You’re familiar with the predicament: You’ve got a few hours before you can check into your vacation rental, or before you leave for your flight, and you want to do some sightseeing — but that means slogging along crowded sidewalks with your (undoubtedly overstuffed) luggage in tow.
Or does it?
Increasingly, you may not only store your bags for a couple of hours at the usual places (airports, train stations, luggage storage companies), but also with a surprising variety of businesses — delis, dry cleaners, clothing boutiques, wine shops, eyebrow-shaping salons — for less than the cost of a couple of Starbucks lattes.
In New York City, for example, you can stash your bags for $2 an hour per bag at Chelsea Bicycles, the Puerh Brooklyn teashop, or an Al Horno Lean Mexican Kitchen (which is convenient if you’re also in the mood for a burrito), among hundreds of other untraditional storage locations.
Websites and apps that help travelers find these short-term spots have likened themselves to Airbnb for luggage: Travelers go online and book a date (it can be the same day) and location (maps show you your options), then drop off their bags. Afterward, some sites allow users to rate the storage location to help fellow travelers pick and choose. (While many places require advance booking, you can usually cancel free of charge.) Each storage network has its own rules, but they all typically provide luggage security seals as well as some version of insurance against damage, theft and loss.
Such services aren’t just handy for travelers: They’re also convenient for local city dwellers who may want to temporarily ditch their bags after work or shopping so they can attend an event or stop by an intimate bar without having to zip home first and unburden themselves.
LuggageHero, which offers online booking with a credit card — thus, eliminating the need for users to have local currency on hand — is one of the most recent players to expand its services. In December the company began operating in New York, where today it has some 250 locations. It was founded in Copenhagen in 2016 and expanded to London in 2017, where there are more than 100 locations. In New York, the fee is $2 an hour per bag for the first 24 hours, which includes up to $2,000 insurance coverage for each bag. (You don’t pay more than $12 per bag for the first 24 hours.) The company plans to have a few hundred more locations in New York by the end of the year, and begin operating in more cities as well.
It’s hardly the only service of its kind, though.
Knock Knock City, another site, is planning to expand to San Francisco this year after being introduced in dozens of locations in New York, where it charges $2 an hour per bag. New York City has turned out to be a popular destination for these services. Yet another network, Vertoe, offers luggage storage by the day ($5.95 per item for credit card payments online; $7.95 for cash), the week ($35 per item for credit cards online; $50 for cash), even by the month ($100 per item for credit cards online; $150 for cash).
In Britain, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam and other international destinations,CityStasher connects travelers with local businesses like Mail Boxes Etc and food stores, as well as hotels. And Nannybag, one of the larger luggage storage networks, has locations throughout France and in major cities like London, Rome, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Berlin.
(There are also some companies that will pick up and drop off your luggage at your desired locations, though sometimes it’s just faster and less costly to roll in and out of a nearby business.)
While storing your luggage at local businesses can make travel easier, allowing users to see more of a city without a suitcase at their heels, the practice raises some questions.
For instance, what to do about valuables?
Many of these companies say in the fine print not to keep jewelry, cash or other important and fragile items in your bags as they are not covered by the insurance policies. So if you’re considering trying one of these networks, be sure to put any jewelry, essential papers, electronics and medicine in a handbag or lightweight tote that you keep with you.
And what if there are materials in the bags that could harm store workers and patrons?
The storage sites prohibit certain items from being in users’ luggage. Vertoe, for instance, has a list of things that cannot be stored, including combustible, flammable, hazardous or toxic materials, chemicals, narcotics, fireworks, explosives, weapons and ammunition. Staff at Vertoe locations may ask you to show the items in your bag. LuggageHero also notes in its fine print that your luggage cannot contain things such as weapons, explosive items and substances, and flammable fluids, and that the shop has the right to ask you to open your luggage so they can make sure that none of those items are inside. Read the rules before you book.
As with any sharing-economy service, reviews, when available, can make it easier to decide which luggage storage location you’ll feel most comfortable trying. You can see on LuggageHero, for instance, when users felt a location made the process friendly and hassle-free, and when they felt confused about where to go or didn’t like where their bags were being kept.