The only way to avoid lost luggage is to carry it on, which isn’t convenient on longer trips or when taking more than a tiny amount of liquids. Plus, you can’t always be sure you’ll be able to carry your bags onboard the aircraft—sometimes the overhead bins are full by the time your group is called.
A recent Air Canada passenger planned to carry her bag but was forced to check it because it didn’t fit. Then the airline lost it!
Even if you carefully measure your bag and are sure it will fit on the airplane you think you’re taking, the airline could make a last-minute switch in planes and your bag may not fit the new plane. It can happen too—plane switches are more common now that the airlines are canceling flights because of labor shortages, striking workers, and ongoing COVID issues.
Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t appear to be likely to get better soon. Heathrow recently apologized to passengers affected by baggage issues at the same time it was telling airlines to stop selling summer tickets!
True story: some friends of mine returned from a trip to Germany last weekend, and they were one bag short. Thanks to the airtag in the bag, they have been able to watch their wayward luggage move around the Frankfurt airport. It hasn’t been returned yet, but at least they have an idea where it’s located.
Even in the best of travel times (which is not now), luggage gets lost and it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Whether you’re planning to check your bag or carry it on, here’s how to safely lose your luggage.
If you plan to lose your bag, you can more easily decide what you can safely lose. For example, if you require medication and know you can replace it when you arrive, then you can lose some of it without getting into trouble.
If your bag gets lost for a day or your entire trip, it helps to remind yourself you can buy clothes, shampoo, and shoes when you arrive if you need them.
Sometimes when a bag is lost, it shows up a few days or weeks later. Other times, it’s gone forever. If you plan to lose your bag forever, you can more easily identify what is irreplaceable and don’t pack it.
Ideally, travelers shouldn’t pack any of these in their bags:
Bottom line: if it’s irreplaceable, it doesn’t get packed.
The recommendation used to be to pack one outfit in your travel partner’s bag. With the rates of lost luggage rising, however, it’s best to have what you need in case more than one bag goes missing.
Think about what you’ll likely need for the first day or so, and put that into your backpack instead. At the very least you’ll want to have these things for every person in your group in case a bag doesn’t show up at the carousel:
If your bag does go astray, at least you’ll be comfortable. And you can start your vacation with a shopping trip!
Even if you plan to carry it on, preparing your bag to get lost may help it find its way back.
None of these steps will keep your bag from going missing. Not entirely anyway. If it does go missing, however, it might be easier to recover.
On a final note, it’s interesting to see the lengths to which airlines and passengers are going to recover their lost luggage:
Damian Tysdal is the founder of CoverTrip, and is a licensed agent for travel insurance (MA 1883287). He believes travel insurance should be easier to understand, and started the first travel insurance blog in 2006.