my layover in Los Angeles. Luckily nothing was taken and they left one of those TSA notes.

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Damaged Balikbayan box and a TSA note

Remember how I always put plastic lining inside ALL of my balikbayan boxes?  Well thanks to that, nothing fell out of the ripped hole of my box. The top part of my box, no thanks to the cheap duct tape I bought in the Philippines, unstuck itself and was gradually unraveling and unsealing the top of the box. I don’t think my luggage would have survived another transfer.

Sadly I know how my box ripped. Back in LAX, while waiting at the baggage carousel, we witnessed a suitcase get torn apart by a small metal piece sticking out of the luggage conveyor belt. The poor bag was completely destroyed. Plus during the time our bags were coming down from the luggage chute, other bags and boxes would fall violently on top of each other. Unless you had a hardtop suitcase, your poor luggage gets tossed around like a rag doll on that baggage claim area. (Sorry no pics….not allowed by TSA)

Here is a pretty much good description how chaotic that baggage claim area would be courtesy of Youtube.


In the end, what do we learn?
Invest in a good suitcase and a strong heavy duty shipping box
Never go cheap on your packaging materials, especially duct tape

Every travel for me is a learning experience, and its been my goal to always share the good and bad and what to expect to help others on their journey.

Till the next post!

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One thought on “Why you should secure your Balikbayan Box – A personal story

  1. Pingback: Sending Electronics US- Philippines & Relocating Furniture US-Philippines (Ohh Woes) | The Adventures Of Ms. Circumstance

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