5 Tips on How to Avoid Lost Luggage at the Airport

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Have you ever lost your luggage while traveling? If it’s happened to you even once, it’s something that you never forget. Even, if you eventually got your luggage back and it didn’t end up taking residence next to the land of lost socks, any delay is enough to put a pit at the bottom of your stomach.  And if this has never happened to you yet, then consider yourself fortunate. As a seasoned traveler and someone whose bags have been misplaced, delayed or lost several times, here are some tips on how to avoid lost luggage at the airport.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve had this experience more times than I care to remember. There was that time upon landing in Carlsbad on the way to Legoland, and there was a period of time where no one knew where our bags were at all. After about an hour, the bags showed up unharmed and unscathed. But boy…was it an experience to remember. And most recently, specifically yesterday, one of our bags took the long way home.

The bag eventually showed up on our doorstep after spending the night at the airport, and although the bag did get lost, I credit doing the things in this post with getting back as soon as possible.

Here are some things that you can do to avoid lost luggage and increase the chances that if your luggage is lost, it will be returned to you.

1. Make Your Bags Unique

Take a moment to think about your last trip. While at the airport, how many black suitcases did you see? My guess is that most of the suitcases were black. An orange or plaid suitcase on the other hand, would really stand apart from the crowd.

But if that’s not your travel style, tie a brightly colored ribbon to your luggage instead.

2. Use Name Tags

People at airports are always in a hurry and many bags look alike. Make baggage mix-ups less likely my buying baggage tags for your luggage. Even if someone takes your bag by mistake, a glance at the tag will make it easy to return the bag to the correct owner without revealing the bag’s personal content.

If you don’t have baggage tags, stop by any ticket agent and fill out a few free tags before handing the bags over to the baggage handler.

3. Limit Connections

Direct flights are gold when trying to limit separation between travelers and their luggage. In the Washington DC area, there are several major airports to choose from which makes limiting connections a likely possibility. The less connections your travel itinerary has, the less likely that your bag will be put on the wrong flight or not make the flight at all.

A few years ago, I had a friend that was headed on vacation to the Virgin Islands, but his bag was sent to Spain instead. While this is not a normal occurrence, it is possible. So stack the odds in your favor by limiting as many connections as you can. While making those flight reservations, remember that cheaper is not always better.

4. Be Punctual

Limiting connections is one thing, but whether you have a flight connection or not, punctuality is key when trying to avoid lost luggage at the airport. To be on the safe side, for domestic flights, minimally allow at least 60 minutes prior to your flight to have luggage checked in at the airport and arrive at the airport 90 minutes before the flight.

Even once you’ve arrived at your final airport destination, be sure to skip the window shopping and meandering until you’ve gotten your bags. Remember, the longer you take to get to baggage claim, the easier it is for someone else to take your bags. Also, after checked luggage has gone around the carousel a few times, bags are removed by airport staff and may be relocated to another location without your knowledge.

5. A Few Tips if Your Bag Actually Gets Delayed or Lost

If all else fails and your bags are misplaced or lost, there are some key things that you need to know.

  • If your bag is lost during travel, the first thing you should do is file a lost claim at baggage services for the airline you used during your trip. The baggage attendant will ask questions about the luggage’s brand, color and shape. These tiny details are easy to recall if you took a picture of your luggage with a camera phone prior to any travel. Also attendants often ask passengers that have lost bags to name a few identifying things inside the bag. So remember specific details about items in the bag to increase the likelihood that they’ll be able to track it down later.
  • Keep those luggage paper receipts handy after your bags or tagged, you never know if and when you’ll need them.
  • Some airlines apps have a bag tracker that you can use if your bag gets lost. You just type in your bag “receipt” number and it helps tell you where your bag is. So check the airlines and see. As of yesterday (3/21/22), I can tell you the Delta app has this functionality.

So the next time you go on a trip, take these few steps to increase the likelihood that you’ll be leaving with all of your bags and you won’t be leaving empty-handed.

August 19, 2015 Republished March 22, 2022

Dr. Lisa Loves

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