10 Tactics to Prevent Lost Luggage


Traveler's Toolbox  

You’ve lost count of how many minutes have passed since any luggage came out of the chute. The carousel is empty, and eventually it stops. You’ve been dreading this moment, but now it’s real. Your luggage is lost.

lost luggage - empty baggage carousel
The dreaded empty baggage carousel – photo by Les Taylor

The easiest and best way to avoid lost luggage is to not check any in the first place, but there will always be instances when checked baggage is necessary. Although, statistically speaking, most passengers and their baggage arrive at their destination together, it stinks to be the one whose luggage is lost. It’s a major inconvenience that seriously diminishes the enjoyment of a trip and can derail holiday plans. Luckily you can stack the odds on your favour by following these hints for preventing lost luggage:

1.  Book your flights on an airline with a good track record for lost luggage

Although data for Canadian airlines is not readily available, the U.S. Department of Transportation regularly issues reports on the performance of U.S. Airlines, including baggage mishandling figures. For instance, for July 2012 Virgin America is listed as having the fewest mishandled baggage reports, with 0.97 reports per 1,000 passengers flown, and ExpressJet as the worst performance with 6.84 reports per 1,000 passengers flown.


If you’re concerned about losing your luggage, do some research and find out how well the carriers you’re considering have performed in the past.

2. Book non-stop flights

The more variables there are in a trip, the greater the risk that something go can go wrong. If you have connecting flights in your itinerary, naturally that provides additional opportunities for your luggage to get lost.

3. Ship your luggage

With luggage fees on the rise, shipping luggage to one’s destination is growing in appeal. Instead of checking your luggage, ship it to where you will be staying at your destination. Of course, there’s always the chance your shipment will get delayed or lost in transit, but nowadays the cost is often comparable to the prices for checked baggage.

lost luggage - colourful luggage
Colourful bags stand out – photo by o5com

4. Pick bags that stand out

When purchasing luggage, choose something distinctive that will stand out in the sea of nondescript black suitcases on the carousel. If your only option is a bag that blends in, then add some flair to make it recognizable, such as decorating it with ribbons, a colourful strap around the outside, stickers, or a distinctive luggage tag.

5. Remove old bag tags

lost luggage - vintange suitcases
Gone are the days when baggage tags looked cool – photo by *Bitch_Cakes*

If your bag still has the barcode tag on it from the last time you flew, remove it. Some airlines put smaller, supplemental barcode stickers on other sides of your suitcase, so check for those and make sure you remove them all. Most baggage sorting is done electronically nowadays, so this step will make sure that the computer doesn’t receive the wrong signals from your bag.

6. Identifying information

Always have durable luggage tags on the outside of every bag that you check which include your name and contact information. Since anything on the outside of a bag can fall off, get lost or damaged, you should also include identifying information inside bags. An easy way to do this is to tuck a business card inside the bag, or print an extra copy of your itinerary and pack it inside the bag. Including your itinerary has the added advantage of making it easier to reunite you with your luggage in the event that it goes astray.

7. Snap a photo

Take a photo of your bag before you check it. It’s much easier to show someone a picture of what it looks like than having to describe it to them, especially if you don’t speak the same language. Keep the photo on your phone or camera so that you will have it at hand if needed.

lost luggage - be on time!
Be on time! – photo by Joel Down

8. Check in on time

Advances in technology may have enabled us to check in for flights from anywhere, check a flight’s status from your smartphone, and do all kinds of whiz-bang stuff but, until teleportation becomes a reality, travelling is still a physical process. The later you arrive at the airport and drop your bags, the more likely it becomes that they will not arrive at the same place and time that you do, simply because there isn’t enough time to get them to the plane.

9. Make connections

Similar to the previous point, if you book a tight connection or end up missing your connecting flight, there’s a much greater likelihood that you and your luggage will end up having different journeys.

10. Spot the difference

If you have a distinctive bag it should be easy to spot it on the carousel, but always double check that the bag is indeed yours before leaving the airport. Despite the odds being against it, someone could still have the exact same bag as you. It only takes a second to check that it’s your name on the luggage tag and this small investment of time can avoid ruining your trip and that of whoever’s bag you might take error. Plus, these types of mistakes, and all other types of lost luggage,  are so much easier to rectify while you’re still at the airport.


Remember: No matter how much you try to prevent it, your luggage could still get lost. Never, ever (ever!) put anything in checked luggage that you aren’t willing to face the prospect of losing.

lost luggage
Baggage – photo by Charles Wiriawan

About the Author: Steph Spencer

Formerly the Editor of Let's Roll, now you're more likely to find Steph prowling the halls of incredible museums, hunting for historic landmarks, discovering mind-blowing science and literary attractions, tracking down the world’s largest whatchamacallit or attending wacky festivals. She is a freelance travel writer who explores the geeky side of travel on her blog A Nerd At Large, and dispenses random quirkiness on Google+ and as @ANerdAtLarge on Twitter.

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