Have you ever been on a business trip somewhere you have always wanted to go, but the only time you have for sightseeing is before your flight and you don’t want to lug your luggage around some ancient ruins? A trip back to the hotel to pick it up can cut into your free time, and often means additional taxi or Uber costs and traffic headaches.
When this has happened to me in the past, I’ve usually been able to store luggage at a nearby train station, and sometimes museums and art galleries will let you check a suitcase. But I’ve noticed in the last 10 years many places are no longer allowing luggage in the cloakroom for security reasons—the National Gallery in London, one such place, suggests leaving bags at nearby Charing Cross Station. In the U.S., some train stations don’t offer luggage storage, Grand Central in New York is one.
Luckily, the sharing economy has come to the rescue!
There are now Internet sites that allow travelers to find a location to store a bag, from a coffee shop to a bike store. Here’s how it works. The traveler searches the most convenient location and the number of hours/days and books online, takes the bags to the location where they are tagged (usually with a plastic tag through the zipper pulls so the owner can tell if the case was opened) and then is given a card to present at pickup. The traveler should be prepared to show photo ID at dropoff and pickup.
On a recent trip to London, I used Stasher.com, a British startup that now has locations all over Europe. From a list of location descriptions, I chose a liquor store because it had extended opening hours and I wasn’t sure how late I would be for pickup. It also had great reviews from other travelers. The store was listed as “a two-minute walk” from my desired location, which was about right. Once I’d paid online I received a confirmation email with the street address and a photo of the storefront. I imagine the photo is very useful for travelers who don’t speak the local language, both to identify it or to show to locals when asking for directions.
At the liquor store, I showed the owner my passport and confirmation email, he locked my suitcase in his storage room and gave me a card with my number on it. At pick up, I returned the card and grabbed the bag. It was so easy and convenient I am now thinking of all sorts of other ways I think I’ll use the service. For example, I can rent a bike for an off-site meeting and store it that way, or just leave a heavy laptop bag at a location so I can go shopping without it having to carry it around.
Stasher is just one of a host of new Internet companies managing the same service.