Can You Prevent Lost Luggage?

The only sure-fire way to prevent lost luggage when you’re flying, is to never check it in the first place. 

Only if you travel with carry on luggage, can you be sure to have your baggage in your hand, when you arrive at your destination – or when you return home.

Of course, if you must take more luggage than your airline allows you to carry onboard and you want to prevent lost luggage, you can ship it by third party services, like UPS, FedEx, or any number of entrepreneurial companies that offer luggage shipping service.

In most cases, this will prevent lost luggage - but it will also set you back some cash. 

Probably a considerably larger amount than it would cost you to check it with the airline, unless it’s very much oversized and overweight.

Shipping suitcases is a growing enterprise , and is especially loved by business travelers, who absolutely must have the appropriate business attire, presenta-tion media, visual displays, and sales paraphernalia in order to conduct their business.

But even if you find you must check luggage when you fly, you can improve your odds to prevent lost luggage by always checking in for your flight on time. 

And preferably, early.

A Canal Is Your Backyard

Passengers, as a rule, tend to ignore suggested check-in times as impractical and over-stated. 

But when you check luggage, it doesn’t just miraculously appear in your flight’s baggage hold, once it leaves your hands.

It travels through routing conveyors, tracking systems, holding bins, loading carts, and myriad temporary locations – not to mention TSA check points - on its way to your plane, where the slip of an eye or hand can send it spiraling off to destinations unknown.

Another way to lessen your chances for lost luggage is to make it a rule to always take direct non-stop flights, rather than connecting flights.  This will greatly reduce the odds of your luggage - gone missing.   

The primary reason airline travel luggage fails to make it to its intended desti-nation is by careening off-course, while being shuffled between connecting flights at interim airports.

Prevent Lost Luggage Before You Go

The best time to  prevent lost luggage and insure it doesn’t go astray when you travel is when packing for your trip.

Though many travelers blame only the airlines for their lost luggage dilemmas, the truth is, that ounce of prevention your mama told you about can help you beat the odds, if your luggage goes missing.

Where your airline luggage goes, go thousands of other suitcases and pieces of travel baggage.  Your first step to prevent lost luggage is to add something to your bag to distinguish it from all the others – many of which are black, or dark, and similar to all those around it. 

  • Find something that attracts attention: a bright cord, a neon band, a strip of colored duct tape, and put it on your case, so it’s easily seen.

No, this won’t cause a thief to choose your luggage to steal.  In fact, it will probably deter anyone with slippery hands.  No self-respecting thief wants to call attention to his deed by walking through the airport with something so obvious - that’s being hunted down by its rightful owner.

Swirling Dutch Tulips

So pick the brightest color you can and place it on both sides of your suitcase, where it’s easily visible.  It will help you locate your case on the carousel or in a crowd of luggage, and other travelers will think you’re brilliant by making your case stand out and easier to spot.

  • Make sure to put your name and email address both inside and outside your bag.  If you won’t be checking email while traveling, add a cell number where you can be reached, or a hotel phone contact.

Use a sturdy luggage tag [with current, correct information] and tape your con-tact info to an outside surface of your bag, as you would a shipping address, when mailing a package.  [If your bag has resting 'feet' on the bottom, tape your contact info between the feet, where it’s sturdy and flat.]

Inside your bag, tape your name/phone in several places, and include your travel itinerary, with dates, locations, and contact info, if you’ll be touring.  Place this on top of your packed items, so anyone opening your case to find owner information would see it immediately.

  • Make a packing list as you put items in your case.  If you travel often, create a packing template of usual items you travel with, so you can check them off for each trip.  Add distinguishing info, such as con-dition, age, type of clothing, etc., to help you remember each piece – in case you have to file a lost luggage claim. 

Remember to include shoes, accessories, and personal items on your list, and anything you’d want to be reimbursed for, if it came to that.  If you want lost luggage reimbursement for everything, then include everything on your list.

  • Never put valuables or anything you can’t replace or don’t want to lose in checked luggage. Enough said.

For a partial listing of items not covered by airlines' lost luggage compensation, see our article, Lost Airline Baggage.  For more specific info, be sure to check your airline’s website.  

Prevent Lost Luggage at the Airport

Your best chance to prevent lost luggage happens at the airport, when you arrive for your flight.

  • If you must check luggage, do it at the counter

What used to be a convenient courtesy for checking bags curbside, has now become one more potential liability for lost luggage.  One more set of hands and eyes to misdirect your bag.  One more chance for your luggage to encounter a wrong turn. 

Go to the counter to check your bag - you’ll save on tipping, too.

  • Double check routing tag[s] placed on checked luggage pieces.  Know the 3-letter code for your airport destination and any connecting airports.  Make sure flight numbers, carrier, and airport abbreviations are correct for each bag – and that they match your stub.

Add an additional address tag provided by the airlines to the handle of your case.  Airline employees can see these tags at a glance.  Be sure to remove all airline tags attached on previous trips, as well as any removable straps, pulls, etc., which can get caught in baggage conveyors.

  • When you arrive at your destination, be at the carousel before the baggage appears from your flight.  All of the above will help you spot your luggage quickly as it comes off the chute. 

To prevent lost luggage means you must take possession of it as quickly as possible, so other travelers won't grab it in error – or worse. 

St. George's Castle Above Lisbon

Note: for international flights, it’s customary to collect your bags for Customs and recheck them for any onward flights.  The quicker you retrieve your bag from the carousel, the quicker you get to Customs.  Need I say more?

It bears repeating: for the very best chance you have to prevent lost luggage, check in on time – or, better yet, be there early.  Know where your bag is being checked to. [It’s not always your final destination.] 

And, if you book your own flights, don’t skimp on airline suggested connecting times.  Any time you think you’ll save, will be more than lost while you deal with the airline’s baggage claim office or wait for your luggage to arrive on the next flight.

For more info on finding your lost luggage and what to do if it happens to you:

How To Find Your Lost Luggage  -  Finding lost luggage is routine procedure for the airlines.  What you can do to make sure your missing bag is found and returned with the least amount of hassle? 

Lost Airline Baggage – What Are Your Rights?  -  No traveler plans to end up with lost airline baggage.  But if you do, know what the airline’s liability is for lost luggage, and what you have to do to be compensated for your loss.

Travel Tip

Whether you think you’ll loose your luggage or not, it’s easy enough to photograph your take-along items as you pack.   Once you’ve gathered your gear together, spread it out on your bed in stacks of like items.  Snap photos with your cell phone, being particular to show how many of each item.

Make stacks that show your 6 pair socks, 2 pair shoes, 1 belt, 1 pajama,    6 shirts, 4 slacks, 1 sweater, etc.  Not only will you have a great starting point to work off of on future trips, you’ll have the best possible record of what was in your bag, if it’s lost by the airline.

Be sure to also take a photo of your suitcase.  And take your cell phone with you, on your trip.

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