Travel Lighter, Ship Your Luggage
By Jessica Taryn
Everyone has had the possibility flash through their minds before a vacation that their luggage will not make it onto their connecting flight, or that it will get thrown onto the wrong plane and the next thing they know, they’ll be in Tahiti in snow boots and a snow jacket while their bathing suits and shorts will have conveniently made their way to New York.
In addition to being fed up with having to carry heavy luggage around the airport, people have feared lost luggage for far too long. Thus, a travel trend has emerged to solve this problem: luggage shipping. Companies such as First Luggage, Luggage Free, Universal Express and Carry My Luggage offer door-to-door service without the hassle of lost, stolen, or damaged luggage, or having to drag bags along on your travels.
“Shipping luggage ahead, there is less likelihood of lost luggage as that’s what we specialize in,” said Gideon Kasfiner of First Luggage.
Cecilia Vesnesky of Universal Express agrees, “Since our inception we have had less than 0.07 percent in claims. Most claims received have to do with a zipper that was loose or a tear in the suitcases. We had only one incident of lost property inside a suitcase in customs. Our service includes tracing every step of the way,” she explains.
Time is of the essence
Luggage takes an average of two to three days to ship, according to Kasfiner.
Vesnesky said that her company ships luggage in as little as overnight for most domestic destinations, and international destinations require a few days due to customs inspections.
According to Simon Huxford of Carry My Luggage, “Shipping times depend on the collection and delivery zones. Within the UK or USA we offer next day services. Deliveries within the EU are generally within two to three days. Europe to USA shipments are between three to five days.”
Change of Plans
In our fast paced lives, plans change minute to minute and travelling can be stressful. Luggage shipping companies eliminate the additional stress of having to worry about your luggage.
“To change luggage plans is not difficult as we can arrange everything up to two hours before pick up,” said Kasfiner.
Vesnesky said, “We are just a phone call away. If you think about flights canceling and rerouting people to other flights, having your luggage shipped really helps avoid additional stress… It is already there!”
It’s just as simple to change plans with Luggage Free. Jeff Boyd says, “A traveler can always change luggage shipment plans with a simple phone call or e-mail. The actual speed in which the change is applied depends wholly on where the shipment is in its journey, however. For example, if a customer has a shipment going to Paris, and they
decide to change and have it delivered to Berlin, and they let us know before the shipment has left the US, then the delivery day will not change, and it will not be a problem at all.
"However, if they alert us of this change when the bag is in French customs, we will do our best to expedite its clearance and ultimate delivery to Berlin, but it may be delayed by a day or two because of the point at which the shipment stood at the time of the change.”
Most luggage shipping companies allow as many bags a you would like to ship, however there are weight limitations for each individual bag.
“Luggage amounts are not limited. We currently provide standard services for suitcases from small (44 lbs, 20kgs) to medium (55 lbs, 25kgs) and large (66 lbs, 30kgs). The size, and respective weight, of luggage may be determined by using our luggage volume calculator on the booking system. You type in the item dimensions in centimeters and are provided with the corresponding option,” says Huxford.
“The maximum weight allowance per piece is 67 lbs (30kgs). This is for Health & safety compliance.”
First Luggage’s weight limit is 66 lbs (30 kgs) and anything heavier is subject to a charge of GBP£ 5.00/kg (2.2 lbs). The charges are calculated by type of item being sent – suitcase, golf bag, skis - and the bag’s destination. There is no limit to how many bags you can take with First Luggage. In fact, they offer a quantity discount, according to Kasfiner.
Vesnesky explains Univeral Express’s policy, “We ship 150 pounds per piece domestically, and 70 pounds per piece internationally, but you may send as many pieces as you want,” she says, “The charge varies based on weight, service level and destination. Typically you can pay as little as 60 dollars domestically. The average is 80 dollars domestically for a 40-pound bag, and there is no limit on the number of items you can ship. We do luggage of all types including shipping cases, golf bags etc,” she said.
Boyd says that Luggage Free has no size or weight restriction. “As far as content, the general guideline that applies to commercial airliners also applies to our shipments. Specifically, no explosives, large amounts of currency, etc. Additionally, we are unable to ship wine or alcohol, animals, perishable items, etc.,” he said, explaining that the Luggage Free website contains a comprehensive list of items that can not be shipped.
“Carry My Luggage guarantees delivery of all items, except where customs checks have been instigated, or where weather has restricted delivery cycles, as the recent hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico did this year. Where these occur, we make every effort to ensure that clients remain informed, and that delays, if they do occur, are minimal. To date, we have delivered all items on time, many earlier!” Huxford says.
Most luggage shipping companies agree that hotels are very receptive to their services and deliveries.
Kasfiner said, “We call them in advance of shipping. No hotel has refused luggage in advance as long as the customer has a booking.”
First Luggage guarantees full refunds if luggage arrives after the customer. “That is our commitment,” he said.
Vesnesky agrees that hotels are very accommodating, “They know that we prescreen everything and that we service their customers. We partner with some great hotels such as Ritz Carlton and Mandarin Oriental. We set up the delivery based on the customers’ requirement.
