Illustration of people with luggage on escalators in an airport

The cost of checking bags with an airline can add hundreds of dollars to your travel tab, depending on how much luggage you’re taking with you and how many members are in your party. And then there’s the hassle of lugging it all around the airport and to wherever you’re staying once you land. If you need to check an overweight or oversized item, such as a golf bag or skis, the price and aggravation rise accordingly.

A growing number of companies will transport your luggage for you so that it’s waiting when you arrive. The cost can vary widely, depending on which shipper you use. But if you have plenty of time before departure, you can sometimes come close to—or beat—what the airlines charge. (Fees to check a bag on a domestic flight are typically $30 each way for the first bag and $40 for the second.) Here’s a rundown of some of the options available and when it might make sense to use them.

Luggage Shipping Specialists

Companies such as Luggage Concierge, Luggage Forward, Luggage Free, and The Luggage Club offer dedicated door-to-door service, most for both domestic and international shipping. Prices can be high. For example, Luggage Forward charges $350 to ship a carry-on bag overnight from New York to Los Angeles and back, including door-to-door pickup and delivery.

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LugLess, owned by Luggage Forward, is a budget service that uses an algorithm to find discounts with FedEx and UPS. Customers take their luggage to a local drop-off point or arrange for it to be picked up for an added fee.

If you’re at least five days from departure and have a modest amount of gear, you may be able to beat the airlines on price. For example, shipping two bags from Houston to Milwaukee costs $40, or $20 per bag. (For this rate, you drop off and pick up yourself.)

CR’s take: These companies offer convenience but can still be very pricey compared with the airlines.

Standard Delivery Options

You can also use FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service to ship your gear, but unlike the airlines’ prices, the cost is determined by distance. For instance, it would cost about $48 to have a 40-pound bag picked up and shipped from New York to Cleveland via UPS or about $100 to send it all the way to Los Angeles.

CR’s take: You’ll get a tracking number so that you’ll know where your bag is at all times, but there’s far less personal service than with luggage shipping specialists. And it could take up to a week to see your belongings after you return.

A Concierge Service

DUFL stores your travel wardrobe at its warehouse. When you’re ready to travel, you use the company’s app to choose the items you want, and it will pack and ship them to your hotel in three days (or overnight for an added fee). At the end of your trip, DUFL will collect your bags and clean and store your clothing until your next trip. Rates start at $99 round-trip per bag for domestic travel, plus a $10 monthly fee. DUFL Sports stores items such as surfboards and bikes; prices depend on the type of equipment.

CR’s take: It eliminates the hassle of packing, but not everyone has a separate travel wardrobe or the cash for this convenience.

Editor’s Note: This article also appeared in the February 2020 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.