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You’ve probably heard me and other travel professionals talk about the benefits of traveling with carry-on luggage only. Traveling carry-on only means you can show up to the airport much later, you don’t need to check in with an agent, you can change flights much easier if there’s a lengthy delay or cancelation, you can get bumped (to earn extra cash), you don’t have to worry about your bag getting lost or having anything stolen from it, you don’t have to wait around at baggage claim for what seems like an eternity and you can take public transportation more easily. This is especially helpful for older people or those with reduced mobility. RELATED: Don’t Let the Airlines Lose Your Bag – Ship Them Instead

All of that said, it’s almost impossible for some people not to check a bag including me these days, when I’m traveling with my wife and two little kids (ages 4 and 7). They’re just too little to schlep their own bags right now. It’s a far cry from the way my wife and I used to travel the world (we’ve been to almost 70 countries together) when we rarely ever checked bags — even on month-long, around-the-world trips.

The only time we traveled without checking a bag with our son was when we went to Seattle (from our home in L.A.) for the weekend and used Babyquip, a service that allows you to rent all kinds of items for kids (from strollers and high-chairs to food, toys and bath items) so you don’t have to pack them yourself. Here’s more about Babyquip

Babyquip is great for so many reasons but especially not having to wait around at baggage claim. For those who don’t want to wait or pay the airline’s astronomical baggage fees (Frontier and Spirit can charge up to $100 just to use the overhead bin space), then consider shipping your bags using a luggage or delivery service.

Shipping luggage really only works domestically and for it to be economical, you have to do it well in advance. I’m talking at least five days. In the past, I’ve shown up at a FedEx and UPS with my suitcase and just had them ship it home to me via Ground. Most of the time, it was my dirty clothes in a box and cost about the same as checking a bag. I also wrote about a service called Lugless in 2020 (more info below).

It’s been almost four years since I published that piece and I just read a great piece in the Washington Post by Natalie B. Compton titled, Is Shipping Your Luggage Better Than Checking Bags? We Tried it 4 Ways. Natalie and her colleagues each tried a different service to ship a bag domestically.

Here’s a quick synopsis:

In the video, reporter Natalie Compton breaks down how the experience played out for each of the reporters who tested out the four delivery services. Here’s the video transcript;

“Whether you check your luggage or carry it on, hauling your stuff is one of the most annoying parts of travel. So, what if you didn’t have to?

Luggage Free
Because holiday travel can be very stressful, we are trying four different ways to ship your luggage and gifts instead. First up, our editor Amanda Finnegan tried Luggage Free. The pros: Her bag arrived two days early. The cons: It was much more expensive than the zero dollars it cost her to bring a bag on Southwest. She also had to drop it off at a FedEx because she doesn’t have a printer at home.

Luggage Forward
Reporter Heidi Perez-Moreno used Luggage Forward. The pros: The pricing was straightforward. $99 for basic carry-on with arrival in eight days. The cons: It took a bunch of phone calls to arrange the service.

I tested Lugless twice. The pros: It was easy to use and this year, my bag arrived three days early. The cons: I don’t have a printer at home so I’d have to pay extra for a home pick up. Worse, the first time I used it, my bag got there a day late.

Last but not least, reporter Andrea Sachs tried UPS. The pros: It was easy; there was no middle man and it came with luggage insurance like the other companies. The cons: She had a $27 handling fee for her irregularly shaped bag. Plus, she wasn’t alerted when her bag was delivered.

Our takeaway? This service isn’t cheap but if you’re someone who needs extra help at the airport or need to travel with gifts, it could be worth it.”

You should definitely read the full article because the reporters provide a lot more helpful detail. However,
I do wish all the reporters had provided more detail about the size and weight of each bag they were shipping and I also wish they’d tried FedEx Ground since that’s another obvious option. 

One thing they did not address in the article is that some hotels charge a receiving fee so you should double-check with your destination before shipping because that’s another expense to factor in to the overall cost. And of course, whether you’re checking your bag with the airline or shipping it with a company, don’t forget to pop an Apple AirTag or Samsung SmartTag inside for added peace of mind. You won’t regret it.

Have you tried shipping your luggage? What was your experience? Leave a comment!


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3 Comments On "Should You Ship Your Luggage or Check It? Here are 5 Companies to Use if You Decide to Ship"
  1. Doug Jensen|

    I am a very frequent flyer. I have shipped my luggage round trip by FedEx next-day air for over a decade. My employer has a corporate contract with FedEx so that reduces the prices. I avoid middlemen shipping luggage companies because they add unnecessary costs and delays to those of the actual shipping carriers.

    On USA trips, outbound I schedule my luggage to be picked up at my home the day before I fly, to be delivered to my hotel the next morning. Inbound I schedule my luggage to be picked up at the hotel on my checkout morning and to be delivered to my home the next day. Usually, I fly to only one city per trip, but a similar plan can be made for multi-city trips. Thus far, no USA hotel has had a receiving fee, but I do tip the baggage handling staff well.

    On international trips, I do the same, but the outbound day and the home delivery day usually need to be adjusted, depending on the country I’m going to. Hotel baggage receiving fees are common, but I still tip well.

    If you don’t have a corporate contract with a shipper, you should compare the retail prices of FedEx, UPS, and perhaps DHL. I recommend skipping the middlemen except to save money when timing (pickup, delivery) is not critical.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Great to know! Thanks for the details

  2. Alan Goldstein|

    Shipsticks is another service I have found very reliable. They started shipping golf clubs and have expanded their offering to include skis and luggage. The cost to ship luggage depends on the size and weight (25 vs 50 vs 65 lbs), delivery distance, and how quickly you want it to arrive. I’ve used them for golf clubs many times. Booking through their website is very easy and they provide full tracking. Reasonable insurance is included in the price but you can buy more. They typically use UPS and FedEx and you can drop off or have the package picked up at home.

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