Lock up

Please do not tell me you are one of those who don’t lock your luggage. Now a days locks are a necessity to keep people honest. They do not protect your bag 100% – but if someone is pilfering, they will most likely pass your bag and go on to one that is has no access restrictions.

When you lock your bag, use a TSA approved lock. These locks have a special key access that only the TSA has. These locks are sold everyplace, just look for the wording TSA approved.

Spare Locks

While on a trip, it does happen where a lock is lost, damaged or cut off.  If you have a spare set of locks, then no problem.  Another backup strategy that I use is I carry a handful of tip ties.  Those are the cables that loop into themselves and tighten-up.  They are easy to cut, so not secure, but does show the bag has been opened and keeps prying eyes from exploring.

Airline Luggage Tag

Each time you travel and check luggage, the airline will adhere a routing tag to your handle. Before arriving at the airport – make sure you remove old tags. I see it over and over again people who leave the old tags on.

Usually the agent is nice and removes it. But if they are rushed or don’t see it (it’s on a different handle), good luck on where your luggage is heading.

One for each handle

Most luggage has two handles. But how many of you have your name attached to each handle? 99% of the traveling public only has one luggage tag with their name on one handle. And worse are those who use the airline ones at the check in counter.

Did you know most luggage that is lost and never returned is due to a handle falling off?

If your handle breaks and the tag happens to be on the same handle, you will most likely never see your luggage again.

Self Defense Strategies:

  • Use two luggage tags; one for each bag handle
  • Watch for worn tags – if in doubt; replace
  • Inside your luggage, place yet another luggage tag. This is also helpful should you lose a tag along your trip.
  • Most important – include a copy of your itinerary inside your bag.  Should your bag become helpless lost, they will open it and then find your contact information.

If you think I am over paranoid about lost luggage, take a look at the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Luggage Tags

While on the topic of persona luggage tags, I strongly recommend you only use your business address on them. When you place your home address, you are advertising to the world, Look I am not going to be home! A great find for a thief.

Luggage Claim Check

When you check in for your flight, pay close attention to the luggage claim check the agent gives you. It has happened multiple times where the agent has either tagged my bag with another persons destination or handed me someone else’s claim check or had the wrong destination.

The wrong destination can easily happen when you have a ticket with multiple flights over multiple days.  Many times I have one day stops and then on to another city.  Many, many times the computer is overly helpful and wants to check my bags to a future stop rather than where I am going on that day.

And hold on to the luggage claim check – this is your ticket to search and rescue when your bags travel differently than you. You notice I say, “when you bags”, not if. Trust me, if you travel enough, you will have baggage problems. Over the years, these have been reduced, but it still happens.

It has happened so often to me that I carry pictures of my luggage with me printed on a business card. The agents always laugh – but then say how helpful it is to find the bag.

Luggage Claim Check Part 2

Many agents are overly helpful and place your luggage claim check on the back of your boarding pass.  Its a wonderful idea if everything goes exactly as planned.

When you need to make a flight change due to weather, cancellations and such, the agent will need your boarding pass to process the new ticket and they will then issue you a new boarding pass.  its to easy at this stage for them to keep your old boarding pass (and luggage claim check).

I have also found some international airports require you to turn in the claim check upon exiting the terminal.  this is to help reduce theft from the luggage carousel.  If your claim check is on the back of your boarding pass you loose both.  You want to keep your boarding pass  should miles not be properly credited to your account.  The airlines always ask for the boarding pass.  Always.

Instead ask to have it separate and place it in your hand carry bag.  Pick a place you will remember where to find it.

Airline Bag Tag

Airlines are doing a much better job these days with getting luggage to the same destination as the passenger and arriving at the same time.  They have invested heavily in new baggage handling technology and it’s paying off.

One of the improvements is the baggage tag.  Today they use bar codes and when checking in you will notice the agent pulling away a barcode part of the tag and sticking it onto the bag.  This is a secondary tag to help the automated systems with having two scan points.

Its best to remove these prior to arriving at the airport.  While the bar code should be invalid, a human may see the old tag and place it on an incorrect flight.  So play it safe and ditch the old tags (both the one on the handle and the stick on bar code).

Finding a needle in a haystack

Is like finding your luggage at the baggage carousel

Every time I stand at the carousel and await my bag I see people pluck the wrong bag and then toss it back. What makes it even more amusing is when they pluck a black bag and then finally find theirs and it’s green with flowers!

Think ahead. Most luggage looks alike, so do something to make yours identifiable and easy to pick out. I can spot mine two carousels away!

First, mine is not black, that makes it different than the 90% of the bags. I have duct yellow tape at 4 spots. On the handles, I have red wrap a rounds and last is I have a custom made web like material with my name ScottN on it.

Yes, my bag is not the most GQ one on the carousel – but its unique and very, very easy to see.

Delayed Luggage

When your luggage is delayed, the airlines will offer to deliver it for free to your home or hotel. While this sounds like a wonderful gesture, do not accept it.

They contract this out to a third party who works for multiple airlines.  They will collect multiple bags and then make a run into town for the deliveries.  I have been at an airport hotel at it took 12 hours from when the flight with my bag arrived until it was delivered to the hotel.  When I talked with the agent, they admitted it can take up to 24 hours.

If you are not in a hurry to get your luggage, then use the service.  If you need whats in your bags, ask the airline to call your hotel and you will come pick it up.  Yes, a royal pain, but its the fastest way to be rejoined with your bag.

Negotiate with the agent for reimbursement of the travel expenses, bonus miles, free meals, anything. The key is to try and put control back into your hands and reduce anyone else from having your bag.