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For many of us, the most inconvenient part of travel is handling our baggage.

Now we too can be like movie stars, and have someone else carry our bags for us!

 
 
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No Luggage Worries when Traveling

No need to struggle with piles of luggage - have someone else do it all for you, door to door.

 

 

Traveling with luggage has become even more difficult. The new baggage security procedures and airline crackdowns on luggage allowances add to the hassle and uncertainty of traveling with checked baggage. Several companies have developed innovative and excellent solutions to these problems.


Have someone else transport your luggage

There we were - checking in for a ten day journey to Florida, and the check in agent asked us 'how many pieces of luggage do you have?'. I smugly replied 'None!'. The agent looked very surprised and so I explained 'We've sent our luggage ahead with Sports Express'. He smiled and we did too - traveling with no luggage is truly a wonderful and liberating experience.

We didn't have to carry our typically very heavy and bulky suitcases anywhere. We didn't even need to tip anyone. We simply left the bags on our front door step and found them, waiting for us, in our hotel room at the other end. What a marvelously convenient way to travel!

New Problems with Bags

From 1 January, new security requirements now have the TSA scanning every bag for explosives. Unfortunately, their high-tech million dollar scanners can't tell the difference between a bar of chocolate, a block of cheese, a piece of soap or a lump of C4 explosive. As a result, there are very many false alerts as the bags go through the explosive detectors, and for that reason, all suitcases must be unlocked so that security people can open them up and search through them for the cheese or soap or chocolate or explosives (question - what say you hide explosives inside a block of cheese - how would they detect that?).

Many people are uncomfortable about leaving their suitcase unlocked - either due to the lack of security, or due to concern that the suitcase might burst open, and others just plain don't like having someone search through their personal belongings.

Then there is the issue of liability - if something goes missing or is damaged in your luggage now, who is to blame - the TSA or the airline? No-one yet knows!

In addition to these new security complications, the airlines are tightening up on your free baggage allowances. Many airlines now charge extra if your bag weighs more than 50lbs, and many airlines are cutting back on the number of bags you can ship for free. And although in the past you could often 'sneak' an extra or overweight bag onto the plane by generously tipping a skycap or due to a friendly ticket agent giving you 'the benefit of the doubt', these strategies are now more difficult. Increasingly, passengers are finding that they're having to pay extra money to transport their bags.

Old Problems with Bags

In addition to these new problems, all the old problems still exist. You can never be exactly sure where your bag will go, or when you will ever get to see it again! And there is also the danger of the bag getting scrunched up in the baggage handling machinery in the airports, or of being stolen or pilfered.

Even if everything goes perfectly, you can still count on as much as a 30 minute wait for your bag to come off the carousel, and you have the hassle of schlepping it around with you.

For all these reasons - old and new - a service that transports your bag from door to door is a wonderful thing.

How these Services Work

As you'd expect, whereas the airlines seem to do all they can to make traveling with checked baggage as unpleasant as possible, these third party baggage services do all they possibly can to make the experience as painless and pleasant as you'd ever hope for.

Simply phone their (800) number, or use their website, to schedule a bag pickup. You tell them the number and approximate size/weight of the bags (ie are they small, medium, or large suitcases), when you'd like them collected, and where you want them delivered. In my case, I simply said 'please pick up my bag from my house and deliver it to my hotel'.

You then choose from fast overnight, regular overnight, two day or three day service. Pay their fee, and that's it.

You don't even need to put a baggage tag on your bag. They take care of all the paperwork and all the hassle. And you can safely lock your bag, because it is shipped via an airfreight or air courier company - there are no security inspections to worry about.

Packing a Day Earlier

I was a bit unsure about this - because I'm typically a terrible last minute packer, running around in a mad panic and then rushing late to the airport, worrying all the while about what I'd forgotten.

The concept of packing your bag and shipping it out a day early (or two or three days early) took a bit of a mental adjustment. But I ended up finding that I absolutely loved the idea.

I had a much easier time of packing the day before, and with the bag already gone, could truly relax the next night and the day of the flight, and head to the airport when I wished to with only the remaining essentials in my carry-on bag.

