I recently transplanted from New York City to San Francisco, and the most intimidating part of moving cross-country was figuring out how to get my stuff here.
After doing my research, I managed to ship my belongings in a totally seamless way for just $100. Here's how I did it.
Fortunately, my new apartment in the Bay Area is fully furnished, so I sold or donated all of my large furniture. That left kitchen items, clothing, personal items, clothing, miscellaneous home goods, and more clothing. I guessed my stuff could fill five medium-sized boxes, each containing about 50 pounds.
Shipping by air
At first, I looked at shipping my stuff by air. I punched the numbers into UPS's online shipping calculator and discovered that this method was totally and completely out of my price range. I could, however, pay for UPS Ground for $422. My luggage would arrive seven days later.
Shipping by freight
Then I tried my luck at shipping via YRC Freight, a ground-shipping company that promised to collect my belongings at my apartment and deliver them to my new residential address in a matter of weeks. This alternative eliminated the need for me to transport my belongings to a mail store or loading dock.
However, the cost to insure my goods was astronomical. YRC Freight quoted me $788.18.
Shipping by airline
Feeling frustrated, I gave up on my search for a bit and scoured the internet to find the cheapest one-way ticket to the West Coast. Then an idea struck me: What if I brought all 250 pounds of my belongings on the plane? Thus began my search for the airline that provided the cheapest baggage rates.
JetBlue allows customers to bring one bag free of charge, but it charges $50 for a second bag and $100 for each additional bag. My five bags, assuming they weighed fewer than 50 pounds, would set me back $350.
Delta changes its baggage fees based on the customer's flight destination. My trip would have cost $25 for the first bag and $35 for the second bag; the website did not state if a main-cabin guest could check additional bags. That wouldn't work.
Too good to be true?
Finally, I stumbled upon the winner: Virgin America.
According to Virgin America's bag fees and rules policy, "Main Cabin guests may check up to ten bags, at 50lb/22kg each, for a fee of $25 per bag." Bags that weigh over 50 pounds cost $50 to check. And, of course, each guest may bring onboard one piece of carry-on baggage and one personal item, such as a purse or backpack.
It seemed too good to be true. I triple-checked the policy and even printed the page out in case a Virgin America employee questioned me at check-in. Here's my receipt for four bags.
A few weeks later, I arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport with a backpack and a carry-on item on my arms and these large four bags in tow. My parents and brother, to whom I am eternally grateful, drove me and helped me lug my bags to check-in.
Luckily, each bag clocked in under 50 pounds, so I didn't have to pay additional fees.
I would suggest this trick to anyone moving across the country, though I would advise them to check Virgin America's website for policy updates before doing so. Safe travels, hackers.