Everyone has heard a horror story- the family who arrived in the Caribbean from the Northeast and had to wear long johns all week, the business traveler who gave a presentation in jeans and lost the account after a bag snafu, or the folks whose luggage arrived home at the same time they did after being missing for the week in the mountains. Sometimes it feels as if we have little control over the fate of our luggage. Read on for 5 tips that will help your luggage arrive with you!
#1- Pack smart & with a list. Make a list of the items packed (do not pack valuables, medication, or anything you will need within an few hours of your flight landing). I have an envelope of receipts for items I buy that I pack a lot, including my suitcase. (Do not pack the list in your checked bag!) If your luggage is lost you will have to list items packed and give values so that you can be reimbursed. So pack as though you expect the luggage to not make it. Also take a picture of your bag on your phone. I have had to show this picture at counters before and it resulted in my bag being located super quick. Most folks are visual.
#2- Be on time to the airport. Many bag losses come from late checkins where the bags never made it onto the planes and then the airline attempted to get the item to your destination on a different flight. Try to arrive to the airport at least an hour before your flight and keep in mind that many airlines will not allow you to check bags if your flight is leaving in less than 30 minutes.
#3- Know your airport code and be sure the bags are tagged to the correct destination! Your luggage never stands a chance if it’s not tagged to the destination that you are heading to. When the luggage tags are printed out check them. They should have your name in tiny print (and usually your confirmation number) and the airport code in large print. If you are transferring planes the airport will put the final destination on them as well along with a colored tab that says “transfer”. Make sure the codes are correct. A lot of codes are similar and you don’t want your backs in SAN (San Diego) if you are headed to SAT (San Antonio).
#4- Know when not to check baggage. If the only itinerary you could book has a very tight connection (particularly in the winter) you may want to consider carrying on your suitcase. If you may try to get an earlier connection don’t check your bags. In addition, check your airlines performance record– airlines with high mishandled baggage numbers or high denied boarding numbers could be risky bets.
#5- Put your name & cell phone number in the bag, on the outside of the bag, in pockets- EVERYWHERE! The single most important thing that you can do is to make sure that the bag contains your name and cell phone number in multiple places. I recently had time to chat with a luggage office employee at a major airline and she said that she was shocked by how many missing items have no contact info inside of them. External tags can be ripped off or damaged on carousels and in carts. Once untagged luggage arrives at an airport the employees have 48 minutes to find the owner before the baggage is sent off to a central warehouse. The airline warehouse is a black hole for lost baggage. You do not want your bags to go there! At a minimum place papers with your name and cell number in two places inside the luggage and once on the outside. Business cards in each pocket are a great identifier.
I can’t promise your luggage will arrive but with these 5 tips you will hopefully be one step ahead of other travelers! Safe travels.
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