Tips to Prevent Lost Luggage

by Rachele Conley-Neu | August 2019

If you’re anything like me, you are notorious for overpacking on any trip. I generally pack enough into my luggage that I have little to no room for souvenirs, which does not stop me from buying them. I have a process to attempt to downsize (telling myself I don’t need 14 shirts for a five-day trip), but it never seems to work.

Not only do I overpack, I also pack all of my favorite items, which I suppose makes sense. Why would you travel with clothes/shoes/accessories you don’t like? The one downside to packing your favorite items is the associated anxiety about losing said items.

Lost or delayed luggage is my greatest flying fear. When I check my bag, I always stand at the counter, dutifully watching as the desk agent tags my bag and slowly moves it to the conveyor belt. I refuse to leave until it is being whisked away to its next destination (hopefully my airplane), giving it a nervous wave as it’s on its way.

Knock on wood, I have only ever had my luggage delayed, but I know others aren’t that lucky. So how do you prevent lost luggage? And what do you do if it does get lost?

One way to ensure that your luggage never gets lost is to not check a bag. This works fine if you are traveling for a weekend, or you travel light, but if you overpack like me or have an extended stay, it is probably not a viable option.

Another option is to ship your luggage, but that can be expensive, and you still may end up with lost luggage.

Other tips on preventing lost luggage:

  • Fly direct. If you must have a layover, avoid short connections.
  • Use an electronic bag tag: they are reusable and use Bluetooth to allow you to track your bag’s whereabouts directly from your phone.
  • Make sure your bags are clearly tagged and have a personalized option so they cannot be accidentally mistaken for someone else’s bags.
  • Include an additional bag tag and trip itinerary INSIDE the luggage.

Okay, you’ve taken all the necessary steps to prevent lost luggage, but unfortunately, your luggage is lost. Now what?

  • File a claim immediately, making sure to get the contact information from the airline representative so you can follow up. Give the airline your itinerary and all ways to reach you.
  • Make a list of the items in your bag, in case your luggage is not recovered.
  • Check your travel insurance for lost or delayed luggage claim coverage.

Most importantly, be calm and patient. It can be a very stressful situation, but staying calm will help you give, and get, all the necessary information. Luckily, a lot of time bags are just delayed in their travels.

Wonder what happens to all the lost bags? Head to Scottsboro, AL, to the Unclaimed Baggage Store, where items from lost luggage are sold to the general public. Don’t worry, less than 0.5 percent of bags are not reunited with their owners and end up there.