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Is it Cheaper to Ship Gifts Ahead or Take Them With You?

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Christmas presents (Photo: iStockPhoto.com)
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on November 10, 2008. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: airfare, American, Delta, holiday, JetBlue, packing, Sarah Pascarella, shopping, Southwest, United.

For those traveling during the holidays, deciding what to do about gifts is always a sticking point. In this age of airline fees, even bringing one suitcase may cost you. Add a second suitcase just for gifts and the charges start piling up. On the other hand, if you ship gifts ahead of time, you'll probably have to pay shipping fees.

I recently conducted a cost-comparison test between a few major airlines and retailers to determine potential prices. For this scenario, our test-case holiday traveler is flying home with gifts, and is planning on checking two bags at the airport.

American

First-checked-bag fee: $15
Second-checked-bag fee: $25
Each-way fee price: $40
Round-trip bag fees: $80

Delta

First-checked-bag fee: $15
Second-checked-bag fee: $25
Each-way fee price: $40
Round-trip bag fees: $80

JetBlue

First-checked-bag fee: $0
Second-checked-bag fee: $20
Each-way fee price: $20
Round-trip bag fees: $40

Southwest

First-checked-bag fee: $0
Second-checked-bag fee: $0
Each-way fee price: $0
Round-trip bag fees: $0

United

First-checked-bag fee: $15
Second-checked-bag fee: $50
Each-way fee price: $65
Round-trip bag fees: $130

Keep in mind that if your bags are overweight with gifts, you may accrue additional fees.

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After culling round-trip baggage fees, I then compared standard shipping prices for $100 worth of merchandise on Amazon.com, Wal-Mart.com, and Barnes and Noble.com. Here's how the shipping prices hold up against the airlines' fees.

  • Amazon.com: $17.90
  • Wal-Mart.com: $17.94
  • BN.com: $2.98

Note, as well, that many merchants may offer free shipping with a minimum order amount.

With the exception of Southwest, it's a no-brainer: You'll save a bundle shipping packages direct from the retailer. When you consider that you won't have to lug your gifts yourself, the value becomes even greater. And, with many retailers' free shipping options, you could potentially pay nothing—the best value of all.

Have you found a cost-cutting way to travel with gifts during the holidays? Share your strategy by submitting a comment below!

 
 
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