Use an airline to save on cross-country moves


This week I moved cross-country for the second time in as many months. And I did it economically by turning an airline into my low-cost moving company.

Instead of mailing several boxes of my belongings from San Francisco to New York at $1 to $1.50 per pound -- or, even worse on the wallet, hiring a moving company to drive my possessions from coast to coast -- I got United Airlines to transport my stuff for free. I lucked out because I've earned United's Premier frequent-flier status, which allows me to check in up to two pieces of luggage for free on each flight this year instead of paying $15 to $20 for the first bag and $25 to $30 for the second bag. I expertly crammed 49.1 lbs. of shoes, shirts, books, and keepsakes into each checked bag, which prompted a "Wow!" from the curbside agent who weighed each suitcase to make sure it didn't tip the 50-lb. limit. Had I shipped those suckers, they would have cost me $100 to $150 total.

I may tap Southwest Airlines to move more of my worldly possessions -- maybe my winter coats, pots, and photo albums? -- to New York in September. After all, I have to fly to California for bridesmaid duty that month, and Southwest lets every passenger check in two suitcases for free. Although I'm not sure I can squeeze that much stuff into these tiny Manhattan closets...

If you aren't fortunate enough to be a frequent flier who receives complementary checked luggage or don't have the luxury of moving your belongings during several flights, try to relocate to your new home via Virgin America. That airline lets every passenger check in up to 10 bags for only $15 per bag. Since the first checked suitcase can weigh up to 70 lbs. and the rest are capped at 50 lbs. each, Virgin's "shipping" rates are only $0.21 per pound to $0.30 per pound -- one-fifth what UPS charges. The airline moves your belongings to your destination much faster, too!