Shipping my stuff vs Airfare luggage fees
June 11, 2009 3:13 PM   Subscribe

Flying to Beirut from SFO. I am afraid that my stuff won't fit in the 2 allowed checked in bags, 23 kg each. Checking the website of British Airways, they say $132 per additional bag!

Can I just Ship my stuff with a separate carrier ahead of time? I don't care how fast it gets there (Books and Files mainly).

How much do you think it will cost to do such a thing?
Any recommended companies that does that?
posted by convex to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
A 15x15x20in, 30lb box sent via UPS will cost roughly $200 (to a downtown hotel), and the price goes up quickly the heavier it gets. You may be able to do it cheaper with other carriers, I just happened to have my shipping clerk and UPS Worldship nearby.
posted by bizwank at 3:56 PM on June 11, 2009

I've been gaming the system for years by putting as much of the heavy and dense stuff(e.g. climbing gear) in my carry-on, and then doing my best to make it look as light as a feather when I check in.
Also, are you sure you *need* to take 46kg of stuff with you? Never mind the plane journey, that's a lot of stuff to be carting around. You'll be a much happier traveler with 23kg, and I bet you won't miss what you leave behind, or can buy it as you need it.
But I should elaborate, I just had this same problem, returning to Canada after 5 years in the UK and S. Africa. I maxed out my baggage allowance on the plane with my tried and tested method above, and also sent 2 big plastic recycling tubs (40 kg total) by a freight company. I tried UPS, as their quote was way cheaper, but as soon as I said it was just personal effects they were like, no way, we don't ship stuff like that.
So I had to go with 'Intercargo', who I think just buy spare space on random planes (they ended up coming a few weeks later on an Air India flight). They charged me £150 or so, which was bad enough, but then at the other end, in Toronto I had to pay another $126 as a 'bondage fee' or something.
And, I had to lie my ass off to Canada Customs when they made me list everything that was in them... not that there was anything bad in there, but I just couldn't really remember every last thing, so I just made up a bunch of plausible sounding items that wouldn't get charged additional duty. Turns out they had been searched, anyway, so I guess they knew already that it really was just random old stuff like books and clothes.
SOOO, I would have to reiterate, try to get your baggage down to at least 46kg, because shipping stuff independently is way more hassle than you think it's going to be!
posted by Flashman at 4:34 PM on June 11, 2009

Seconding Flashman- exploit the carry on loophole. Stuff that bag full to bursting with all your heaviest things. Take a coat bag with your heaviest jackets/clothes, and stuff the pockets with more heavy things. Wear another set of big, bulky, heavy clothes, and stuff those pockets too. Make sure your carry on bag is just within the size limits, and it wont get weighed.

If that doesn't work, then it's time for the 'excess baggage' company route. I got quoted around 150 pounds to take a 'standard box' (about 1m cubed, I think) from London to Australia.
posted by twirlypen at 5:50 PM on June 11, 2009

Interesting timing; I just flew from Kuwait to SFO, with excess baggage. United dinged me $474 for two extra bags--and I will confess to offering the counter agent 50 KD, about $175 to make the charge disappear--so your prospect ain't sounding so bad.

I also went with loading up the carry-on, which got me under the weight limit by an eyelash.

I looked into various options, found there wasn't that much money to be saved, at best a delay in getting my stuff and I would have been less than flabbergasted if my stuff took longer to arrive than I was told it would take, if it arrived damaged, if it didn't arrive.

Much as it's not an ideal option, to me it's worth paying the airline and being done with it if you can't finesse the packing to get under the weight limit/in the allowed number of bags.

Oh, another thing: to save baggage space and weight, I wore a sport coat, a 3/4-length coat and a long coat, filled the pockets with various heavy things (and brought back some Cuban cigars).
posted by ambient2 at 6:35 PM on June 11, 2009

Go ask the USPS about M Bags. They are shipping bags specifically meant for printed material, which it sounds like a lot of your stuff is, and it's at a discounted rate.

Rates for Lebanon here:

Weight not over 11 lbs. $46.75
Each additional pound or fraction of a pound 4.25

So a 50lb bag will cost $216

If you scroll up a 50lb box sent priority mail would cost $250

Hope this helps.
posted by hipersons at 7:50 PM on June 11, 2009

$132 is both the easiest and probably cheapest option. Either severly limit the books in a carry-on, or just cough up the $132.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:14 PM on June 11, 2009

Shipping books and other media domestically is really cheap. They get a special rate. You might check out whether that is true for international shipping.
posted by caddis at 9:34 PM on June 11, 2009

If you use M bags, be prepared for a long wait and a bit of damage. I used them to ship my books from the US to Pakistan. Each bag took about 3 months to arrive and had clearly been in contact with seawater. Make sure you pack several small cardboard boxes lined with plastic bin liners, as each box has to fit inside an MBag, which is basically a plastic sack with a 2 foot opening (or thereabouts). Tape very securely - some of my boxes basically exploded in transit.

Otherwise, yes, I've always used my carryon allowance to the limit. They are supposed to check the weight of your carry on bags, which I always got around by swinging my bag nonchalantly as though it contained nothing at all.

In retrospect, given how miserable my flights became, I wish I'd just paid the 150 dollars.
posted by tavegyl at 1:38 AM on June 12, 2009

You might want to look into Aramex or UPS rates for shipping packages over, they both deliver to Lebanon and have rate/time calculators on their sites to give you an idea of how much it would cost.

Aramex's customer service was rather helpful last time I used them, got most kinks sorted over a bunch of emails.

And heres a list of air freight handling companies in Lebanon: I'm not sure if they do what you're looking for, but I'm aware of companies like these shipping to Africa so I assume some of them must do the same for the US [they have space rented out on daily flights and ship your stuff out with the rest of their fright]
posted by xqwzts at 2:57 AM on June 12, 2009

Might be worth calling British Airways Cargo for their unaccompanied bags rate. It will likely be less expensive than the overweight checked bags rate.
posted by lunaazul at 9:18 AM on June 12, 2009

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