Alternatives to checking baggage on the rise
As airlines become less willing to allow free or unlimited baggage checking, companies offering alternative methods for getting what you need to your vacation destination look forward to a good year.
Even before new baggage policies were announced, a handful of companies offering to ship your luggage found a niche market in luxury travel.
Luggage Forward, a company based in Boston, offers to pick your luggage up anywhere you’d like, whenever you’d like and deliver it to your hotel. Like the postal service, they charge according to weight and desired speed of delivery.
The Luggage Club, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, does the same thing. Using companies like these means travelers never have to worry about carrying their belongings around.
Because the company moves them for you, there’s no risk of them being stolen or forgotten. There’s no need to stand in long checking lines, or risk them missing a transfer. No need to stand around waiting at the luggage carousel or rent a large vehicle to haul several bags.
Unlike the post office or the airlines, these companies also have money-back guarantee policies. If your stuff doesn’t arrive on time with Luggage Forward, they’ll give you money to rent what you’re missing, said Zeke Adkins, co-founder.
"Every time something does occur, like United (Airlines) increasing their price we see an upswing every time," said Todd Kempinger, president of The Luggage Club.
The new air line policies have these companies so excited that High Country Shipping, a company out of Telluride, is opening new branch offices in Jackson Hole, Steamboat, Vale, Aspen and Park City.
John Humphries, the regional director, said it’s still too early to tell what the season will be like, but that they’re expecting an up-tick in business.
He said the value of having locations in these resort towns is that they’re able to arrange storage of baggage. The other companies contract out their service since they don’t have people on the ground. Because High Country Shipping will have people in Park City, hotels won’t be stuck storing luggage for people who haven’t arrived yet or already left.
" removing that responsibility from the hotels, it allows them to improve the experience of people traveling to the destination. Anything you can do to improve the experience is helpful," Humphries said.
While some of the companies can come close to Fed-Ex and similar services some of the time, bargain hunters would be better off using traditional shipping services. They lack the luxury of never worrying about luggage, but can be half, sometimes a fraction, of the cost.
Some travelers plan ahead and ship their clothes in cardboard boxes to hotels through the post office and save money while lightening their load on the flight.
While avid skiers who know and love their own equipment might be interested in shipping their bulky skis, some say renting is likely to become more popular than ever.
Park City rental businesses are hoping more people will use them instead of bringing their own, but three interviewed couldn’t help worrying about the numbers this year.
"Everyone has fear and trepidation of the economy," said Greg Ottoson, owner of Aloha Ski and Snowboard on Main Street. "If it was a normal year with the normal number of skiers, yes, we’d be excited."
Jamie Peters, owner of Park City Sport, said she’s not planning on the air line policies making a difference since she’s expecting an overall slowing of tourism this year.
Desiree Lindemann, a buyer at White Pines Touring said she agrees, but still believes people will take ski vacations as long as there’s snow.
Lindemann said her company shipped a lot of bicycles this summer for visitors and thinks it might be the same for skis. Overall, she said renting is cheaper for visitors.
Ottoson said the rule of thumb is 30 days per year. If people ski less than that, renting is the cheapest option for them. Also, by renting, people can try the newest and best gear. Peters said that’s the only way for people to know what they like.
If they’re too new to the sport to know, renting allows them to use real basic skis for a bargain, Ottoson said. But 20 to 30 percent of his customers want to use the high-end, cutting edge equipment.
Airline baggage fees (according to About.com):
American: 2 bags: $40, 3 bags: $140
Continental: Business class travelers are allowed 3 bags without charge. Additional bags are $100. Bags weighing between 50-70 lbs. incur a fee of $50 per item.
Delta: Checked bags must weigh less than 50 lbs. An extra bag that goes over the weight limit and the size limit will create 3 charges. These charges each range from $25-$150.
United: Each passenger $15 for the first checked bag. Oversized bags (beyond 50 lbs.) incur a fee of $125.
Jet Blue: 1 checked bag and 1 stroller are permitted without charge. A second checked bag requires a $20 fee. The third bag incurs a $75 fee.
Northwest: Each ticketed passenger is allowed 1 piece of checked luggage. Second piece is $25.
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Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts in early June submitted a letter to the Park City Planning Commission in support of a Provo developer’s blueprints for a major project at the resort.