Traveling is fun and stressful all at once. Some of that stress could very well come from losing your luggage or getting it stolen. Your pieces of home (yes, that includes clothing) taken from you when you need it the most.
Getting your luggage lost or stolen could be one of the worst things that might happen while you travel. It’s always a smart idea to buy travel insurance before taking a trip; one might even say it’s a no-brainer.
Having travel insurance is great because you are reimbursed any time your luggage is lost, stolen, or destroyed. However, it’s not unlimited. Most insurance plans have policy limits, item limits, and limits on special items such as jewelry, watches, furs, and more.
So, what else can you do to help prevent losing that “cool” hat your uncle gave you, or what if those limited edition sneakers get stolen? The chances of losing your luggage to the void are actually pretty slim, depending on your chosen airline; most of the time, lost luggage is mishandled luggage and will usually make its way back to the owner. The same can’t be said about stolen luggage, but there just might be a way to track down your stuff and exact revenge on your thieving enemies.
Here’s our holistic approach on what you can do yourself to prevent your luggage getting lost or stolen:
1. Your Flight
It all starts here, especially if you want to prevent lost luggage. While browsing flights, make sure you’re booking with a decent airline company that doesn’t have a reputation for losing and mishandling luggage.
Low prices are tantalizing but do consider why they’re so low in the first place. A quick Google search or some Facebook investigating can help you decide before booking with a company. Booking a few months in advance will also help with your flight options.
Try avoiding connecting flights if at all possible, but if you must, go with the option with the least connections. This will lower the chances of your checked luggage getting lost. Another important thing to remember is to avoid short layovers. Generally and legally, 90 minutes is the least amount of time that an airline company can schedule for a layover. Bear in mind that 90 minutes is “okay” if your layover includes a small airport in the dead of night, but if you happen to be transiting at Seattle International in the early afternoon, chances are you’ll miss your next flight and/or you’ll lose your luggage.
2. Your Luggage
Start by removing all barcode stickers from previous flights. Old stickers sometimes confuse airport employees, which can result in your luggage going to the wrong destination. Once your luggage turns into a blank canvas, you can then turn it into a work of art, or whatever.
The idea is to personalize your luggage and to make it pop. This will prevent confusion at the baggage claim carousel and will also keep thieves away (it’s just bad thieving to go for luggage that stands out and can attract attention).
Get a couple of durable ID tags and attach it to different parts of your bag; include all personal information such as your email address and the mobile number you’re traveling with. Print out copies of your itinerary and place it inside an outer pocket as well as inside the bag itself– airport employees sometimes check inside bags for flight information to find out the final destinations of lost luggage. These are all important because sometimes airport baggage tags get ripped off, and without any sort of identification, your luggage could be lost forever.
Of course, whenever you can, opt for traveling with a carry-on only. This could save you a lot of hassle and money as most economy airlines charge extra fees for checked baggage. And whether or not you’re traveling with checked and/or carry-on luggage, it’s always a good idea to invest in TSA-approved locks and tracking devices to further prevent theft. The latter might even help you track down the thieves themselves if you’re quick enough to report the theft.
3. Before Traveling
Before packing away your stuff, take pictures of the items that are coming with you in your bags. Take photos of the bags themselves, too. This will help identify your things if you have to report your luggage lost or stolen. Furthermore, having pictures of the lost items will help you and the insurance company decide on how much you should be reimbursed. It is also in your best interest to create a list of the valuables traveling with you, to help you keep better track of your stuff.
Where possible, bring copies of transaction receipts for further proof of ownership of said valuables. Knowing what your valuables are truly worth will also help you make a claim with your insurance company intelligently and correctly (if it comes to that). Absolutely keep your most valued belongings on you instead of putting them in your checked luggage.
4. At the Airport
Pay attention to your airline company’s recommendations when it comes to check-in times, and we mean physically checking in for your flight at the airport. Checking in online doesn’t help with your luggage.
Make sure to arrive at least 90 minutes before boarding time, not your departure time. While checking in your luggage, remember to review the information on the baggage tag before surrendering your bag to the belt. Airport employees can make mistakes, especially when check-in lines are long and they’re hurrying to get everyone on the flight.
Be vigilant and keep your bags close; be aware of your surroundings in the airport and always keep your luggage in sight. If you’re one of those lucky people who can sleep “well” on planes, place your valuables somewhere that’s hard to reach, like under your pillow or secured somewhere firmly between your seat and your person e.g. between your back and your seat.
Arrive at your departure gate on time in order to secure space for your carry-on luggage once you’ve boarded the plane. If there isn’t any space in the luggage compartments for your bag, it will have to be checked in and this transfer process might increase the chances of losing your luggage.
5. After Your Flight
We believe that when and where you do your bodily business is totally up to you, but might we recommend you use the toilet just before your plane touches down? This means you can go straight to the baggage claim carousel and skip the long airport bathroom lines– many other people will have the same idea to go to the washroom after deplaning. Getting to the carousel as soon as possible can help avoid baggage claim confusion and prevents theft because you’re not leaving your luggage unattended on the carousel.
Remember to also hold onto your baggage claim stub until your checked luggage is safely in your hands. If your luggage is a no-show, the claim stub will serve as proof of your flight with the airline company.
6. Worst Case Scenario
Say your luggage ends up getting lost or stolen or anyway, first things first: take a deep breath and then take control of the situation.
Immediately file a report with the airport where the incident happened. Get contact information (phone numbers and email addresses) for all of the airports that you visited, then get in touch and be persistent about keeping in touch to check up on the investigation process. Sometimes miscommunication happens between employees from different airports, so it might be up to you to make sure that they’re held accountable and can work well together for your benefit. Get in touch with your travel insurance company and keep them in the loop, too. They should be able to impart good advice when it comes to lost or stolen luggage. The key to retrieving your luggage is persistence with communication, and even if you fail to get your luggage back, getting closure from the airports is the next best thing.
Of course, you could get away with doing just the bare minimum and you might not be as materialistic as the next person. Check out the 7 common travel insurance questions to help with future decisions before you travel.