Is shipping luggage better than checking bags? We tried it 4 ways.

by Сашка

For about $100, you can save yourself the hassle of lugging bags around the airport

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You start to feel like Sisyphus after a while, heaving your suitcase up and down the airport, in and out of overhead bins and baggage claims, through bathrooms, bars and parking lots. It’s even more of a slog when you’re traveling during the busiest times of the year.

But what if you didn’t have to take your bag to the airport at all? What if you could unshackle yourself from your mule-like misery?

With luggage shipping, you can do just that. All it takes is a little cash and planning.

“All of a sudden you don’t care about boarding early, you don’t care about bin space,” said Brett Snyder, who runs the airline industry blog Cranky Flier and Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. “It’s a freedom that many people do not know.”

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Depending on your turnaround time, you can expect to pay from about $50 to more than $100 to ship a bag — higher than the $30 to $35 many U.S. airlines charge to check one piece of luggage. Snyder says beyond the selling point of feeling fancy-free, many travelers turn to shipping despite the higher cost — particularly older travelers and those with disabilities.

“Lugging those bags to the airport, that’s a lot to deal with,” he said. “And so there’s huge value in [luggage shipping].”

Our team decided to test out three popular luggage-shipping services to see whether they’re worth the time and money.

Luggage Free

Cost: $113

Tested by: By The Way editor Amanda Finnegan

Experience: The plan was to ship my suitcase via Luggage Free from my apartment in Chicago to D.C., then pick it up on my trip to the office the following week. I was skeptical my bag would arrive in time, so instead of packing items important to me, I packed my dog’s toys. Cooper looked confused as I loaded his prized stuffed pineapple, a pillow (to fill some space) and an AirTag (for tracking) into the bag.

I logged on to the site on a Thursday morning, with the goal to ship my bag on Friday. Delivery was priced by size and weight, starting at $75 for a carry-on to $135 for an oversize bag, with arrival in four days. You can also ship other items, such as standard-size snowboards, starting at $130, or golf clubs, for $90. There were a host of extras to choose from, such as an early arrival or having your bag picked up.

I initially chose to have my bag picked up at home vs. dropping it off at a FedEx location. But there was a flaw in my plan that I didn’t realize until after I paid the extra fee: I didn’t have a printer to produce my own shipping label, so I would have to take my bag to a shipping location anyway. (The company should disclose ahead of purchase that customers need to print their own labels.)

My total came to $113: $75 for shipping, $22 for insurance and $10 for pickup, plus extra fees. For location, you could enter a hotel or cruise, too; I chose reporter Andrea Sachs’s D.C. apartment. I played around with a few locations within the United States and noticed pricing stayed the same.

I located the closest FedEx through the feature on the Luggage Free site and headed there. (You can use UPS or DHL, but not all locations are authorized.) I asked the woman who helped me at FedEx how often people drop off luggage for shipping. “A lot. It’s pretty common here,” she said.

She printed out my tag, attached it to the bag, and it was off. I checked the AirTag throughout the weekend, and by Sunday, it was already in Maryland. Two days ahead of schedule, it arrived at Andrea’s apartment.

Takeaway: I see the benefits, especially if you don’t want to lug bulky items or gifts to the airport over the holidays or ski season. But for me, a frequent Southwest flier who gets two checked bags free, I can’t see a scenario that would justify the price for shipping.

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Cost: $124.99

Tested by: Reporter Natalie B. Compton

Experience: LugLess was the first option that popped up when I Googled “luggage shipping” for the first time last year. The company works as a middle man, connecting you to shipping services with its own search engine.

You plug in the kind of bag you have and the dates you need it picked up and delivered, and LugLess provides shipping rates from FedEx or UPS. You select whether you’d like to add “value protection” covering up to $3,500 per bag, and either doorstep pickup (you’ll need to print a bag tag at home or pay extra for a digital label) or a drop-off site.

If I would have gotten my holiday shopping done earlier, I could have shipped my carry-on bag of gifts for my nieces from D.C. to Fresno, Calif., for as low as $42.99. But to meet my deadline, my rate for a four-day turnaround was $117.99 plus a $7 “Basic” package that included $200 of coverage, customer service support plus a partial refund if I canceled.

I printed my label at UPS for free when I was dropping the bag off. I shipped a similar bag on the same route from the same drop-off point last November under the $18 “Essential” package ($70.99). That included $500 of coverage, a digital label and a guarantee that if your bag gets there late, LugLess will submit a claim with the carrier. If that claim is approved, it will give you an account credit for that approved claim amount.

Last time around, my bag arrived a day late — a seven-day turnaround. But this year, it arrived a full three days early.

Takeaway: Now that I’ve tried LugLess twice, I trust the company to get my bags from Point A to Point B, but I would make sure I sent it a little earlier than necessary in case of another delay. The service is easy enough, but it’s more hand-holding than I need, so I’d just take my bag straight to UPS or FedEx instead.

