By DAVID LANDSEL
After Northwest's announcement this week that they'll be jumping on the first-checked-bag charge bandwagon, it seems as if increased luggage fees are here to stay. Finally, after all these years of reading about shipping your luggage in advance (and shrugging it off as too involved and possibly too expensive), you're ready to play.
But is sending your worldly possessions ahead cost-effective? It all depends.
However, you can generally expect shipping ahead to be more secure, not to mention convenient, considering the long lines at the counters this summer. Also not to mention: You're far less likely to have your bag "mishandled" (that's the fun word the Department of Transportation uses) by your airline or the TSA. And if any of these shippers lose your bags, which is unlikely, at least they'll be sorry.
Furthermore, airlines won't insure many types of articles, such as electronics, business items (such as samples), and other valuables.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
If you opt to send your luggage separately, you've got options. Many options.
First of all, you can treat your bags as if they were any other package, dropping them off with FedEx, UPS or your friendly neighborhood post office. In fact, you don't need a bag or suitcase at all (see tip below).
Should it feel odd to you, shipping your personal effects across the country as if they were an unwanted sweater or pair of shoes heading back for the warehouse, there are multiple luggage shipping services for you to choose from, with names like Luggage Free, Luggage Concierge, Sports Express, The Luggage Club. (You are sensing a trend, here, yes?). They are very expensive (see chart), but they do provide door to door service and packaging.
We've chosen two services - Luggage Free and Luggage Concierge - pitting them against traditional shipping methods and, of course, what it would cost to put your bags on board two very different airlines - Delta and Southwest.
As you can see from the chart, Southwest has moderate luggage fees compared to older legacy carriers such as Delta. And FedEx Ground is your best bet if you don't want to schelp your belongings yourself.
|Rates based on round-trip shipping
||45 lb bag Hartford
|55 lb bag Philadelphia to Los Angeles
||75 lb bag
Salt Lake City to Washington
|1 oversize bag (65 linear inches) at 75 lb
to Fort Lauderdale
|US Postal Service (Parcel Post)
|Luggage Free 5-day
1) Whether it's overpaying for cheap boxes at the post office or paying your luggage concierge to pack it in feathers (or whatever), remember to protect your belongings.
2) If you can't ensure that you're going to be at your destination when your luggage arrives, make sure someone is there to sign for it (such as the bell desk at your hotel, or the receptionist at the branch office).
3) Staying in one place at the other end? Ditch the suitcase - it is added weight you don't need to be paying for. At the end of your trip, just repack in the original boxes and ship home.
4) One of the benefits of using a dedicated luggage service is that where necessary, packaging tends to be included in the charge - not generally the case when shipping via usual methods.
5) Some hotels do charge a fee for storing your luggage, but chances are your parents and office receptionist won't. It's a good idea to call your hotel ahead of time and let them know you're expecting something.