Top checked bag tips for every traveler

How do you keep your checked bags safe and make sure they show up when and where you do? Here are the top checked bag tips every traveler should know.

24 December 2021
Top checked bag tips for every traveler
Checked bags circling on the carousel

According to a 2019 report by Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, or SITA, over 4 billion travelers every year check their bags. Out of that 4 billion, over 28 million bags are mishandled every year.

  • 5% are lost
  • 18% are damaged
  • 77% are delayed

According to a 2017 study made by the Association of European airlines, 85% of lost luggage is found and delivered within two days, but the delay has been increasing.

Now, it’s closer to 36 hours (on average) before the airline locates your bag. Not so bad if you’re home, but it’s a long time to go without your things when you’re traveling.

Of course, the number one foolproof way to keep the airline from losing your bag is to carry it onboard. When a traveler prefers to check their bags, for whatever reason, implementing these tips and tricks can help ensure you have the items you need when you arrive.

Book connecting flights with the same airline

If you start with one carrier and switch to another before you arrive at your destination, it increases the chances of your bag being lost in between.

Try to book your flights with one airline from departure to arrival at your destination. This way, there is less chance that you’ll have to work with multiple carriers if your bag is lost or delayed.

Cross-pack your things

This trick applies whether you’re traveling solo or with a partner.

If your bag is delayed or lost, it’s hard to function with just the clothes you wore on the plane.

  • Traveling solo? Pack some underwear and toiletries into your carry-on. 
  • Traveling with someone? Stuff an outfit in your partner’s bag.

That way, at least you’ll be comfortable while you sort out the luggage problem.

Travel with distinctive luggage

Next time you’re at the baggage carousel, notice how many plain black suitcases there are. Sure, some of them will have colored ribbons on them, but ribbons can be torn off as the bag navigates its way along conveyor belts and gets tossed into the belly of the plane.

How distinctive should it be? That’s up to you, but consider this – the odds of a bag that’s recognizable being stolen are far less than a typical black bag.

Hacks for making your luggage distinctive:

  • Choose a brightly colored bag
  • Tape stickers on it or neon duct tape
  • Whip out the sequins and glue gun to add a little glam

Pro tip: identify your bag inside and outside. Do this for your carry-on too just in case you’re forced to check it at the gate. 

Snap a photo of your bag and claim receipt

If your bag is lost, having a photo of the scuff mark that runs along the side will help you identify it on the lost bag form. 

Immediately after you check your bag, snap a photo of the checked bag receipt. That’s the little sticker that you’re meant to keep until you’re reunited with your bag.

Loads of travelers lose these or toss them right away, but if you need to file a claim for a lost bag, you’ll need it.

Know what to do if the airline loses your luggage

If your bag doesn’t appear with the others on your plane, here’s what to do:

  1. Go immediately to the luggage office and notify staff. Try to be patient. In some cases, there’s a reasonable answer and they can reunite you with your bag quickly.
  2. If not, fill out the lost baggage form, called a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) form, describing the contents and the bag’s features. Here’s where that photo of your bag and your checked bag receipt will come in handy.
  3. Give the airline a number where you can be reached at your destination, like the hotel front desk for example. If you change the SIM on your phone, your number could be a foreign one while you’re traveling.
  4. Find out if the airline offers any reimbursement for the cost of necessary essentials and make sure to ask what is the maximum you can spend. You’ll need to fill out a second form and attach the receipts for reimbursement.
  5. Before you leave the desk, ask the staff for the current customer service number to call and check on the status of your bags.

In the US, around 87% of travelers don’t file a claim when their bags fail to show up. Kinda crazy when you consider the fact that there is compensation from the airlines (although it will take time to get it) for lost luggage.

How much?

The amount depends on the itinerary:

  • Up to $3,500 on domestic flights in the US, as stated by the Department of Transportation
  • Up to $1,800 on international flights per the Montreal Convention of 1999

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Damian Tysdal

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.

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.