Is it cheaper to ship luggage or pay airline fees?

These days you need a big budget for air travel. While tickets for airfare may go on sale, the extras are adding up. With many airlines like Air Canada and Westjet raising baggage fees, it got us wondering; what options are there for shipping bags from Canada, instead of checking them? Are these options cost effective?

What’s cheaper? Checking a bag, or shipping it?

Westjet and Air Canada are the two main airlines in Canada. In August 2018, both raised their baggage fees on the same day:

1st checked bag: $30
2nd checked bag: $50
Oversize: 75-88.50 CAD/USD

Air Canada
1st checked bag: $30
2nd checked bag: $50
Oversize: ?

Of course, if you’re traveling with skis, golf clubs or other sporting equipment, as Westjet puts it, “fees are combinable where applicable – if an item is overweight, oversized and a second item, all three fees apply.” Though Westjet in particular waives the oversize fee for golf clubs, it may be subject to overweight fees if you’re also packing other stuff into it (which technically you’re not allowed to do).

Is it cheaper to ship luggage or fly with it?

If you’re checking a suitcase and, say, golf clubs, you could end up paying about $80 in extra baggage fees – each way! That discount sale seat isn’t so cheap any more.

So, what are your options? You could ship your bag with one of the major shipping companies, or you could use a dedicated luggage transfer service that often gets your bag door-to-door from home to hotel.

How to ship your luggage in Canada (to almost anywhere)

We priced out a couple options to compare. Keep in mind, airline baggage fees are the same whether you’re hopping from Calgary to Edmonton, or Vancouver to Halifax.

We priced out a medium sized checked bag (26″ or 26″ x 18″ x 10.5″ – 66cm x 46cm x 27cm, 50lbs), and
a set of golf clubs (40lbs) to the following location:

Sample: Calgary to Palm Springs, CA

UPS Express (3 days) Standard (1 week)
Suitcase under 50 lb $337.00 (all prices are 1-way) $133.00
Golf Clubs $426.00 $170.00
FedEx International Priority Ground
Suitcase under 50 lb $496.00 $107.00
Golf Clubs $330.00 $70.00


Are luggage forwarding services cheaper than paying baggage fees?

We looked at what’s involved in using a luggage shipping service, like Boston-based Luggage Forward. They do operate in Canada, but their fees vary wildly, from $84 for a small bag to $214 for a bicycle case when we priced out the same Calgary to Palm Springs trip in August 2018.

What does it cost to use Luggage Forwarding services

Calgary – Palm Springs

Medium suitcase: $134

Golf clubs: $114-134

Also worth noting, you’re not getting things moving on the same day; Luggage Forward’s website provides two speed options: 5 business days or 7 business days. As you can see from the shipping speeds above, depending which shipper you choose, your options vary wildly. (FedEx actually had 4 different rates for different speeds, while UPS gave me 2).

Shipping luggage can be a hassle

The other consideration when it comes to shipping your luggage? Time and hassle. I spent about 45 minutes on the phone getting quotes on shipping. I also had to explain what golf cubs were to one attendant who shall remain faceless. Then I’d need to arrange for pickup and drop off, or for someone to receive my bags on the other end potentially.

Bottom line: though we may gripe abut airline luggage fees, checking your bags is definitely the cheapest option. They arrive for a reasonable price, at the same time you do (in theory).

If you want to make sure your bags arrive safely and don’t get lost, you can also check out the options for smart luggage trackers that keep your suitcase safe.