Sometimes I wonder why I’m not the kind of traveler who can just sling a backpack over my shoulder and hit the road.
But I’m not — that kind of traveler.
I like to travel with a suitcase, which is any luggage bigger than a carry-on. What I love to do with that suitcase when I travel is A) give it to someone else to handle/carry right away (like the airline) and then B) drop it at my accommodations as soon as I arrive. When I leave, I want to take my bag straight to my next mode of transportation - the end.
May not sound like a legit traveler to you, but it’s legit the way I like to travel.
Minimize the baggage lugging. Please.
But even I can have issues ridding myself of luggage during a trips gap-time - now an official phrase I completely made up. It's the time between early morning flight arrivals and mid-day check-ins or mid-day check-outs and evening flights. Gap-time can even happen between flight arrival and a train departure.
You can usually pre-plan for where your luggage will go during a gap-time as you create your itinerary. The hotel might hold your luggage pre-check-in, or the AirBnB landlord may let you drop your bag early. Storage lockers could be available at the airport or train station (but you’d have to travel back and forth to retrieve them.)
But even with the best-made plans, you might find yourself with sights to see and luggage to drag. Hate it.
NO. THANK. YOU.
If, for whatever reason, you find yourself with none of the usual places to store your suitcase - what do you do? Find a cafe or drag the bag along sightseeing?
Well, I’ve tried both, and neither worked for me. I once landed in Prague due to a rerouted flight and had a few hours for exploring before my train left. When I arrived at the station, the ticket seller delivered the bad news: no bag storage at the train station.
So? I found a cafe. First time in Prague and I ate the food and drank the wine, but saw no sights. Where were my iron-clad stamina and stare-proof tourist shield, fergawdsakes?
Home, probably. And, true confessions, that’s not the only time I’ve done that. I can’t believe I’m telling you this. Ok, so one cold rainy morning I arrived in London hours before check-in, but the hotel politely informed me I needed to remain in possession of my bag. Again I chose the cafe and ate a long slow breakfast until check-in - three hours later.
I don’t know if you’d do the same thing, but would you consider it a good option? And how about your travel companion - are you on the same page?
Someone Babysit My Bags
After Prague, I kept thinking “there has to be a solution” for these gap-time situations. It must be a common problem for travelers.
And guess what I found?
Some companies exist solely to babysit your luggage! They have networks of locations, in different cities around the world, that will store your bags for a fee. The price for 24 hours is reasonable, and most offer insurance coverage per bag.
Each bag sitting company operates pretty much the same way, and that means more options and coverage per city/country. The luggage babysitting networks include hotels, local businesses, cafes, and retail shops. The process starts on a mobile-friendly website you’ll need to use for scheduling - and one company even has an app.
Here’s an overview of how they work:
You start by making your reservation online, or via an app, before your arrival. Once that’s done you’ll receive a confirmation email revealing the address and operating hours for the drop site.
Make sure you note the hours the location is open - and this is important. Most of the companies are flexible with slightly fluid travel schedules, but only to a point. What they can’t change is the times of operation of the drop site. Take this into account when you are booking your spot and make sure you check the rules each company sets up around this issue, in case you have to cancel.
You’ll pay for your time upfront on the companies website - except for one of the companies that charges after you pick-up your luggage. No money is paid directly to the drop site for your luggage.
And, finally, you drop your bags at the time arranged, and pickup before the drop site closes. Note that once you drop off your bags you can’t reaccess them until pick up, so take what you need before you drop them.
Cool, right? Why didn’t I know about this before Prague?!
Checkout These Companies
I haven’t had the chance to use the services of any of these companies. Yet.
I want you to know that upfront, although I’m planning on trying them out in San Francisco and will report back to you about my experience.
In the meantime, here’s all the information I’ve gathered so you can try them yourself. Make sure you leave a comment here if you’ve used any of them or another company I didn’t mention. Either way, let me know what you think.
The company’s website states they’re in 250 cities and 20 countries across Europe, North America, and Australia. You’ll find a list on the site, but download their app (for iOS or Android) to book storage. And the app has a map of potential drop sites so you can gauge distances for better planning.
The pricing in the US, for example, is $6/bag for the first 24 hours - regardless of bag size - and $4 for additional days. Bags are insured up to 1500 euros by AXA.
The basic procedures are to book ahead, via the app, choosing the most convenient locations for you. Once booked and paid, you receive an email with location information and SMS confirmation number. Bring this and a photo ID to the drop-off.
There’s a lot of information on Nannybag’s website regarding unexpected situations, like a drop site closing early, or severe flight delays, so make sure you read the site thoroughly. The bottom line is it sounds like they’re pretty flexible with cancellations but document with photos, etc.
