With the airlines hemorrhaging money on high fuel prices, the cost of checking extra luggage is hitting the consumer in the form of checked luggage fees. Here’s a little tip to avoid the price drain – ship any extra luggage to your destination, it could be cheaper under some circumstances.

For a business traveler or a getaway tripper with little luggage, it might not be the best option. With only one checked bag, most American airlines will charge you a $15 fee. However, the prices of  shipping that bag (assuming it’s around 35lbs.) are almost $20 for FedEx and UPS.

The real savings come into play if you’re lugging around several extra bags. Check out this handy chart for the excess fees on the airlines. Wired’s ‘Autopia’ travel blog lays down some knowledge on the situation:

But the math changes when you throw a second suitcase into the mix. Check two bags and you’re out $40. That’s what you’ll pay to have FedEx throw your luggage around, but you’ll pay $35 using UPS and $34 to let the post office deal with it. The savings really kick in if you’re a clothes’ horse or you bought every souvenir you laid eyes on. Airlines will nail you for up to $140 if you’ve got three pieces of luggage, but the post office will charge you $55. FedEx will get it there (or back) for $60.

U.S. mail is an even bigger bargain if your bags weigh a ton — a 65-pounder costs $24 to ship parcel post, but the airlines will charge $50 and $100 to throw it in the cargo hold. The bottom line? The more stuff you’re packing, the more it makes sense to consider shipping it.

Also, another positive for the shipping alternative is the convenience of not having to tote around luggage around the airport. Is there anything more liberating than traveling quick and light through airport check-ins and monorails?

You can also take into account the shipping tracker and other useful tools deployed by the postal agencies. Compare those to the clueless feeling you get when you’re told your luggage has been misplaced by the airlines.

WIRED: Save A Buck (And Stick It To The Airlines) By Shipping Your Luggage, July 21, 2008