In addition, the inevitable remembering of things forgotten happened between when my bag was taken and when I went to the airport myself, and so I was able to then take items that would have otherwise been forgotten with me!

To my surprise, having one's suitcase taken the day before travel ended up as being a wonderfully liberating and relaxing experience, and an unexpected side-benefit of their service.

For the return service from the hotel back to home, I just left the bag at reception when I checked out, and had it delivered to my home the next morning. That was perfectly convenient as well.

More than just a Courier Service

Sports Express and the other luggage services generally contract with brand name courier services such as Federal Express to do the actual physical transportation of your bags. But they wrap the basic Fedex type service with a wonderful layer of added value services. For example, they eliminate the need for any paperwork or air waybills. Indeed, I didn't even need to be present to hand my bag to the pickup driver - I just left it on my doorstep and when I returned home, there was a receipt for my bag pinned to my front door.

They also provide a dedicated team of 'Travel Concierges' who can responsively and sensibly help with any luggage related issues; indeed these people even pro-actively monitor the progress of your luggage so that if there is a potential problem, they can anticipate and respond to it before you even realize it.

And, if things do go wrong, you have a real person who understands customer service there to help you. The combination of the courier companies and their computerized tracking abilities, and the added value help of the Travel Concierge makes for a situation 100 times better than what happens when an airline loses a bag. No need for detailed forms to be filled out, no long lines to wait in, no phone numbers to call for updates but which are always busy or never answered - instead you get fast, helpful, service and accurate detailed information about where your bag is.

I really don't know if sending a suitcase via Sports Express is more or less likely to result in a delayed or lost bag than sending it by the airline, but I do know that if something does go wrong, Sports Express will do a much better job of solving my problem than would the airline!

At one point, I wasn't sure I completely understood part of their service, and so emailed them a question outside of their regular hours. Within three minutes of sending the email, my phone rang, and it was a friendly helpful Travel Concierge, reassuring me that everything was correct and proceeding properly.

They can also supply you with specialty packing information - if you have some types of sports equipment, for example, they know all about how best to pack such things.

For Business Travelers, Too

When I lived a peripatetic life on the road, I'd often be doing road-shows that required traveling with a large amount of material - perhaps a trade show stand, boxes of brochures, samples, and other gear. These days, ticket agents would have a field day assessing me all sorts of over-weight, over-size, and over-limit fees for my bags (and sometimes in the past I had to send particularly bulky items air freight, which was a massive pain).

Now, using a Sports Express type service, business travelers can be free and unencumbered, having their baggage and other traveling gear handled for them with no hassle or convenience.

The Cost

It cost me $87.45 (in 2003 - my guess is that in 2008 the cost would be at least double) to send a large heavy suitcase, on an overnight service, from Seattle to Key West (two or three day service would be cheaper, of course). Is this cheap or is it expensive? It saved me a considerable amount of time (at checkin and upon arrival) and a considerable amount of inconvenience (no security or other hassles).

To some people, the time savings and efficiencies have a great value; to others, the lack of hassle and simplicity of service has a great value; but, of course, to some, the $87.45 is the over-riding consideration (always assuming that the airline isn't going to charge a fee for the bag, anyway!).

The choice is yours.

Summary

To close, I can only repeat my opening comment - traveling with no luggage is a truly liberating experience. And isn't that what travel is supposed to be all about.

Next time you want to treat yourself to a truly hassle-free and stress-less journey, have someone else look after your luggage for you. It really makes an amazing difference to the start and end of your journey.

Reference

I have used Sports Express and based this article upon my experiences with their service. Clearly I feel comfortable recommending them to you.

Other similar services also exist. One other company operates under the dual brands of Luggage Express and Virtual Bellhop (not exactly sure what the difference is between them), but only Sports Express seems able to give instant interactive quotes through its website.

And, if you have negotiated very good corporate discounts with a particular courier company and are comfortable with their more 'bare bones' industrial grade of service, they too can present as a third option for you to consider.

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Originally published 17 Jan 2003, last update 19 Dec 2013

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
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