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“One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.” -Nelson Mandela
On an overseas flight to Sweden, my husband’s suitcase got lost due to a canceled flight and he found himself without his belongings for nearly his entire trip. He found out firsthand what an inconvenience losing a checked bag can be.
For me, next to the drama at security, the biggest anxiety-inducing portion of flying can be the wait at baggage claim as I watch my fellow travelers claim their bags and make their way to their destinations and I strain to see if my suitcase is going to make a dramatic arrival.
Discovering that your suitcase has not met you in baggage claim is never a fun experience and it can be an incredibly inconvenient and disruptive component to your trip.
The good news is that 97% of lost suitcases are often easily reunited with their owners within a couple of days according to the Los Angeles Times. This is due, in part to the use of barcode technology that airlines use to track our suitcases as they travel through the underbellies of the airports and across the tarmacs. These barcodes connect my bag to me through the mobile app that my airline offers, giving me notifications as my bag moves on and off the plane throughout our trip. Knowing that my bag will meet me in baggage claim, this tool helps to relieve me of some of the baggage claim anxiety I would’ve had otherwise.
Of course, even technology can’t prevent human errors and every once in a while, airlines experience computer failures that affect everything up to and including the tracking of your suitcase. So what can you do to ensure that you and your suitcase are reunited?
Why Should You Use a Luggage Tag?
The idea of a luggage tag is to clearly identify your bag as yours and help it to reunite with you at the end of your journey. The baggage claim carousel is often filled with bags that look identical in size, shape, and color, and often, the only clear identifier can be a luggage tag. After a long trip, you want to be able to quickly identify your bag while ensuring that another tired traveler doesn’t mistake your bag for theirs.
Luggage tag do’s and don’ts
DO use a luggage tag! Because technology can fail, don’t rely solely on airline tracking to identify your bag. In addition, keep in mind that any tracking bar code that the airline may attach to your suitcase at check-in or the handwritten paper tag you picked up at the airline’s check-in counter can be easily ripped off of your bag as it goes through its journey of automation, riding in the elements in the metal luggage bins, or even as it’s being loaded and unloaded from the plane. A missing luggage tag could mean that you claim the wrong bag or someone else claims yours. Worse, if your bag goes missing, it will be difficult for the airline to match it to you, never mind returning it to you.
DO limit the personal information you put on your luggage tag to ensure your privacy and security. Be sure to include information that identifies you and allows someone to reach out to you. At a minimum, mark your luggage tag with your name, email address, and phone number.
DO use a luggage tag that stands out and makes your suitcase easy to identify and pick a tag that is sturdy and would be difficult to rip off along the way.
DON’T: For a safety precaution, don’t include your home address on your luggage tag. It tells any interested party where you live and that you aren’t home. If you would like to include an address, use the address where you will be staying on outbound flights and perhaps your work address for homecoming flights. In the event that your suitcase gets lost before you leave for your trip, be sure to secure the address(es) where you will be staying during your trip so that it is easily accessible. Having this info ready in advance will help you to clearly and effectively communicate with the airline so they can deliver a lost bag to you.
DON’T: When traveling internationally, avoid using a luggage tag that identifies your nationality such as your home country’s flag.
DON’T forget to mark all of your bags. Whether you are checking your bags or carrying them, be sure that your bags are clearly marked as yours especially if you plan to put them in the overhead bins.
One last tip
Consider packing a carry-on. If your suitcase is genuinely missing, the airline will do its best to locate it and return it to you. However, if you have packed some basic comfort items in your carry-on, being without your whole suitcase won’t be such a hardship.
Sometimes, how successful your trip is can depend on how well you have prepared. It seems like a simple thing to use a luggage tag, but even the simplest precaution can save you a headache along the way.