You probably assume that checking your luggage is the cheaper option, even though you’re stuck paying the airline about $25 for the first bag (each way) and $35 for the second, not to mention additional fees for heavy or large items. And sometimes it is. But not always, says Susan Foster, author of Smart Packing for Today’s Traveler (Smart Travel Press, $20, amazon.com). So before you jet off, it’s worth doing the math. If your baggage is unusually heavy or bulky, shipping may be a better deal—provided that you don’t send your Samsonite overnight or by two-day mail, says Jami Counter, a senior director of Seatguru.com, a travel-resource site. Case in point: UPS can ship a 75-pound box from New York City to Orlando, Florida, for $57. Checking an item that heavy would probably cost between $100 and $175—one way. Get quotes from the two options that you have for shipping: a standard delivery or courier service, such as FedEx or DHL, or a specialty luggage handler—particularly useful for bulky items, like skis—such as Sports Express (sportsexpress.com).
You should also consider shipping your baggage if you want to hit the ground running at your destination (which means skipping the luggage carousel), or if you want to be assured that those bags will be waiting for you when you arrive, says Peter Greenberg, a travel editor for CBS News. “Shipping is an especially good idea if you have a connecting flight, which increases the risk that your bags will be misplaced,” says Greenberg. And delivery services offer far more bells and whistles than air carriers, says Counter, such as superior insurance, better tracking, and, best of all, picking up your luggage at your home. No schlepping!