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Should You Ship Your Bags?

Should You Ship Your Bags?
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BY KITT WALSH

Dragging my wheeled bag through the endless construction detours of both JFK and Heathrow recently almost wrenched my arm from its socket. Having passed the half-century mark, it seems that my days of blithely schlepping anything heavier than a fanny pack may be behind me. (I wait in vain for someone to reinstitute the manservant or even porters who would meet your plane at the gate.)

So my age and infirmities coupled with the ever-increasing airline luggage fees make the idea of shipping my baggage on ahead of me seem very attractive, but is it feasible for those of us not numbered among the 1%?

I investigated before booking my next trip.

You may want to ship your stuff if:

  • You are channeling your inner Elizabeth Taylor and have more than two pieces of luggage.
  • If your bag is routinely overweight (mine wasn’t, I am just a wimp), be prepared to pay $50 to gate check it or start throwing belongings over the side in front of everyone at the ticket counter.
  • It burns you that almost all the airlines are now charging for checked bags (even <sob> that most caring of airlines, JetBlue) and bargain airlines like Frontier and Spirit even hit you up for carry-ons as well.
  • You are sick of TSA pawing through your bags (I’ve lost a set of pearls and my favorite pair of boots thus far) and the very distinct possibility you might lose the bag and all of its contents forever (and get approximately half the value back when you file for lost luggage) or end up in Salt Lake City at 3 am with no toothbrush, underwear (or, in that alcohol-free place, that very important flask of vodka you packed in your checked bag.)
  • It’s the holidays and you want to wrap your own gifts and have them stay wrapped (and not be at the mercy of that lime green generic holiday wrap from Amazon).
  • You are bringing along items you can leave at your destination (your heavy winter clothes for your ski cabin or the beach toys for the grandkids I buy online rather than pack them each year for our family vacation in Florida.)
  • You are in a mad rush and need to skip the line to check your bags or, on the other end, you can’t wait at the baggage carousel.
  • You are bringing along valuable, very heavy or strangely shaped articles like your new 10-speed bike, golf clubs, custom pool cue, surfboard or sewing machine.

How to get your stuff there without the airlines:

You may use a luggage shipment service like Luggage Free which charges $2.20 per pound to get your bag there within five business days (they charge more for delivering on a Saturday or if they need to help pack or label your bags) or Luggage Forward, that charges $99 for a standard bag of 50 pounds or $69 for a 25-pound smaller bag with the same five business day service. These are both quotes for domestic services, where they will pick up at your home (or hotel) and ship your bags to wherever you want with a fairly iron-clad guarantee (barring an Act of God) that your bags will arrive on time and intact. (Luggage Forward will refund you and give you $500 if your bag is late.) Also, check for pot-sweeteners if you are a first-time customer. For example, if you sign-up to get Luggage Free’s newsletter, you will get $25 off your first shipment.

Some luggage shipment companies even handle overseas shipment. Luggage Free will ship that 50-pound standard bag to London in 7 business days for $259 and a 75-pound oversize bag for $359 (one way), and you won’t even have to mess with customs. I spent that much on masseuses to rearrange my skeletal system after the Heathrow debacle.

You may use the regular shipping companies like FedX, UPS and DHL. You may even send your bags via the United States Postal Service, but you will have literally thrown your bags from the frying pan into the fire when it comes to them ever showing up or doing so unscathed.

With all such shipping companies, you will be given a tracking number to check online where your bag is (though mine regularly shows my shipment arrived at a depot about 20 miles from my home where things drop off the radar like a ship in the Bermuda Triangle, thus defeating the purpose of tracking.)

You will get charged by the weight and size of whatever you are shipping, where it’s going, how fast you need it to get there, for insurance and any confirmation you need of its arrival, so its tough to be exact on pricing. But, as an example, if you sent a 40-pound bag from NYC to LA with that same five business day deadline, it would cost you about $60 from FedX. If that bag weighed 60 ponds, the cost would jump to around $77 (which still might cost less than the overweight charges the airline would hit you with) but if you needed that bag there with two-day delivery, the cost of the lighter bag would be nearly $220! Remember also, you would still be schlepping that bag—just to the FedX office instead of the airport, else you’d need to arrange special pickup.

So, is shipping your luggage worth it? For that golf holiday in Scotland, a vacation that truly is a vacation from Day 1 or for people like me who have had their luggage stolen so often I bought zebra skin bags just so I can keep a better eye on then, I think the answer for my next trip is “yes.”

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