Every day thousands of people lose their checked bag while traveling abroad or domestically. For some, this is minor inconvenience, as they’ll bag will eventually be returned to them, for others that aren’t so lucky, it’s a headache that makes their journey a whole lot more difficult.
While you can’t control where your luggage ends up, you can control what you do to make sure it arrives at its intended destination. Below are my top tips for making sure your luggage arrives where it’s supposed to, so you can get on with your business.
Fill out BOTH Luggage Tags
You would think this is obvious, but a lot of people forget to fill in both the outside AND inside tags that are included with their luggage. Filling out the inside tag is most important as it is less likely to get lost, or separated from the bag. If your bag ends up on the other side of the country, some airlines may search the lost luggage to find contact information of the original owner.
Filling out only the outside tag is risky, since some bags will take rides across miles of conveyor belts. Throughout this journey, it isn’t uncommon for baggage tags, locks, zippers or anything else dangling to get ripped off your bag. This means if you only fill out the outside tag, that’s the only information you are leaving the airline to get ahold of you.
Consider a Smart Luggage Tag
Nowadays, with the help of technology, you can make the process of luggage return a bit easier. With a smart tag, you can give a third-party access to all sorts of information including phone numbers, addresses, documents, notes, additional points of contact and more.
Keep in mind, most smart tags do not provide live GPS tracking. Rather, they provide an estimated location of your luggage based on the information a system logs when someone accesses the information stored “on the tag”. If you would like to learn more about Smart Tags, check out the article below.
Related Article: How Do Smart Luggage Tags Work? (Opens in a new tab)
Add your Itinerary
It’s always a good idea to add your itinerary within your suitcase. Not only does this help provide contact information to an airline worker if your luggage is lost, but it also gives them your departure and destination information. This helps to facilitate the movement of your luggage to the right location, even if you’re not able to immediately to find it.
Ship your Luggage to its Destination
It may sound crazy, it may sound expensive, but it may actually be a better idea. When you take into account the cost of checked bags, the risk of your luggage becoming lost, the risk of your luggage being overweight, and the all-around hassle with hauling a suitcase around multiple airports, shipping your bags might be a better alternative.
Make your Bag Stand Out
If you ask any frequent traveler, I’m sure they’d be willing to bet their life savings that there are at least 10 more bags in the airport matching the description of “medium sized hard sided black suitcase on wheels.” Point being, a lot of luggage looks alike and when yours looks similar to someone else’s, mix ups are bound to happen.
The best way to combat this is to add some sort of distinctive feature only your luggage will have. While you don’t have to spray paint your last name onto a $500 carry-on like Casey Neistat, hailed as the King of YouTube, you can see he makes his incredibly difficult for someone else to mistaken.
Here are a couple ideas for making your own bag standout from the rest.
- Attach a piece of brightly colored cloth to various parts of your bag. Maybe cut up a few strips of fabric from that tie-dye t shirt you haven’t worn in years.
- There are plenty of bright tags, removable luggage belts that wrap around your suitcase, and neoprene handles you can attach to your suitcase to help it stand out.
- Although it isn’t attractive, there are dozens of different duct tape patterns you can easily attach or wrap around the sides of your luggage to make it easier to spot. Best part of this idea, it’s cheap and only temporary.
- Add stickers. One creative thing I have seen, from a friend, was attaching stickers from every place he had visited to his suitcase. He had a hard-sided Delsey, which made it easy for the stickers to stick. Every time he would visit a new place, he would find a new bumper sticker and slap it on the suitcase. This made for a very distinct design.
Double Check the Airport Tag
Mistakes do happen and if your luggage is heading to a different airport then where you’re going, it’s a lot more likely to get delayed or lost. When they attach the tag to your handle, double check to see that it’s going to the same destination you are. If it doesn’t match, be sure to speak up quickly to get it resolved.
Don’t forget to remove old tags from previous trips. Too much information and multiple tags can only complicate the check-in process.
Stick to Just a Carry-On
Consider the duration of your trip and how much you actually need to pack. Can you pack a pair of jeans that can be worn 3 out of the 4 days you’re traveling? If you can stick to just a carry-on and avoid checking your luggage all together, then you’ll know you will always have your belongings close by and a 0% chance of them ending up thousands of miles away from you.
Don’t overpack either. If you’re bag is getting ready to burst at the seams and you can barely zipper it closed, that’s begging for trouble. For one, your bag might be over the weight or measurement limits, which would require you to check it and/or pay additional fees. And if this is the case, imagine your overpacked bag getting tossed around and waiting to erupt like the Mount Saint Helens of Clothes.
Avoid the Flash, Save your Cash
If you’re a would-be thief, which bag are you more likely to root through, the black Samsonite, or Louis Vuitton? The answer here is obvious, so I always tell people to avoid buying designer brand luggage, since theft is one of the world’s oldest professions and not uncommon in crowded airports.
Also, be sure to avoid using a business card as your luggage tag and move quickly to get your bag after getting off your flight. If a thief sees a business card where the owner appears to have a significant position at a company, the likelihood of higher end items in the luggage, and theft, is greater. Secondly, the longer your luggage sits on that carousel, the longer someone has to take it, whether on purpose or accident.
Buy a TSA-Approved Lock
All bags are subject to search… just a matter of fact. If you decide to put on a lock that is not TSA approved and TSA decides to search it, they will cut your lock off and leave a note explaining that it’s part of the process. Now without your lock, zippers are free to move, and your belongings could potentially find their way to other parts of the country.
However, if you have TSA-approved lock, they will reattach and secure your lock as if nothing ever happened. TSA has a set of master keys that allows them to easily access your luggage in case a search procedure needs to be done.
Book a Direct Flight if Possible
If it’s a viable option, book a direct flight and avoid short layovers. The more moving parts there are in your trip, the more difficult it will be to get you and your belongings from Point A to Point B. If you end up having to rush to your next flight, there is a greater chance you and/or your luggage will have to take an alternate route, which only helps to further complicate things.
Take Photos and Keep a List of Items You Packed
If your luggage does end up lost, it’ll be a lot easier to locate if the airline has a picture of your actual suitcase, not just a product photo. For the sake of reimbursement, if your luggage is declared as lost, you’ll want to make sure you have a list of the items you had in there and the copies of receipts of any expensive items like a laptop, camera, etc.
Keep in mind you will almost never receive full value for any of your items. You’ll be given the depreciated amount based on their calculations. This is why it’s important to follow the previous tips mentioned so you don’t run into this problem. If you are someone who regularly travels with expensive items or clothing, you may want to purchase luggage insurance on top of what your credit card may offer if you booked your flight under that card.
Check Airline Coverage Prior to Packing
Certain airlines will only pay a maximum a amount for lost luggage, so plan accordingly. It wouldn’t be incredibly smart to pack your $200 smart watch along with your $1200 laptop if the airline’s maximum reimbursement is only $400. Here’s a link to coverage amounts offered by the most common airlines.
So you’ve gone through all the above tips and yet your luggage still ends up lost, what do you do now? Check out the article below to find out what you need to do and how fast you need to do it when you discover your luggage is not where it’s supposed to be.
Also published on Medium.