Pulling a suitcase through the overstuffed sidewalks of New York City can feel like searching for a berth in an urban game of Frogger. A Danish company called LuggageHero is now offering travelers a short-term berth by connecting them with more than 100 city businesses that offer baggage storage for a small fee.
LuggageHero founder and chief executive Jannik Lawaetz says that the concept was inspired by that mother of invention — necessity — and Airbnb. A couple of years ago, he and his girlfriend rented an apartment in Barcelona via the home-share service. They had a later flight on their day of departure and wanted to continue exploring the city, but didn't want to lug their suitcases around. Had they been staying in a hotel, they could have left bags at the reception desk, but at a vacation rental, that's rarely an option. Their host was unable to store anything because a new guest was coming and the apartment needed to be cleaned. He suggested that they should take the bags to a corner shop, as other guests had done, and request to pick them up later.
Lawaetz felt a little goofy asking the shopkeeper for the favor, but it was worth it for a day without lugging luggage. He took a photograph of the bags at the shop (just in case) and, six hours later, returned and collected them, leaving a tip as thanks. Not long after, Lawaetz put his own Copenhagen apartment up on Airbnb while he was traveling and noticed a trend: Nearly everyone who stayed at his place requested to either drop their luggage off early or pick it up late. "I was really desperate trying to help these people, and I was really flexible, but it kind of ruined my day to be that flexible," he says.
His mind went back to the shop in Barcelona. He began talking to area businesses and building a structured luggage-storage network in Denmark's capital. LuggageHero launched last year in Copenhagen, where it has a web of more than 50 businesses. Soon, it expanded to London, where it works with nearly 100 enterprises. The New York City launch added 108 additional businesses when it went live Dec. 1. Drop-off points include pubs, coffee shops, hotels, cafes, shoe stores, liquor stores, bicycle rental locations and even, yes, a luggage store.
To reserve a storage spot, users visit the LuggageHero website and enter an address. Similar to the Airbnb setup, they can see photos of the location and user reviews, and can reserve a spot online. (That reservation can be canceled at any time with no charge.) Upon arrival, the bag is bound with a protective seal and stored. For the first month in New York City, the cost will be $1 per hour per bag as a promotional rate; it will rise to $2 per hour per bag, with a maximum fee of $15 per day. Each bag is insured up to $2,000. Lawaetz says that he is looking into other U.S. cities and plans to continue expanding.
Not all cities are a logical fit for the service. To be useful, there ought to be a walkable city center, a large supply of vacation-rental options (in New York City, Airbnb lists about 50,000 units) and reliable public transportation — otherwise your rental car's trunk can serve the purpose just fine. That could explain why it's easier to find luggage-storage networks in major European cities than in the United States, although LuggageHero is far from the lone option. Vertoe has offered a similar service in New York City since 2016, and lists 35 locations with rates starting at $5.95 per bag. Rome-based BAGBNB works with a network of more than 20 businesses in New York City, and is also testing the waters in other American cities, including Chicago and San Francisco. With that service, storage costs $6 per bag per day and bags are insured for up to $200.
BAGBNB's highest concentration of storage locations is in Italy, numbering more than 200 spots in more than a dozen cities, and it also has a hold in a number of other major cities including London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Budapest, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Lisbon and Porto, Portugal.
BAGBNB chief executive Giacomo Piva is quick to say that it's not just travelers who benefit from the service. The businesses, which get a portion of the storage fee, also gain access to a new audience looking for local experiences.
"Around 70 percent of BAGBNB customers end up buying something in these venues," he says. "If a business owner is smart, they are easy to convert to their customers."
Silver is a writer based in Chicago. Find her on Twitter: @K8Silver.