Ten Tips to Prevent Lost Luggage

by Julie Cohn

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Have you ever lost your luggage while traveling?  Lost luggage can be more than just an inconvenience; it can cost travelers time, money, and a lot of frustration.  Even if the airline finds and returns the wayward baggage, a passenger could be without clothing, shoes, and toiletries for several days,  unless they go shopping, adding vacation expenses they did anticipate.  What can an intrepid tourist do to minimize lost bags while traveling?  Here are ten tips to prevent lost luggage, aid in getting your luggage back quickly, and ultimately make traveling less stressful.

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Ten Tips to Prevent Lost Luggage

Carry-On Luggage

Travelers can carry-on their luggage when traveling, but carry-on is not always available or convenient, and baggage needs to be under a certain size and weight to carry on the plane.  Plus, more airlines are charging a fee for carry-on luggage, so it is not always more cost effective.  If you are going to use carry-on luggage, make sure liquid toiletries are 3.4 ounces or less, and place those liquid toiletries in a quart size plastic baggie you can easily remove from the bag while going through security.  Carry-on baggage measurements vary per airlines but generally should be no more than 9 in x 14 in x 22 in.

Schedule Non-Stop Flights

Schedule non-stop flights whenever possible, so baggage only has one origin and one destination.  Less baggage handling means less chance your bags get lost.  Also, when flights are delayed or cancelled with layover flights, luggage can be misplaced, so non-stop flights are always the best option.  If you cannot avoid non-stop flights, try to get a flight that makes a stop/connection in a city but with no change of plane.

Keep Luggage Tags Up-to-Date

Keep luggage tag information up-to-date and avoid using paper airline tags as they can rip off too easily. These colorful luggage tags from Adecco will make finding your luggage in baggage claim easy.  Keep an extra tag inside your suitcase too, in case the tag gets ripped off outside.

Use Unique Luggage

Purchase unique and colorful luggage that you will be able to easily identify at baggage claim.  You can also decorate your bags with colorful ribbon or stickers.  These Disney and Star Wars-inspired suitcases from American Tourister will stand out in a sea of ordinary baggage.


American Tourister Star Wars Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels, Darth

Inventory Bags While Packing

Take inventory of the clothing, shoes, and other items you pack with a packing list, especially items with higher monetary value.  Use packing cubes to keep items neat and organized in case TSA opens the baggage for inspection.


Amazon Basics Packing Cubes - Small (4-Piece Set), Black

Check Bags Early

Don’t wait until the last moment to get to the airport and check-in bags.  Check luggage at least 90 minutes prior to departure for domestic flights, and at least two hours prior for international flights. Check in even earlier during holidays and peak travel times.

Pack Valuables in Carry On

Always pack valuables, medications, electronics, and important documents in carry-on baggage, just in case your checked bag does get lost. If you are attending an important event at the end of your flight, such as a wedding, carry-on your wedding dress or tux, so you have it with you at all times.

Keep Your Checked Baggage Ticket

Hold onto your checked luggage ticket and it in a safe place until the end of the flight. You might take 100 flights and never need this ticket, but it only takes one time for your luggage to get lost for you to need it.

Use the airlines online luggage tracker

Some carriers, such as Delta Airlines have their own online baggage tracking system.  Delta uses tracking tags with RFID technology to keep track of luggage en-route.  Just type the tag number you received when checking in your baggage at the airline tracking site (or mobile app), and you will know exactly where your bag is at all times.


Place Identification Inside the Bag

Please a business card or some other form of identification inside your luggage, so if it does get misplaced, the airline will be able to return it to you quicker.

What do you do if an airline loses your luggage?

  • Take a deep breath.  Mistakes happen and most of the time the airline will be able to locate your bag and get it back to you quickly.
  • Go to the airline baggage claim office with your checked baggage stub and advise them of your lost bag.  Describe your bag, including any tags, ribbons, or identifying labels on the bags.
  • The airline will fill out a lost luggage claim form for you.  Make certain you get a copy of this form, as there is usually a way to track their search progress online.
  • Check your airlines conditions of carriage for the airline policy on reimbursement of lost/delayed baggage, and ask to be reimbursed for expenses incurred while your bags are lost.  Even if the airline does locate your baggage, if you are without clothing and toiletries for a few days, the airline may reimburse you for purchase of some expenses.  Keep your receipts for items purchased, as you will have to submit them for reimbursement.
  • If your luggage is delayed more than 12 hours for a domestic flight and 18 hours for an international flight, you should be entitled to a refund on the luggage fee you paid when checking in for your flight.
  • If the airline locates your luggage, try to get them to deliver it to your house, or if you are on vacation, to your hotel.  Most airlines will provide this service for free, some will make you come back to the airport.
  • If they airline truly loses your luggage and cannot locate it, you are entitled to compensation for the value of your baggage, up to about $3,500 for domestic flights.  For international flights, the compensation will vary depending on individual airline carrier policy.  This compensation does not usually cover jewelry, artwork, keys, computer software, surgical supports and orthotics, and family heirlooms.  That inventory checklist I recommended will come in handy for accurate compensation.  Check your individual airline policy before you travel and bring valuables in your carry-on luggage.


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