And they’ve already kept over 350,000 bags at their network of “Nanny’s.”
Back in 2015, some travelers with the same question I asked (“there has to be a solution”) began to create a luggage storage network. Behold - Stasher, a company that operates similarly as Nannybag.com. They also have a convenient app!
Their “StashPoints” are also shops and hotels, and reservations are booked online - preferably before your trip. They charge six pounds/bag for the first 24 hours and five pounds for each additional 24 hours.
The process is similar, beginning with booking and paying online and receiving an email confirmation. Two differences from Nannybag.com are insurance coverage (up to 1000 pounds/bag) and flexibility of drop off and pick up times - as long as you stay within the timeframe that the StashPoint is open and your fees are paid.
Stasher also covers Europe, North America, and Australia, and they're open to cancelation refunds. Check the website to make sure you have their contact number and email and use those if you run into any issues at your destination. Oh, and they don’t just store luggage but bikes, strollers, and sports equipment too - according to their website.
Next up - a company that originated in Italy and expanded around the globe. BAGBNB.com uses “Angels” drop points, similar to the other companies, including shops and hotels.
You’ll go through the same process of booking your spot online, paying the fee, and waiting for your confirmation with the location information about your Angel. Any change in dropping or picking up bags can be communicated directly to the Angel, but if your itinerary changes or you need to cancel - the fee is non-refundable.
The cost is five euros/bag for 24 hours, and the insurance maxes out at 500 euros/bag. You’ll find an extensive network of Angels across Europe, North America, and Australia. They provide a rating of the different Angels, so you can consider that when you’re booking.
As with the other companies, there’s no limit to the size of bag you can leave at an Angel and no difference in price based on bag size.
So Many Options
Here’s a list of smaller luggage storage companies, the cities they cover, and basic costs (if disclosed on their website.) You may find these are a better fit for you, depending on where you’re traveling. Or combine them with these others - giving you more options - which spells convenience!
Love the name because - yes they are! A Danish company, they cover Copenhagen, London, and New York. Their website says $1/hour/bag plus a one time $2 handling fee, which might be less expensive than the others if you only need a few hours.
You know the drill by now: book online, pay with a credit card, and the drop information is emailed to you.
They offer insurance up to $2000/bag, but the best part about these guys? No charge if you don’t show up for your reservation - because, as they say on their website “that’s how they’d want to be treated.” Cool.
Same concept but a lot of interesting twists with this company. They operate in New York, San Francisco, and Boston. Their pricing? Well, that depends on how long you need to leave your luggage. They offer hourly storage at $2/hour, or all-day storage for a flat fee of $12, and both include insurance of $500/bag.
And if you want to leave bags for a more extended period? This company has you covered, charging $49 for a week of storage and up to $149 for an entire month (again - same insurance coverage/bag.)
Booking and paying are also unique with Knock Knock. When you book your reservation online, take a look at the map on their website and pick your drop off site (purple icon.)
At that point, you’ll receive a QR code which is scanned when you arrive at the drop off to start the clock ticking back at Knock Knock. When you pick up, the QR code is scanned again, and the exact fee is calculated based on the length of the ‘stay.’
Your credit card isn’t charged until you pick up your luggage. If you don’t show up for your reservation - no charge.
Another US option covers more cities with storage locations in New York, Washington DC, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But visit their website to find and book a reservation.
Once there, you’ll find it resembles online booking sites for hotels, with locations coming up by availability and a map pinning the places. The basic pricing listed on the website is $5.95/day with discounts of 15% for week-long booking and 30% for a month.
But you’ll find when you search for a location there is variation in pricing by location. Searching for Los Angeles, I found several options at $5.95/day as well as places quoting $6.95/day. Checking New York gave me options for $5.95, $6.95, $7.50, $7.95, and $10/day.
Vertoe has insurance coverage of $3000, although the website doesn’t make it clear if this is per bag coverage or a maximum per customer. You book and pay the storage fee online at the same time, but if your plans change - cancel your reservation online to get a refund.
The Rest of the World
Since it seems like these companies have the US, Europe, and Australia covered, I did a little search for the rest of the world. I found small, one-city companies offering similar services at multiple locations, with varying prices, and insurance coverage. My advice - which I fully plan to follow myself! - is to make this a regular part of pre-planning when you travel.
At the very least, you may find storage at the airport, train, or bus stations, or your hotel. You won’t know unless you check it out ahead of time. And believe me - it’s worth the effort to sightsee luggage free! (she says as she hangs her head in shame.) What a boondoggle my little Prague stop could’ve been if I’d known these companies existed.
Well, now we all know!