I pride myself on traveling light. Nothing grinds me down during a long trip like carting bulky suitcases to and from the airport -- unless it's spending 30 minutes fighting surly crowds at baggage claim. A new Web service called the Virtual Bellhop (www.virtualbellhop.com) aims to help me travel even lighter -- by dealing with my bags for me.
Here's how it works. First you visit the company's Web site or call its toll-free number (877-235-5467), and provide information on your trip: departure and return dates, items to be shipped, pickup and delivery addresses. Then the service arranges for your bags to be picked up (usually the afternoon before a trip) and delivered (within one to three days, depending on the service level that you choose).
Prices vary, but next-day delivery of baggage weighing up to 40 pounds costs about $110. That's not cheap. However, if you're lugging lots of stuff on an important business trip, it's a small price to pay for hassle-free travel.
My one complaint: Right now, you can't completely book the service over the Web. To confirm a request, you have to wait for a representative to contact you by phone. Once the service fixes that problem (and it will do so by September, sources say), my next trip will begin with a virtual trip -- to the Virtual Bellhop.