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Prevent Lost Luggage with These Must-Do Tips

A woman is upset at baggage claim

Losing luggage can be a traveler’s worst nightmare. Not only does it cause inconvenience and stress, but it can also disrupt travel plans and leave you without essential items. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to minimize the chances of your luggage going missing. Here are some must-do tips to prevent lost luggage and ensure a smoother journey.

How Does Luggage Get Lost?

Many different types of luggage
Maurizio Milanesio/Shutterstock.com

Losing luggage during air travel can happen due to a variety of reasons. One common reason is mishandling by baggage handlers. Considering the fast-paced environment of airports, there is always a chance that your bag may be misplaced while transferring it from one flight to another.

Staff shortages can also contribute to lost luggage. Airlines and airports have been facing staffing issues since the COVID pandemic, which has led to an increase in delays in handling luggage and an increase in misplaced bags.

Incorrect routing is another factor that can wreak havoc on your trip. Bags may get placed on the wrong flight or be sent to the wrong destination because of errors in the handling process. Finally, poor identification on your luggage, like missing or incorrectly placed baggage tags, can make it difficult for airline workers to locate and transport your bags.

What to Do If Your Luggage Gets Lost

A man stands at the baggage claim area

Even if you do everything you’re supposed to do, sometimes you might arrive at your location without your bags. If your luggage does get lost, immediately report it to the airline’s nearby baggage office. Provide them with all important documentation, including your baggage stubs and receipts, to help them identify your bags. The airline staff will guide you through the process and provide further instructions on how to proceed.

Try to remain patient and cooperative during this time. Airlines usually have procedures in place to locate and return lost bags as quickly as possible. And remember that the airline employees you are talking to are not personally responsible for losing your luggage, and that they are doing everything they can to help you.

WONHOX Large Travel Backpack

Avoid checking bags altogether with a large carry-on backpack.

How to Prevent Lost Luggage

Lost luggage in an airport
Elena Berd/Shutterstock.com

It’s good to know what to do if you lose your luggage, but it’s even better to avoid losing it in the first place. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to minimize the chances of your luggage getting lost. By following these must-do tips, you can increase the probability that your bags arrive safely at your destination and avoid any unnecessary hassle.

Book Longer Layovers

A man is on his phone in the airport
PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to air travel, giving yourself enough time is important to ensure a smooth journey. This is especially true when it comes to connecting flights, particularly for international travel that involves picking up and rechecking luggage. Allowing yourself and your bags plenty of time to connect can significantly reduce the chances of lost luggage.

One way to do this is to make sure there is lots of time between your connecting flights. When booking your flights, try to allow for longer layovers to provide a buffer in case of any delays or unexpected incidents. It’s also a good idea to choose direct flights whenever possible, as this eliminates the need for transferring luggage between multiple flights.

Anker PowerCore Slim 10000 Portable Charger

Keep your phone charged during your long layover.

Get to the Airport Early

Two women stand in an airport
Shine Nucha/Shutterstock.com

To reduce the likelihood of losing your bags, one of the first and most important things you can do is arrive at the airport early. Airlines often recommend that passengers arrive at least two hours before departure for domestic flights and three hours for international flights. This extra time provides baggage handlers with sufficient windows of time to process and transfer your luggage between flights.

Arriving late or cutting it too close to the departure time increases the risk of your luggage not making it onto the same flight as you. This can also lead to delays when arriving at your destination while you wait for your bags to be located and delivered to you.

WONHOX Travel Tote Bag

Keep everything easy to access so you can get through the airport quickly.

Use Unique Luggage Tags

A yellow suitcase and blue luggage tag
Billion Photos/Shutterstock.com

Your luggage tags will be used to return your baggage to you if it is lost, so make sure your tags are large, noticeable, and easy to read. Unique tags also make it less likely for someone to accidentally take your suitcase from the baggage claim area.

Whatever type of luggage tag you choose, make sure it is made from a durable material like neoprene, plastic, or silicone. This will ensure that your tag stays intact and visible throughout your journey, minimizing the chances of your bag becoming lost.

Fintie Luggage Tags

These unique luggage tags will make your bags stand out.

Label Your Baggage Outside & Inside

A black suitcase and brown luggage tag

Labeling your bags properly increases the chances of them being quickly recovered if they are misplaced or accidentally taken by someone else. When attaching a sturdy baggage tag to the outside of your suitcase, make sure to include essential information such as your name, hotel name, email address, and phone number.

Equally important is placing a label on the inside of your bag. Even if your external tag gets ripped off, airport personnel can still identify your bag by checking the labeled interior. Many people don’t think about doing this, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to getting your bags back to you.

Mifflin-USA Luggage Tags

Keep one outside of your luggage and one inside.

Get Apple AirTags

Someone holds an Apple Airtag

One great modern solution to lost bags is using Apple AirTags. These small, coin-sized devices can be easily placed inside your bags or suitcases, allowing you to track their location through your phone.

AirTags have many benefits when it comes to keeping track of your luggage. These tags contain various features that can help you track your bag and provide alerts when a tag is detected or moved.

Apple AirTag

Apple AirTag is a multifunctional smart tracker that you can use with any of your belongings for peace-of-mind while traveling.

Keep Your Receipts

A flight attendant puts a tag on a suitcase
Peter Titmuss/Shutterstock.com

When dealing with lost luggage, you’ll want as much proof as you can provide to get compensation from the airline for lost items. United States airlines are required by the Department of Transportation to reimburse you for lost luggage if the bags can’t be recovered.

Be sure to get as much documented information as you can when preparing for your trip, paying for your checked bags, and checking the bags themselves. This will help you prove that you did everything in your power to get your bags to the right place before they were lost. Receipts of what you purchased to take on your trip can also be helpful when determining how much money you should be reimbursed for your belongings.

Fintie Passport Holder

Even if you aren't traveling internationally, this can be used to hold physical receipts.

Be Waiting for Your Bags

Baggage claim at an airport

Once you land, be sure to get to the baggage claim as quickly as possible to locate your bags. The sooner you get there, the sooner you will be able to notice your bag and claim it before someone else accidentally does or it gets sent away.

Your airline should give you adequate time to get to the baggage claim after your flight, but getting there early when possible is still the best option. Before leaving the airport, take a moment to count your bags and ensure that you have all of them.

Chelmon Luggage Straps

Luggage straps can also help you identify your bags at the airport.

Consider Shipping Your Luggage

Two packages on a doorstep
New Africa/Shutterstock.com

If you want to bring something particularly valuable on your trip, think twice about sending it in your checked luggage. You don’t want a precious heirloom to get lost forever. Do your best to pack small valuables in your carry-on luggage to make sure it’s by your sides at all times.

If you must bring something valuable that you can’t pack in your carry-on, you may want to consider shipping your luggage to your final destination. While there’s still a chance that your package can get lost, you can get tracking information for your luggage to make sure you know where it is at all times until it reaches its final destination.

uBoxes Large Moving Boxes

Great for packing and mailing items before traveling.

No one wants to deal with the headache of a lost bag on a trip. By following these tips, you can significantly reduce the risk of lost luggage and give you peace of mind on vacation.

Anne Taylor Anne Taylor
Anne Taylor is a writer with a BA in Journalism and a passion for storytelling. Her work has been published on a variety of websites including Mental Floss and Well + Good, and she recently published her first novel, What it Takes to Lose. When she's not writing, Anne loves to travel (19 countries and counting), spend time outside, and play with her dog, Pepper. Read Full Bio »
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