"If they are going on vacation the suitcases are picked up before they leave and delivered before they arrive. When they return, a lot of customers leave the suitcases when they depart and the suitcases arrive the next day or later. Usually it is dirty laundry so there is no rush,” she said.
Boyd says, “Most hotels look at this as an opportunity to provide increased service for their guests, which is the name of the game for a lot of these properties. Incidentally, we just signed a deal with the W Hotels, where we will be providing them with a luggage delivery solution for their guests.
"I think this partnership is indicative of an oncoming trend, which is one where hotels are really embracing the luggage delivery industry and working to become a part of it, as more and more travelers see value in the service and are requesting it more often.”
Huxford says, “By having luggage delivered to hotels, the accommodation provider, room occupancy is more likely and we find that hotels are very willing to assist.”
While shipping luggage is a great way not to have to check big bags, what about the small stuff? Do these companies suggest that you carry anything on the plane with you?
Kasfiner says that it is not absolutely necessary to take anything with you on the plane.
“If they wish to take a carry on bag with toiletries, some of our customers do this,” he says.
Vesnesky says that medications and jewelry should be carried in your purse or a small carry-on bag.
Boyd concurs, “We really believe our service is best used if a customer uses it wisely. To elaborate, we don’t think it’s wise to ship items of extremely high value (jewelry, currency, etc.) prescription drugs, and items similar in nature to the aforementioned.”
Huxford says that his company recommends that all clients take some bare essentials with them on the plane.
Stress-Free Trend, Security Must
All the representatives of these luggage shipping companies are also shipping customers,
Huxford says, “I have used our service and the fact that I had to carry my suitcase a total distance of 40 feet was wonderful, considering that my journey was from the UK to Florida, USA and back.”
“I haven’t carried my luggage in a long time and the benefits are many. For me, the best part of shipping luggage is the fact that my vacation now starts when I leave my house and not once I finally get to my hotel. Air travel without luggage is a true luxury,” says Boyd.
“I do not travel any other way,” Vesnesky says, “the benefit for me is that now I have a secretary for my luggage.”
“I only travel luggage free. The best way to describe it is once you have used it you will never travel with luggage again, because everyone has a horror story of lost/misdirected luggage,” Kasfiner says.
“Let me give you a visual on this. You may change your oil in your car yourself. It will mean you will need to find the best oil for your car, go to the store and buy it and then get under the car and spend the time on it, including discarding the used oil after the process.
With Luggage Express and Virtual Bellhop you call one number and we do all the work. We contact the destination and set up the delivery, bring all the paperwork to be attached to the suitcase and track it along the way including letting you know when it has arrived. One call, stress free. But this is not only a stress-free trend it is a security must,” she says.
Security has increased recently, especially since September 11th and traveling with luggage has become very time consuming and inconvenient.
“Airports are looking more and more like bus terminals, people sitting on top of their luggage (especially after cruises). The lines are out of hand and the security equipment for screening of bags are taking space and crowding yet more the terminals.
One thing is convenience and that this service is offering, but we are also helping secure our airports and the people,” Vesnesky says.
“Our method of shipping luggage helps with airport security and airline security, and we have submitted a white paper to the government in regard to this. This service assists the disabled and the seniors who might not travel without this type of service. It’s simple and safe!”
Unlike a Traditional Shipping Company
Boyd explains that there are many advantages to shipping your luggage:
“The Luggage Free process begins at the customer’s home at the time they choose, which is a major advantage over traditional shipping companies who can make a customer wait for hours on a pick up,” he says.
Safe packaging: “Once our agent arrives at the home, we then wrap the luggage in our custom plastic packaging, which protects the shipment from dirt, damage and theft. This again is in sharp contrast to a traditional shipping company, who either ship luggage exposed, or require the customer to box each piece themselves.”
Paperwork: “For international shipments, Luggage Free facilitates the paperwork process, so the process is as easy as possible for the customer. A traditional shipping company requires the customer to itemize every item in each shipment, as well as the completion of various additional customs forms, both of which are time consuming and often confusing,” he says.
Tracking and Insurance: “Finally, Luggage Free proactively tracks each shipment and notifies the customer upon delivery as well as provides $1000 of standard insurance. Both are again in contrast to traditional shipping companies that require travelers to track their own shipment, and who provide only $100 of standard coverage,” says Boyd.
Popularity of the Trend
Luggage shipment has really developed into a unique and convenient trend for travelers. “Carry My Luggage saves the client time, which they can then use for more important matters, be that work or play,” says Huxford.
It is better for travelers and airlines and will likely continue to grow in popularity.
“There is greater scope for airlines to realize additional revenues by utilizing hold space more effectively, by selling such space for cargo transportation as opposed to having luggage taking such space. Railway companies also benefit from reduced congestion on board trains,” says Huxford.
Boyd concludes, “At one point we were doubling in size every three months, and we continue to grow at a rapid pace. I can’t think of anything being more indicative of the fact that shipping luggage is becoming more and more popular.”
Jessica Taryn is a former intern at GoNOMAD. She attends the University of Massachusetts. You can read her blog at TravelReader.