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A guide to shipping luggage

Bright yellow suitcase on a dark gray background.

Whether you’re heading for vacation, traveling for business, or going to school across the country, lugging your suitcase all the way to the airport check-in desk is unlikely to rank among the highlights of your trip.

That’s one of the reasons more and more people are shipping luggage before their journey. But what are some of the benefits of shipping suitcases, and what should you keep in mind when shipping luggage ahead of your trip?

Reasons for luggage shipping

One of the main reasons to ship your luggage ahead of time is simply that it’s more convenient than lugging a case around. Traveling light has various benefits, and arriving at an airport without luggage to check may be just what the doctor ordered.

For example, you avoid:

  • The hassle of airport check-in lines during the holiday season and otherwise busy times.
  • The (often rising) cost of checked luggage with domestic airlines.
  • The risk of losing your luggage in transit. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. airlines lost, delayed, or damaged 1.8 million bags in 2018.
  • The time it takes to pick up suitcases at baggage claim after your flight has landed at its destination (No need to struggle lifting your suitcases off the moving belt!)

There’s also the possibility of picking up the wrong case at the airport, or someone picking up yours. Eager to leave the airport, travelers don’t always pay full attention to the case they’re claiming as their own.

Then, there’s the risk of stresses and strains from moving luggage around. Heavy and awkwardly shaped baggage, such as sports equipment (think skis or golf clubs), have likely sent plenty of people to chiropractor’s offices with pulled muscles and bad backs.

Weighing up luggage shipping costs

When deciding whether to ship luggage rather than check it at the airport, one of your primary considerations will be cost. Here, a little research goes a long way.

The majority of U.S. airlines nowadays charge domestic passengers to check luggage. Travelers may also be subject to additional charges for heavy or oversized baggage, or for checking multiple bags. Compare the baggage policy on your carrier’s website, or contact the airline ahead of your trip to estimate the cost of checking all or some of your luggage.

Next, compare that figure with the cost of shipping through a carrier such as UPS. You can Calculate Time & Cost online, for a good indication of the comparative cost of shipping luggage. Or, stop by a The UPS Store® location for pricing.

The luggage shipping box

Once you’ve made the decision to ship ahead, you’ll need to figure out how. Luckily, you have options:

Option 1: Make it easy on yourself with The UPS Store Luggage Box. This large luggage box is lighter than a suitcase, weighing about four pounds (compared to an average weight of ten pounds for an empty suitcase), and is recyclable. The smaller box, which can also be used for carry-on, is about three pounds. Both boxes comply with airline baggage restrictions if you want to take them on the journey with you, or The UPS Store can ship them in advance. Pack your items directly into the box as you would with a case.

Option 2: Pack your suitcase as normal, and then place it into an outer container for shipping. Fill extra space between the case and the outer box with packing material such as bubble wrap to avoid your luggage sliding around in transit.

Option 3: Ship your luggage as is, though you may incur an additional handling charge for shipping a non-boxed item.

A few further considerations to keep in mind:

  • Due to FAA restrictions, The UPS Store locations cannot ship items that are flammable, such as aerosol sprays and cigarette lighters, via next day air service. Seek advice from The UPS Store personnel if you’re unsure about what you may include in shipped luggage.
  • Remember to place a copy of the shipping label inside the box or your case as well as on the outside of the container. Drop off your luggage at a The UPS Store location, or arrange for pickup from your home or place of work.

Shipping luggage to a hotel

What could be easier than having your luggage waiting at your hotel when you arrive? Just remember to get in touch with the establishment ahead of time to confirm their policies for receiving luggage, and to notify them of your plans.


  • Verify the hotel’s exact address and inquire whether there’s a designated person you can name as the receiver for your shipment.
  • Tell the hotel when to expect the luggage to arrive.
  • Track the shipment in transit.

Shipping luggage overseas

Because of the duties and taxes associated with international shipments, think carefully about whether you really need to ship luggage internationally. If you do wish to ship your luggage across borders, remember that personal effects may still be subject to levies, and there may be restrictions on what you can ship.

Shipping luggage home

Even if you take your luggage with you on the outbound journey, consider shipping your luggage home. There are a few reasons why this might be a good idea:

  • You may have picked up extra souvenirs during your trip.
  • You’re free to ship less time-sensitive items, such as items you have supplies of at home. On the return journey, it generally matters less if your luggage arrives a few days after you.
  • If you’re not available to pick up at home, you can ship to a convenient location through the UPS Access Point® Network.
  • For additional peace of mind, consider increasing your Declared Value Coverage.

And, of course, if you’re shipping luggage on your outbound journey, why not organize the return shipment at the same time for maximum convenience?  Or, simply stop by a The UPS Store location ahead of your journey home (there are more than 5,000 stores nationwide) and drop off your baggage for the ultimate in traveling light.  

Lightening the load

With longer lines at the check-in desk and the rising cost of checked luggage, there’s never been a better time to consider shipping your luggage ahead. Contact a The UPS Store location to find out more about UPS luggage shipping options, or follow the advice above and get your suitcase on its way today.

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