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Maybe you should just ship your luggage

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Photo: Maurizio Milanesio (Shutterstock)

Air travel is both a triumph of human engineering skill and a prime example of the frustrations of modern life. On one side, a huge metallic tube rises in the air and carries you at an incredible speed. On the other hand, it is necessary resort to various hacks to make the experience more tolerable.

Baggage is one of the biggest contributors to air misery. Aside from the hassle of carrying many heavy bags, who hasn’t arrived for their flight a few minutes late to find that every overhead compartment is occupied? Have you seen someone attempt to put a clearly oversized bag in one of these bins? Not to mention the dystopian experience of waiting for your checked bags to show up at baggage claim.

Not handling baggage will improve your air travel experience, which is why you should ship your bags instead of checking them in.

Save yourself a ton of hassle

The benefits of shipping your luggage are clear:

  • Less to carry: You don’t need to drag two hundred pounds of stuff with you through the airport, but you can slip through carrying only your personal item.
  • Win time: You don’t need to go to the counter to check your bags and have them weighed. You don’t need to stand at the baggage claim after the flight and wait for your luggage to be vomited out the guts of the airport. And you don’t need to take your luggage to the post office – many luggage shipping services will come to your house and collect it.
  • To save money: Maybe. Shipping your luggage box save you some money, but that’s not guaranteed.
  • Save headaches. When you check your bags with the airline, you are acting on faith. And when your luggage ends up thousands of miles away – or completely lost – you usually have no recourse. Shipping services offer tracking and guarantees against loss.

Ship to save

As a general rule, most airlines allow one personal item and one piece of luggage that can be stowed in an overhead compartment per passenger. After that, you have to check your baggage – and it’s rarely free unless you’re a member of a program that includes free baggage as a benefit. Fees vary, but the median fee for the first checked bag is around $25, and it can go up to $50, depending on the airline. The median fee for a second bag is $35, up to $60. There are wide distribution– a fourth bag on a United domestic flight will cost you $150, for example, while Southwest checks your first two bags for free and charges $75 for each additional bag.

The fact that airlines charge more for each additional piece of checked baggage is important, because that’s where you can save money. The fees charged by most baggage shipping services are higher than those charged by airlines, but they are the same regardless of how many bags you are shipping. That means you might not save money if you ship one bag instead of checking it, but if you ship four or more bags, you’ll probably do better.

You can ship your luggage yourself using FedEx or UPS, of course, but that can be a bit of a hassle since you have to do it all yourself. Going through a service, even if it relies on FedEx and UPS for its logistics, usually comes with perks like insurance, warranties, and even limited storage options in case your trip is delayed.

How much does baggage shipping cost?

ShipGo rates start at $35/bag, but increase with weight and distance. A bag weighing 25 pounds will cost you $55 to get from New Jersey to Texas, for example, so four such bags will cost you $220. If you fly with United and check this baggage, you will pay $370. On the other hand, if you’re traveling southwest from New York to Austin, you’ll only pay $150 for those four checked bags, so shipping might not be your best option. And keep in mind that if you have heavier, bigger, or more luggage, the costs also increase, both at the airport and for a shipping service, so do the math first if saving money is your priority.

Another option is Without podwhich uses standard shippers like FedEx and UPS to get your luggage from A to B. Shipping those four bags to Austin at their lowest service level (which involves printing your own labels and dropping off your bags at a FedEx or UPS store) would cost just $138.

Alternatively, premium shippers like Without luggage cost more (about $300 for our 4-bag example) but offer more services, including picking up and handling all paperwork (like customs forms), if needed.

The downside, of course, is that you should be ready to ship your luggage before you leave for your trip, perhaps a few days earlier depending on your shipper, so that it will be at your destination when you arrive.

Shipping your luggage will always be a winner in terms of travel convenience, if not on cost. If that makes sense to you, you’ll be rewarded with a hassle-free experience as you move through the airport while everyone is sweating, pulling this huge rolling luggage with a broken wheel.

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