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Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio October 2003 Current Issue
October 2003 On TravelPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:

On Travel

By Lisa Grimaldi


Four companies pick up and deliver luggage&Starwood pampers guests’ dogs

Fly without baggage. With airport check-in lines getting longer, security rules making it impossible to lock luggage, and airlines upping the fees for extra and overweight bags, it makes more sense than ever to ship bags separately.

Four U.S. firms specialize in the field. They’ll pick up luggage and sports equipment like skis, golf bags and bikes from the customer’s home or office. Travelers retrieve their bags when they arrive at the hotel or resort.

All four companies use freight carriers such as Federal Express and UPS to transport the goods, and all have tracking systems to keep tabs on bags during each step of the journey. Services can be purchased on a one-way, roundtrip or multileg basis.

Other details:

• Luggage Express (866-744-7224; www.usxpluggageexpress.com) offers next-day, two-day and three- to five-day service for domestic shipments. For international shipments, five- to 10-day service is the only option.

All shipments are automatically insured for up to $1,000 at no extra cost. Additional insurance is available for $6.50 per each $1,000 of declared value.

Pick-ups and deliveries are on weekdays only.

Rates are based on four basic parameters: total number of pieces, total weight of shipment, distance traveled from pick-up spot to final destination, and the level of service (next day, etc.).

• Virtual Bellhop (877-235-5467; www.virtualbellhop.com) offers domestic next-day or second-day service. Economy-deferred service (three to five days) is available in some instances on a case-by-case basis. Insurance can be purchased at a cost of $.50 per $100 of declared value.

• SkyCap International (877-775-9227; www.skycapinternational.com) offers both domestic and international service via Federal Express. The company picks up and makes deliveries on weekdays and Saturdays.

In addition to home pick-ups, customers can drop luggage off at any Federal Express location.

• Sports Express (800-357-4174; www.sportsexpress.com) ships luggage and sporting equipment domestically and to some international locations.

Prices are based on actual weight or, for items like bicycles and kayaks, dimensional weight (length multiplied by twice the width and twice the height), whichever is greater.

Domestic options are early and late overnight, and two- and three-day delivery. Internationally, three- or five-day delivery is available. One-day notice is required domestically, and a week for international shipments.

Items are picked up from the traveler’s home or office on weekdays or Saturdays for a $10 surcharge. All items are automatically insured for $500 each.

Pooch perks. As of August, all Sheraton, W and Westin properties in the United States and Canada welcome guests of the four-legged type.

Not only do dogs get to share their masters’ rooms, but they get their own dog beds specially designed pet pillows. Every property offers food and water bowls, temporary ID badges with hotel contact information and, for owners, a card with tips for traveling with pets.

At Westin properties, pooches are presented with plush doggie robes, leashes and collars. W hotels provide check-in amenities of pet toy, dog treat and bone, plus nightly turndown treats on Fido’s dog bed.

At Westin and Sheraton properties, there is no charge for pups in guest rooms, while W properties add $25 per night to the bill. A spokesperson for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, the parent company for the three brands, said each property has designated pet guest rooms and practices “stringent cleaning policies, naturally.”

Dogs weighing up to 80 pounds are accepted at W and Sheraton properties; Westin’s size limit is 40 pounds.

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