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Touring In Europe - Shipping Your Gear

     
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A word about shipping your equipment. If you’ve got it insured, take your own equipment with you. You already know what the pros and cons of your own equipment are, so this may be much better than trying to acquaint yourself with different rental gear that you may not be familiar with and which is always suspect no matter what its condition.

All you need is a very reliable power amp (at least 500 watts) and a mixer or Powered Head with at least six inputs; one good set of 12" or 15" speaker cabs (preferably with horns); powered monitors; and a few good mics and stands. Economize on your effects pedals and other musical gear. A surge protector is a must! And don’t forget the extension cables. Also, your band will need at least three of those powered-converters that reduce voltage from 220/240v to 110v for European electrical applications. And don’t forget all three adapter sizes of those wall adapters since electrical outlet sizes vary throughout Europe.

Always pack your gear well, preferably in gig hard-shell cases and don’t forget to put your identification information all over each item. To ship your equipment overseas to Europe you’ll need to have a special document called a "carnet". This document is required in order for all customs officials you encounter in various countries to know that your equipment is necessary for your business (gigs) and is not intended to be sold while you’re in Europe. Thus, you won’t have to pay a value-added tax on your equipment whenever you’re crossing country boarders. Also, a carnet simplifies customs procedures and helps you get your equipment back upon your return.

In short, this customs document greatly reduces customs hassles. Don’t leave home without it! It takes about 5 business days to get a carnet document from the Carnet Service Bureau. You’ll have to pay a fee depending on the value of your equipment, so put a complete inventory of what you’ll be shipping on paper and estimate its value. You’ll need to do this also for your insurance as well.

You’ll need to fit all your P.A. equipment and other gear on a pallet - that 4x4 foot wooden crate that they use to ship things on. You can get one at any professional shipping supply store. Fit all your band equipment you can possibly fit on the pallet, because each band member will only be allowed to a take on the plane two small carry-on bags (one of these will no doubt be your guitar). Once you’ve loaded up your pallet, then get some shrink-wrap plastic and wrap your stuff up thoroughly. Once it's ready, you’ll have to get the pallet either picked up by a shipping outfit or drive it to the airport in your van to the place where your shipping concern is located.

They’ll ask you for your Carnet information, and then hit you with the cost of shipping your stuff. They'll hold your pallet at their destination location until you show up with your Carnet paperwork. There may be a daily storage charge to consider. To get your gear to Europe, you’ll have to use one of the International shipping concerns listed in your local yellow pages. This is a very competitive business, so make sure you shop around and get several good quotes.

You may want to go with a larger, more reputable company that will guarantee your stuff to be shipped to an accessible location (usually an airport). Most of these companies have websites where you can find out their latest quotes on shipping. Finally, purchase the supplemental insurance they offer.

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