BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (

MainStreet

) -- In a travel era of increasing fees and hourlong airport lines for anyone checking bags, more travelers are opting to use baggage shipping services, once considered a luxury reserved for only the wealthiest of vacationers. Companies such as

Luggage Forward

,

Luggage Free

and

Lugless

are part of a growing group of white-glove shipping companies that specialize in keeping you far away from the delays of airport bag drops and baggage claim.

If you're a commuter flier who's created a mathematical formula for folding as much as possible into your carry-on to avoid having to check baggage, most likely you're not the ideal candidate for these specialty shipping companies. If you're a heavy packer, golfer who likes his own clubs or a skier that wouldn't think about slipping on a pair of someone else's boots, these companies offer a time-saving and sometimes cheaper alternative to schlepping your gear to the airport and the extra hour of waiting for check-in and pickup of your bulky items on return.

More travelers are opting to use baggage shipping services, once considered a luxury reserved for only the wealthiest of vacationers.

Many customers are surprised at the added benefit of packing well in advance, often freeing them up mentally before their travels and making for a more restful departure.

Considered one of the best in the breed, Luggage Forward offers door-to-door service to more than 200 countries for bags of virtually any size. Customers choose between an array of bag sizes including small bags up to 25 pounds, oversize bags up to 75 pounds and bulky items such as large golf bags or the occasional

Louis Vuitton

trunk. Customers are encouraged to pack as they would for airline travel, keeping in mind weight restrictions as well as items to avoid, such as aerosol cans.

From there customers choose between basic, standard, priority and express delivery, and their bags are picked up at their doorstep anywhere from a week to a day before arrival. Agents pick up from homes, businesses or hotels, whether left on a front porch or with a doorman; customers are not required to be there. Shipping documents are sent ahead of pickup, with tracking information and tags that are easy to apply. Luggage Forward also provides and completes all the necessary customs documents for those shipping abroad.

Following pickup, Luggage Forward provides clients with a confirmation call that their luggage is en route to its destination, as well as a real-time Luggage Tracker system so they can watch its progress online. Luggage Forward offers a standard insurance policy on all bags of $500, with supplemental policies up to $10,000.

Luggage is shipped through the company's network of local couriers and national shipping companies including

FDX

(FEDEX)

,

UPS

(UPS) - Get Report

and

DHL

for far less than if you were to ship it yourself. Costs vary by bag size and type of shipping required, but a

golf bag

shipped from Los Angeles to Carmel's Pebble Beach can cost lest than $100 each way -- rather reasonable given the $100 fee typical on most airlines for adding a golf bag to checked luggage.

Based in Boston, Luggage Forward is a privately held

Inc. 5000

company that began operations in 2005 under co-founder Zeke Adkins. "Since then, we have acquired seven competitive brands, three of which began shipping luggage in the 1990s," Adkins says. "So in aggregate we have a great deal of experience and expertise in door-to-door luggage delivery." The company's strategic acquisitions include

Sports Express

, which specializes in sports equipment delivery,

Luggage Express

and

Virtual Bellhop

.

More than 30% of luggage (including skis and snowboards) is sent to Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana, Adkins says, with the Caribbean also being a popular winter destination. In summer, "the bulk of our shipments are international, with the majority going to Europe. Sending luggage to cruises has become a very popular application for the service across all destinations."

Despite the obvious demand for bulky item shipping of surfboards and golf clubs, luggage remains the most popular shipping category. With airlines continuing to raise baggage fees and lines simply getting longer in airport terminals across the country, look for baggage shipping to gain even more traction in an improving economy with travelers less concerned about cost and more focused on saving time and stress.

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Michael Martin is the managing editor of JetSetReport.com, a luxury travel and lifestyle guide based in Los Angeles and London. His work has appeared in InStyle, Blackbook, Elle, U.K.'s Red magazine and on ITV and the BBC.