Shipping Your Luggage: A New Trend Is Catching On
Reprinted from CruiseReport.com
Increases in checked baggage fees have caused many people to explore the option of shipping their luggage ahead. Many airlines charge for a single checked piece of luggage, and weight restrictions can result in additional charges when a bag exceeds the stated limit. Airlines collected nearly $3 billion in checked baggage fees in 2009 while, according to a Department of Transportation report, still mishandling more than 2.1 million bags.
In true free market fashion, private businesses have sprung up to address the needs of today's travelers. Luggage shipping services offer to pick your checked luggage up at your home and deliver your bags, via freight companies, to your destination. At the end of your vacation or business trip, your luggage is picked up at your location and returned to your home. The idea sounds plausible, but how does it work in real practice?
We recently tested two different services just to see for ourselves how the system works. Our first test was with Luggage Free (www.LuggageFree.com). We scheduled via email to have our two pieces of luggage picked up at our home in Carrollton, Texas, and shipped to Azamara Journey at the port of Miami in time for our 13-night Transatlantic cruise to Civitavecchia (Rome), Italy. We arranged to have the luggage picked up at the port of Civitavecchia at the end of our cruise and shipped back to Texas. A week before our cruise, a local courier arrived at our home to collect our bags for delivery to Miami. One caveat of using a luggage delivery service is that your bags will need to be packed at least a week before your trip. Our flight to Miami out of DFW was seriously delayed due to bad weather. We were not even sure if we would arrive in Miami in time to get to the ship before departure. Our arrival in Miami literally had us running through the airport to catch a taxi ride to the port. As it turns out, had we not shipped our luggage with Luggage Free, we would have missed our cruise by having to wait 30 to 45 minutes at the airport baggage claim. We made it to the ship just in time to board with no time to spare, and, our luggage was already waiting for us in our stateroom when we arrived!
The return portion of the trip did not turn out as well. We were scheduled to have a Luggage Free representative meet us at the port of Civitavecchia upon our disembarkation to collect our bags for the return shipment home. We waited for 20 minutes outside the ship and the rep never showed. We tried to call the local number for the rep in Italy, but got no answer. We were forced to take our bags with us to the airport and check them with the airline. Apparently, something got mis-communicated to the local courier and they either went to the wrong pier, or showed up late. In any case, we had to get to the airport to make our flight and could not wait for them.
Our next test was with Luggage Forward (www.LuggageForward.com) during a recent cruise in China and South Korea. Our Silversea Silver Shadow ship was scheduled to disembark in Incheon, South Korea, so we scheduled to have Luggage Forward pick up our luggage for shipment back to the USA. All arrangements were made within 10 days of our cruise and all communications via email. Luggage Forward did an excellent job of communicating with us and even coordinated with the ship's Guest Services manager so that we could leave our bags with Guest Services prior to disembarkation. Therefore, we were not required to hang around and wait for a courier to arrive at the port to pick up the bags. Everything went smoothly and our luggage arrived at our front door via DHL within 4 days of our return to the USA.
Based on these two experiences, we have to give the nod to Luggage Forward for their excellent communications and coordination. Plus, they delivered! In fairness to Luggage Free, it appears that their local rep in Italy simply dropped the ball on the pick up.
The benefits of shipping luggage:
>>> No weight restrictions. Many airlines limit checked luggage to 50 pounds per bag and impose stiff fines when a bag exceeds the weight limit. Also, different airlines have different restrictions. When traveling on multiple airlines internationally, trying to figure out the weight limits is a real hassle.
>>> No baggage claim. You literally breeze through the airport by not having to wait an extra 30 minutes to 1 hour for your bags to be offloaded by the airline. Going through Customs is easier too, especially when you have to make a connecting flight. No need to claim and re-check your bags.
>>> Keep Your Bags Until Disembarkation. Most cruise lines require that you place your checked bags outside your stateroom the night before disembarkation. With a luggage delivery service, you can keep your bags in your stateroom overnight until you walk off the ship. This allows you to pack all of your liquids and other "last night" clothing in your luggage the morning of disembarkation.
>>> Reliability. Freight companies are simply more reliable at delivering luggage than airlines. Especially if you have a flight plan that requires connections on multiple airlines, the odds of bags getting lost or delayed is increased.
>>> Convenience. One less thing to worry about. When you board your ship, your luggage should be waiting for you when you arrive.
Rates, reliability and services offered by different luggage forwarding solutions can vary greatly and consumers should be careful to select the right company for their next trip. Asking the following questions will ensure that you gather enough information to make the right choice for hassle free travel.
Is the pricing all-inclusive?
Ask whether additional fees will be added to the base shipping rate that you are quoted. Often times a pickup fee, particularly for same-day pickups, or fuel surcharge is applied after the fact. Major package shippers always have these additional fees and some luggage shipping companies charge upwards of $50 for pickup. Unless you understand the complete cost up front, it is impossible to accurately compare the alternatives.
Do you offer an on-time guarantee?
If a company does not provide at least a full money back guarantee for late arriving shipments, you should look elsewhere. Reliable companies will not only offer a full money back guarantee, but may also cover any additional expenses that you might incur due to any late-arriving bags. Of course, you should ask to see this in writing before booking.
Is additional packaging required?
Traditional shipping companies require luggage to be sent in a box if you would like insurance coverage. Even some specialty luggage shippers require wrapping luggage in large plastic bags. The most convenient option is to use a company whose system allows clients to send luggage, insured up to $10,000 per bag, without any additional packaging.
Do you handle all customs documentation and clearance for international shipment?
Sending your personal items to a foreign country can be an incredibly complicated undertaking and you will want to choose a company who has the experience to navigate the process on your behalf. If the country-specific customs regulations are not understood, lengthy delays and costly duties and taxes can result. Using a company that has proven specialization in forwarding luggage internationally can save you time, money and aggravation.
How do I know that you provide a reliable luggage delivery service?
In addition to the guarantees mentioned above, look beyond marketing material or selected client testimonials for objective, independent verification of the company’s credibility. How long a company has been in business, partnerships with leading travel providers and positive press coverage are all good indicators of a reputable company.
About Luggage Forward
For travelers seeking the utmost in convenience, reliability and predictability, Luggage Forward provides guaranteed delivery of baggage from doorstep to destination starting around $50 per bag. Luggage Forward leverages a worldwide network of shipping partners, innovative technology and honest, unparalleled customer care to give seasoned travelers the peace of mind they deserve. The smart alternative to checking and carrying bags, Luggage Forward is transforming today's travel experience.
Luggage Forward has set the standard in door-to-door delivery of luggage and sports equipment for travelers since 1999. The company is the exclusive luggage delivery provider for many of the world's leading travel brands including American Express Vacations, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Holland America Line, Merrill Lynch, Starwood Hotels & Resorts and US Airways. For more information, visit www.luggageforward.com or call 866-416-7447.
About Luggage Free
Luggage Free offers travelers the option to send luggage ahead to nearly any destination, allowing them to avoid the inconvenience of carrying, checking and claiming bags even going through customs. The Luggage Free service begins at the customer's door, where luggage and other items to be shipped are retrieved at a specific time of the traveler's choosing. The shipment is then wrapped in custom made plastic protective packaging and routed to its final destination where it is waiting for the traveler upon arrival. Realizing the flaw of a 'one size fits all' infrastructure, Luggage Free utilizes a worldwide network of thousands of agents and 14 different air carriers, thereby allowing for the greatest reliability, customization and cost effectiveness for each individual shipment.
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