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Luggage Forward

Cost: $99 for basic, up to $209 for express

Tested by: Reporter Heidi Pérez-Moreno

Experience: If there’s one thing I can appreciate about anything I purchase online, it’s a responsive customer service line. I made five calls to Luggage Forward representatives during various stages of trying out this service. I had some trouble figuring out the site and initially confused the drop-off and pickup dates, but I was able to get everything sorted out on a call that was answered on the first ring.

The shipping setup process goes like this: On the Luggage Forward site, you’ll choose round-trip or one-way (I did one-way) and enter your origin and destination cities. Next, you select which type of bag you want to ship: carry-on, standard or oversize. Choose your desired delivery date, and you’ll get pickup date options: $99 for basic for a carry-on, with arrival in eight days, to $209 for express, with arrival in three days. You can choose a pickup time frame, which starts free but goes up to $75. Value protection for $500 is included, but you can add more for extra costs.

I chose a Dec. 1 pickup date from my apartment in D.C., so my bags could arrive in Miami around five days later. I was informed through the booking process that I would receive luggage shipping tags for my suitcase via FedEx, although I didn’t get a specific estimate of when I would get them. The tags didn’t arrive until the following Monday, Dec. 4, which made my original goal more of a time crunch. I called the Luggage Forward customer service line, and they switched my delivery for expedited processing so my luggage could get there within two days.

Once I had my tags, I packed a suitcase with items I had been meaning to send to my mom in Miami. I cut off one of the labels from Luggage Forward and squeezed them into a stick-on pouch that pinned onto my luggage with the paper’s built-in adhesive. I also stuck another a copy of the label inside the suitcase, per the company’s instructions. Then I dropped off the bag at a FedEx store near my D.C. apartment, feeling as if it would save time to bring the bag in myself rather than wait for pickup.

I had also packed an AirTag, so I knew my bag got to Miami just a day and a half after I shipped it. Right as I got an email that my bags had been delivered, my mom gave me a call confirming. The suitcase was intact, and she didn’t see any damage.

Takeaway: I wish the site would have given a better explainer on how bags are processed before sending me straight to a payment page. Waiting on luggage tags in the mail pushed me to pay extra for an express delivery. However, I would recommend Luggage Forward to people who prefer talking to a human vs. a bot, because this made a world of a difference in navigating my reservation. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this service again given how attentive and helpful the staff was.

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Cost: $90.29

Tested by: Reporter Andrea Sachs

Experience: United Parcel Service offers online scheduling, plus pickup from your residence for an extra fee ($13 in my case). However, with so many delivery options and input requirements, such as weight and bag dimensions, I preferred to work with a human in a store and not a bot online.

At the store in western Massachusetts, my bag’s departure point, I learned that I could ship my luggage with no box required. The employee swiftly measured and weighed my wheeled duffel bag, which clocked in at just over 27 pounds and 32 inches long.

Because I wasn’t in a rush to receive my bag, I asked for the lowest, and thereby slowest, option. The employee recommended ground service for $90. The price included $100 of coverage in the event of loss or damage. I asked whether I could knock the price down by removing some items. The UPS worker said no, so I felt confident that I was making the most fiscally wise decision. I later discovered that my cost included a $27 handling fee for my irregularly shaped bag.

Before bidding my bag farewell, the employee secured the zipper and handles with a plastic tie and attached a pennant-size UPS label. Then she whisked it away for its road trip to D.C.

My bag’s estimated arrival time was roughly two days later, the Thursday to my Tuesday drop-off. I returned to my mother’s house to stalk my bag, which was carrying an AirTag in its front pocket. I watched it crawl down the East Coast, from western Massachusetts to Hartford, Conn., to Saddle Brook, N.J. It spent Thursday night in Hyattsville, Md., before continuing onward to Mount Pleasant, near my D.C. apartment.

The AirTag, not UPS, alerted me to its arrival on Friday morning. I found the luggage in the lobby of my building, surrounded by other packages. The bag was in pristine condition; the ties were intact. I shouldered it up one flight of stairs, thankful that UPS had taken care of most of the heavy lifting.

Takeaway: Overall, UPS was quick, straightforward and efficient. However, the price seemed high. I wish I had known about the handling fee, and I might have sent my items in a box.

More travel tips

Vacation planning: Start with a strategy to maximize days off by taking PTO around holidays. Experts recommend taking multiple short trips for peak happiness. Want to take an ambitious trip? Here are 12 destinations to try this year — without crowds.

Cheap flights: Follow our best advice for scoring low airfare, including setting flight price alerts and subscribing to deal newsletters. If you’re set on an expensive getaway, here’s a plan to save up without straining your credit limit.

Airport chaos: We’ve got advice for every scenario, from canceled flights to lost luggage. Stuck at the rental car counter? These tips can speed up the process. And following these 52 rules of flying should make the experience better for everyone.

Expert advice: Our By The Way Concierge solves readers’ dilemmas, including whether it’s okay to ditch a partner at security, or what happens if you get caught flying with weed. Submit your question here. Or you could look to the gurus: Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

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