If you're like most travelers, you've probably never considered shipping your luggage ahead of you instead of carrying it with you on a trip. Sure, over the holidays you might mail a few gifts to your destination to avoid having the TSA root through your suitcase and ruin your perfect wrapping job, but otherwise it probably seems more practical, convenient and economical to check your bags with your airline. But is this still the case?
Most major U.S. airlines charge travelers to check a first or second bag on domestic flights - even though few will guarantee that your bag will actually make it where it's going on time. (If you thought luggage delays were frustrating before, imagine how you'll feel if your airline loses a bag that you paid $35 to check!) Ultra-budget carriers Spirit, Frontier and Allegiant have added fees for carry-on bags as well. And no matter which airline you're flying, if your bag is overweight, be prepared to shell out or more in penalties on top of whatever fees you're already paying for the privilege of checking that bag.
In light of these changes, shipping your suitcase may suddenly look like a more attractive alternative. While it's still generally more expensive to ship a suitcase than to check it, the latest airline fees have narrowed the cost differential - and what you gain in convenience and reliability may be worth paying a few extra bucks.
To help you "weigh" your options, we've outlined the pros, cons and costs of checking bags versus shipping them. We've included information on standard delivery services (such as UPS and FedEx) as well as specialty luggage handlers like Luggage Forward and Luggage Concierge.
One important note: Shipping is generally not an economical option if you're flying overseas. Many airlines still allow travelers to check at least one bag for free on international flights, and shipping a bag outside the United States can easily cost as much as your airfare. The information below is geared toward domestic travelers.