Whenever the subject of air travel comes up, particularly its rather high cost, I often joke that one could just ship oneself in a crate for a lot less money.
I was about to make such a comment in regard to a certain upcoming event, when I realized that I had never actually checked out whether it was true. Is it really cheaper to FedEx yourself cross-country than to buy a plane ticket? Time to do some research.
The first thing to consider is the container itself. Since shipping a live (or otherwise, I suppose) human is probably illegal and/or against FedEx policies, you would need to conceal the true contents. Thus, a wooden crate should be used, to hide any suspicious sagging and squishiness. As for the size, using my own dimensions as a guide and compensating for supplies and the weight of the crate, I arrived at a 200 lb. box measuring 74x24x24 inches.
Next is the issue of time-in-transit. Since there isn't a whole lot of leg room (or any other kind of room, for that matter) in a shipping crate, it is important to minimize the amount of time spent in-box. An overnight, morning delivery shipment should involve no more that 18 hours or so door-to-door. Any more than that is probably unreasonable.
To test the relative prices of each journey, I compared a round trip ticket between San Jose International Airport and National Airport for December 29th to January 2nd with a 1-Day FedEx Freight shipment from Gaithersburg to Santa Clara, California (a town adjacent to San Jose, so chosen because one of the contractors I frequently ship things to is located there, and the address was easily found in our FedEx account history).
- US Airways: $356 (round trip)
- FedEx: $964.78 (one way!)
So there you have it. Oddly enough, shipping yourself in a crate turns out to be the poorer choice not only from a comfort perspective, but from a financial one as well.
The one caveat here is that you can drastically cut down on shipping costs if you're willing to take three or four days to get to your destination, swinging the advantage (in terms of cost, at least) to FedEx. Do so at your own risk, of course.