We Love to Travel – But Our Luggage Didn’t Make It

Luggage Pile, courtesy of Sundazed/Creative Commons 2.0

It’s no secret that our luggage doesn’t always agree with our travel plans.  I realized this when I considered how many times my luggage has decided to go somewhere else, misses the flight, or just returns home.  It would seem that my luggage has it’s own travel plans on a regular basis.

If you travel by air, and everyone does sooner or later, it’s important to realize that there are ways to keep your luggage with you.  It’s pretty simple to do, and it can save you a lot of suffering when you get to your destination.

This week, I’ll talk about domestic travel and ways to keep things under control.  Next post I’ll get in to international travel, which makes domestic travel look like a cake walk.

Carry on baggage?

If you’re a frequent flyer, like me, this is your favorite option.  And frequent flyers have a good chance of keeping your luggage with you at all times.  But even so, there are a few things to remember when doing carry on luggage:

First, do you know there is enough room?  Frequent flyers get to go first, and they take a lot of overhead space.  If you aren’t a frequent flyer, you should assume your luggage might not find a spot.  This means your bag just turned in to checked luggage.  if you are making a connection, your luggage could wander off.

Second, watch the size.  Yes, I know it looks like everyone is bringing on the X-HUGE roll-aboard.  But airlines are looking for revenue, so they are cracking down on over-sized bags.  Don’t risk it.  Stick with the 22 x 14 x 9.

(And don’t forget what you can’t bring in carry on luggage.  Nothing drives me crazier than watching someone unpack a bag in the line for TSA.)

Luggage Tag, courtesy of AP…/Creative Commons

Checking baggage?

There are some times you just can’t get around this.  In this case, it helps to think like a baggage claim representative.

Let’s be honest here.  Those bag tags they put on your bag?  They come off.  Luggage is outside in the weather, and is dropped and beaten.  That person next to you, the one who packed her entire bedroom?  Her luggage is gong to land on yours.  So assume the tag will come off, and prepare for it.

Now, if you are the person who gets this “tagless” bag, what are you going to do?  I asked – and the answer is that they look for a name or address to try and find the owner.  And they will open the bag to find it.  But the luggage computers aren’t perfect, so you need to cover your bases.

  • Put a name on your bag.  Skip the little name tags they hand out at the airport – those things are flimsy, and rain/snow/wind/sharp edges/random bad luck can take one off your bag.  Write your name on a piece of paper (and say “address inside” below it), and tape it (using clear packing tape) to the outside.
  • Put the same name, and your home address, on the INSIDE of the bag as well.  Tape it someplace conspicuous, like the inside of the top cover.
  • Put a copy of your itinerary in your bag, right on top.  When the luggage person opens your bag, they will find your itinerary, which makes it easy to track down who you are and where you went.

The last point is important.  If you lose your luggage on the way to a destination, you don’t want the luggage to go home.  If you have an itinerary inside, the bag will follow you.  Much better.

Now, if your bag doesn’t show up, here is the plan.

  1. Find the luggage check tag.  You kept it, right?
  2. Fill in a missing bag report.  Make sure the report has your bag tracking number on it, and that it is clear.  I can’t emphasize the clear enough – I lost a bag for two days over bad handwriting.
  3. Tell them where they can find you or deliver your bag.  If they have a track on the bag, let them deliver it to you.  But if you are moving around, have them hold it at the airport.  That way it doesn’t get lost AGAIN trying to find your hotel.  (I always ask them to hold it at the airport, because I trust myself to pick it up more than I trust the delivery company to find me.)

I know this sounds like the usual advice, but I’ve lost enough luggage to know that getting angry at the airline or the poor (minimum wage) baggage claim person doesn’t help.  So do what you can.  And be nice to that baggage person – they are your best hope of seeing your clothes again.

Insurance?

Do you have travel insurance?  If not, you might want to consider it.  If an airline really loses your bag completely, you don’t get much.  The maximum varies, but it is around 2000.00.  Sound like a lot?  Yeah, you need to go shopping more.  Call your credit card company and see what they cover for free.  And if that isn’t a lot, get some additional travel insurance.  Because shopping is a lot more fun when someone else is paying for it.

Next week I’ll talk about the wonderful world of international lost luggage.  It’s a very different world…


We love to travel (from DC) will be published every  other Wednesday (except when the author is on the road and can’t get the internet connection to work). Please email suggestions to jonebaker at we love dc dot com.

Jonathan Baker

came to DC, left for San Francisco, and then realized he couldn’t live without a daily fix of politics and came back. When not traveling to crazy locations, he speaks and writes for a major software house in CA.

8 thoughts on “We Love to Travel – But Our Luggage Didn’t Make It

  1. renter’s insurance also covers things like stolen bags. remember to ALWAYS hang on to your bag, as in: wrap your fingers around those handles. having the bag just touching you is not enough! even when you’re in paris…ugh. #$%& paris.

  2. I have to agree. Lost luggage sucks, and the airlines do everything they can to avoid paying for anything. I spent three days in Toronto with the same set of clothes, thanks to Continental and their unwillingness to give me anything for my baggage they lost. I finally got my suitcase just in time to check it back at the airport and return home.

  3. We had a good experience with American Express when United lost our bag (ON A DIRECT FLIGHT). After hours of getting the runaround from airline staff, Tom remembered that the tickets were booked on his AmEx. He called AmEx at 11PM, and within 90 minutes a sheepish-looking airline employee was at our hotel door with our bag. Then AmEx called to check that we had indeed recieved our bag. When asked how they had done it, they REALLY said, “We have our ways.” Amex is the freaking Mafia.

  4. You know, as dangerous as it is to do in airports nowadays, sometimes you have to put up a stink about this stuff. This is an aside and more relevant to the next article in this series, but my wife and I checked in for a flight from PVD to PHL to London, only to be told later that US Air canceled the flight to PHL, so my wife was going to miss the first day of the conference she was supposed to speak at.

    In the meantime, they said we couldn’t have our bags back because they had already been checked, but that we should find a room in a nearby hotel. Without a change of clothes. I put up a stink and at least got our bags back, but they refused to compensate us for the added expense (~$200) for getting a hotel room near the airport.

  5. And just before you hand over your bag, use your cell phone to take a picture ofit. Because when it goes missing you’re going to have to give a description and even though you’ve had that bag for years, you won’t remember if it has one or two pockets on the front or where the handle is. I’ve been reunited with bags much faster when I could show them the picture.