Complex Shipments Made Easier: From Dry Ice to Alcohol

No matter what item you can think of, someone has probably tried to ship it! Yes, even ice cream.

Over time, as various carriers and governments have introduced more rules and restrictions, shipping certain items has become a little more complex when it comes to generating labels and selecting the appropriate delivery services.

At ShipEngine, we pride ourselves on helping businesses fulfill even the most complicated shipments.  Integrating with our API gives users the opportunity to save time and money by optimizing their fulfillment of products that may require additional label tags or special delivery.

Once the code is built on the user’s end, our API automates the process of them knowing which carrier will accept their specialty shipment, which costs the least, and which ones have the fastest delivery options. In addition, our API prints labels according to all of the package information input. For example: if it’s wine, it prints a label that requires delivery confirmation; if it’s dry ice, it will only choose services that accommodate a faster delivery time. 

These types of shipments can be complicated and time consuming, particularly for a business shipping a high-volume. But using ShipEngine helps save you both time and money by automating this process for you. 

Here are a few types of advanced shipments you can send through our shipping API:

Dry Ice and Perishable Foods

With meal subscription boxes and online grocery delivery on the rise, it’s no wonder more and more businesses are looking for shipping services that accommodate advanced options like dry ice and ice packs to keep non shelf-stable items cold upon delivery. 

Dry ice shipping is generally more effective and keeps food cold for longer, making it great for things like shipping meat or medications. For these types of shipments, you’ll want to ensure you include the correct advanced option code, and take note of how many pounds of dry ice are in the box. This unit volume will be a required element of this API call. 

While packages with ice packs don’t require a special delivery option, time is still of the essence. You can customize your API calls to only select the fastest shipping options for these items — ideally, overnight. 

Keep in mind that you cannot ship perishable foods internationally.

Medicine and Prescription Drugs

If you need to mail medicine or prescription drugs, you’ll first want to familiarize yourself with federal and state laws. 

Once you have confirmed the legality of shipping your product, our API will help you feel reassured that you’ve met all the necessary carrier requirements — whether that’s shipping prepackaged prescriptions or surgical devices.  Some of these will require a certain level of delivery confirmation, like an adult signature or direct signature (recipient name must match the addressed package). Here’s a code sample for how our API handles a request for a package that needs a signature upon delivery:

If temperature control is a concern, based on the manufacturer’s or FDA’s recommendations, dry ice or ice packs might also need to be considered in the fulfillment process. With the increasing price of prescription drugs, you might also want to consider third-party insurance.


Shipping wine or spirits? Mailing alcohol used to be a complicated process, even domestically. But integrating with a shipping API can automate that workflow for you, preventing you from having to think through all the various shipping rules. A bottle of wine being shipped down the street and a bottle of wine shipped internationally involve completely different restrictions and processes.

Certain carriers, like USPS, do not permit the shipment of alcohol. Others, such as UPS and FedEx, just ask merchants to meet special requirements like providing proof of an alcohol shipping license. Proper packaging, labeling, documents, and adult-signature delivery are also required.

Using ShipEngine, this process is as simple as adding a line of code that will take a fraction of a second to run. We’ve included detailed code samples in our documentation that guide you through how to customize this endpoint, much like this one:

It’s as simple as that! Now, your carrier knows that this package contains alcohol and adult signature is required, with nothing more than a quick code addition.

Tobacco & E-cigarettes

Cigarettes and tobacco products are restricted items and can only be mailed in limited circumstances. Cigars may be mailed domestically. 

Shipments containing tobacco are only accepted for shipment from merchants or individuals who are licensed and authorized to ship tobacco. Shippers and receivers must comply with all regulations, as well as adhere to the rules set forth by the carrier. It is the responsibility of the shipper to ensure that these shipments do not violate any federal, state, provincial, or local laws. 

The nicotine potency of e-cigarettes and vape cartridges varies, which means how you ship, relies on the regulations for the carrier with which you’re shipping. These shipments do not require special codes, but may require an adult signature.

Oversized, Heavy, and Batch Shipments

Another use case we see with ShipEngine users, is the need to ship oversized or large parcels. These are typically defined as:

  • Items weighing more than 150 lbs.
  • Items measuring larger than 165 inches in length and width
  • Packages larger than 108 inches in length

These types of shipments would be classified as freight shipments, and require certain code specifications, from special pricing to understanding freight classifications.

Batch shipments, or bulk label printing, is another advanced feature available in ShipEngine, designed for users who need to generate hundreds or thousands of labels at a time.

By default, all carriers will accept the advanced shipment codes you’ve added, given that no errors exist. If the type of shipment and carrier specifications you’ve added are not supported on the carrier side, you will receive an error and can use our error codes page to understand and troubleshoot these API calls.

Globally prohibited items

  • Live Animals 
  • Animal parts, remains, or hunting trophies
  • Human remains or ashes
  • Bullion (of any precious metal)
  • Cash (current legal tender)
  • Loose precious and semi-precious stones
  • Complete firearms, ammunition, or explosive devices
  • Illegal goods, such as counterfeit goods or narcotics

Interested in seeing how ShipEngine can save you time and money by automating the fulfillment process for even your most complex shipments? Sign up for your free API key today, and start shipping!

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