The only sure-fire way to prevent lost luggage when you fly is to never check it in the first place.
Only by traveling with carry on luggage, can you be sure to have your baggage in hand when you arrive at your destination – or when you return home.
If you absolutely must travel with more luggage than your airline allows you to carry on board and you want to be sure it's not lost en route, you could ship it by a third party service.
UPS, FedEx, and any number of entrepreneurial companies offer luggage shipping services. Almost without fail, this will prevent lost luggage. But it will also set you back some cash - possibly more than it would cost to check your baggage with the airline, unless it’s extremely oversized and overweight.
Shipping suitcases is a growing enterprise, especially loved by those business travelers, who absolutely must have appropriate business attire, presentation media, visual displays, and sales materials in order to conduct their business.
But even if you must check luggage when you fly, you can increase your odds to prevent lost luggage by always checking in for your flight on time.
And preferably, early.
Passengers, as a rule, tend to ignore suggested check-in times as impractical and overstated.
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 security 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 proven way to prevent lost luggage is to take direct non-stop flights, rather than connecting flights. This will greatly reduce the chance that your luggage goes 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 intermediate airports.
The best time to prevent lost luggage and insure yours doesn’t go astray is when packing for your trip.
Though many travelers choose to blame only the airlines for their lost luggage dilemmas, the truth is, an ounce of prevention before you go can help you beat the odds, if or when 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 the outside of your bag to distinguish it from all the others – many of which are black, or dark, and similar to most around it.
No, this won’t cause a thief to single out your luggage and steal it. In fact, it will more likely deter anyone with slippery hands.
No self-respecting thief wants to call attention to his deed by walking through the airport with something obvious on the bag he's carrying, or that’s being hunted down by its rightful owner.
So pick the brightest color you can find and place it on both sides of your suit-case, 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.
Or, if you won’t be checking email while traveling, add a cell number where you can be reached by phone or text, or a hotel phone contact.
Use a sturdy luggage tag with current, correct information or tape your contact 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, this is the perfect place to tape contact info, 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.
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 about your items, such as condition, age, type of clothing, etc., to help you remember each piece, in case you have to file a lost luggage claim.
Remember to include your shoes, accessories, and personal items on your list, as well as anything you’d want to be reimbursed for, if the worst happens. If you expect lost luggage reimbursement for everything in your bag, then include everything on your list.
For a partial listing of items not covered by airlines' lost luggage
compensation, check out the list in our
article, Lost Airline Baggage. For
more specific info, be sure to read the lost luggage area of your airline’s website.
Your best chance to prevent lost luggage happens at the airport, when you arrive for your flight.
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.
Know the 3-letter code for your airport destination and any connecting airports. Make sure the flight numbers, carriers, 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, and they can be easier to read than your personal tags. Make sure to remove all old airline tags from previous trips, as well as removable straps, pulls, etc., which can get caught in baggage conveyors.
All of the above will help you spot your luggage quickly as it comes from 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.
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 is to 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 might save by hurrying between gates, will be more than lost if you have to 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 a routine procedure for airlines. Learn 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