The fine print: United says it already offers the service at Boston, Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, and Orlando, and it will be available at 190 domestic airports "over the next few months." Delivery service is available to addresses within a 100-mile radius of each airport, with expected baggage arrival within four to six hours after your flight's arrival, depending on the distance. The standard rate for delivery within a 40-mile radius is $29.95 for one bag, $39.95 for two, and $49.95 for three to eight bags. Delivery beyond 40 miles is at extra cost depending on distance. To arrange the service, indicate you want it either when you reserve or later, and a link on the airline's website directs you to BagsVIP, the outfit that does the actual schlepping.
Although American and United are the only two airlines I could find that feature this baggage delivery through their own websites, BagsVIP actually "partners" with AirTran, Alaska, Copa, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, Virgin Atlantic, and WestJet; you just have to arrange the pickup separately. It also offers similar services with several cruise lines, hotels, convention centers, and other locations. For more information, log onto the BagsVIP website at maketraveleasier.com.
BagsVIP does not pick up baggage for your departure. If you want a completely "no hands" door-to-door pickup and delivery service, you need to go with one of the several outfits that offer this service, including Luggage Concierge (800-288-9818, luggageconcierge.com), Luggage Forward (866-416-7447, luggageforward.com), and Luggage Free (800-361-6871, luggagefree.com). Each company (or a subcontractor) picks up your baggage wherever you designate, does all the paperwork necessary for shipment, arranges for delivery to a designated address at your destination, and tracks the shipment's progress. All have websites where you can enter trip and bag data for an immediate cost quote. All of the companies give you price options depending on how far ahead you can get your bags ready -- delivery from overnight air to five days ground. Although the actual shipment is usually by UPS or FedEx, the baggage company makes all the arrangements.
Prices from all three are about the same. My standard test is for two medium suitcases (20 pounds each) from the SmarterTravelMedia office (02129) in Boston to Walt Disney World (32830) by the least expensive ground option. The lowest quote I found was $120 from Luggage Free, the same as two years ago; the others asked from $128 to $138. Overnight air was about triple those costs.
This service is more expensive than the airline deal of $39.95 for two suitcases. But if you fly an airline that charges for checked baggage, you'd pay $89.95, not a bad deal if you don't mind either packing five days in advance or waiting five days for your stuff to arrive.
Another option is to ship your stuff by FedEx or UPS ground. Costs vary by weight and distance; a 20-pound package from a UPS Store near the Boston address to a hotel near Walt Disney World would cost about $25 for three-day delivery; more for a pick-up at an office or residence.
All in all, whether you want to avid schlepping just at your destination or at both origin and destination, someone will happily help you -- for a fee. And given today's airline checked-bag fees, the door-to-door option looks better all the time.
CLARIFICATION: In misreading some of the boilerplate for my 1/29/13 Seniors column, I inadvertently stumbled into the middle of a schism in the travel wiki universe. It seems there are now two parallel travel wikis:
" Wikitravel.org, the original, is operated by commercial company, Internet Brands, not by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation which operates Wikipedia.
" Wikivoyage.org (http://en.wikivoyage.org) is the new offering by the Wikimedia Foundation, developed by some folks who split off form wikitravel. If you want to read more of the background, check http://skift.com/(QUESTIONMARK)s(EQUALSIGN)Wikivoyage.
Of possibly greater import to you, however, is that, at least among the items I examined, the content of both wikis seems to be identical. And neither has corrected the errors I noted in the earlier report.
(Send e-mail to Ed Perkins at eperkins(at)mind.net. Perkins' new book for small business and independent professionals, "Business Travel When It's Your Money," is now available through http://www.mybusinesstravel.com or http://www.amazon.com)