Ways to help prevent lost luggage
Nothing undermines a well-planned vacation quite like no-show luggage. When your suitcase fails to appear on the baggage carousel, you’re guaranteed a stressful experience filling out baggage-claim forms and futilely waiting for it to show up. So how can travelers make sure their luggage arrives? The obvious solution is to book a nonstop flight or to pack everything in a carry-on, but clearly this won’t work for everyone all the time. If you need to check a bag, the following strategies will be helpful in ensuring your luggage stays on track.
Upgrade Your Luggage Tags - Put lots of luggage tags on your checked bags. I put on 3 of them. Many bags are lost when tags get ripped off. The chances of 3 of them getting ripped off are slim. I also put a luggage tag inside my suitcase. I attach it to the zipper for the compartment on the “lid” of the suitcase where it can be seen as soon as the suitcase is opened.
Check In Early - Travelers who check in late are more likely to get separated from their bags. Baggage handlers need time to process luggage and load it onto planes. The earlier you can check in, the better. The recommendations are 3 hours for international flights and 2 hours for domestic flights.
Place A Copy Of Your Itinerary Inside Your Luggage - As mentioned above, luggage tags can easily be torn off in the rough-and-tumble handling process, but a copy of your itinerary placed on top of your belongings inside your bag will almost certainly stay put. Place a copy of your travel plans along with local contact information in a prominent place inside all your checked bags. If your bag is lost or delayed, this will make it easier for airline staff to forward your luggage to where you are going to be staying. Airline staff will often open delayed bags to look for contact information.
Ship Your Bags Instead of Checking Them - It sounds a little crazy, but it's not. This strategy kills two birds. By shipping your luggage, you diminish the chance that it'll get lost, and you also avoid checked-bag fees. Sure, it takes longer to arrive at your destination and there is still a cost for you to ship it but if you plan ahead and ship your belongings in advance, you might actually save money and will be able to track your shipment online. You won't have to worry about your suitcase ending up in a lost baggage warehouse. This, of course won’t work in every situation. For example, it won’t work to send your luggage to a cruise ship that currently in the middle of the ocean.
Take Some Photos - If your bag has gone AWOL and you're attempting to get it back, photos will help. Take a picture of the outside of your bag to show the airline staff member who is helping you locate it. It's also wise to take a quick photo of your baggage-claim ticket, in case you lose it. Snap a picture of the inside of your bag as well; this will come in handy in case you need to file an insurance claim for your lost belongings.
Use A Luggage Strap - Suitcases, unfortunately, sometimes suffer from a case of mistaken identity at the baggage carousel. This is especially likely to happen when half of your plane is traveling with the same black suitcase as you are. So personalize your bag with a colorful luggage strap, some neon duct tape, or whatever your creative mind can conjure up. Luggage straps also come in handy if the mechanical baggage handler chews up your bag and rips it. That’s happened to me before. It caught the zipper and ripped it right off the suitcase. All that was holding my bag together when I picked it up off the baggage carousel was the luggage strap with clothes hanging out in every direction. But, believe it or not, everything was there!!
Avoid Short Layovers - Tight layovers increase the likelihood that your bags will not make it to your final destination when you do. If your flight is late, the window of time for airport staff to transfer your bag from one plane to the next narrows. Make sure you have at least an hour or more as you will need wiggle room in an industry in which flights are frequently delayed. And remember if you’re flying on international flights that you may have to pick up your checked luggage at the baggage claim, clear customs and airport security, and then recheck your bag, all before boarding the next plane. This is also the case if you're arriving in the U.S. from an international destination and then taking a domestic connecting flight. For this reason, it's important to allow plenty of time between flights—ideally 2-3 hours or more.
Flying is always a challenge but if you do some early preparation before you go the adventure can be a lot more enjoyable. Happy travels!