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Decision Maker: Ship Items or Pay the Airline Baggage Fee?

Frustrated by airline baggage fees, lost bags, or schlepping your suitcases on multi-leg flights? Curious about what it would take to skip the baggage part of flying altogether by shipping items to your destination?

Answer these questions to assess whether or not shipping fits your itinerary, and then find the best way to compare prices.

Are you staying in one place, or moving around?

Since it’s cheaper to ship a box of items rather than a suitcase, shipping makes more sense if you’re staying in one place. Most people (I’m one of them) find lugging a cardboard box full of clothing and toiletries between destinations less than ideal, and frankly, kind of depressing.

Are you staying at a hotel, a vacation rental, or a home?

Wherever you’re staying, there needs to be someone available to accept the box when it arrives. If you’re staying at a hotel, call ahead to let them know you’re expecting a delivery, and make sure they’re willing to hold onto your stuff until you arrive. Also check to see if they will ship the items back for you when you check out.

If you’re staying with family or friends, things may be easier since if your items arrive a few days early, tucking them away until you arrive is unlikely to be a big deal.

If you’re staying at a vacation rental, shipping your items ahead of you may not be ideal. Unless the rental is associated with a main office willing to accept and store your items until you arrive, your box will either remain undelivered or may languish unprotected on the front steps of an empty house until you get there.

Compare Costs

If you’ve answered the questions above and shipping still sounds like a good idea, then it’s time to push on into comparison shopping territory. Here’s the most efficient way to weigh your options:

First, figure the cost of fees you’d incur on your airline based on the number of bags and weight of your baggage. Our handy fees chart makes this a snap.

Then, estimate how much the items you’d ship will weigh, and use the shipping cost calculators on,, the U.S.P.S., or another shipping service. If you can swing being without the items for a few extra days, you’ll cut costs considerably by opting for delivery of five days or more.

If you’re not concerned about the lowest cost, but place a high premium on convenience, then you’ll also want to look into services provided by luggage shipping companies such as Luggage Forward, Luggage Free, or another service. These companies offer door-to-door delivery and timed drop-off.

Want to know more? SmarterTravel sister site SeatGuru offers an in-depth look at baggage shipping services that includes a chart with sample costs.    

As for me, even though I’m not a big fan of baggage fees, or sprinting through the airports dragging my chronically wobbly carry-on behind me as I rush to make a connection, I think I’ll mostly be sticking to bringing my bags with me while I travel, at least for now. How about you?

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