Aftera summer full of travel and adventures in Italy and at home, I was reminded that even the most confident and prepared traveler has lessons to learn. As a former Girl Scout, I do my best to adhere to the official Girl Scout motto “Be prepared.”
I arrived to the airport early, carefully packed and weighed my luggage, and made sure my passport, laptop, and quart-size bag of liquids were placed in convenient and easy to reach places. Despite my best efforts to plan ahead, I hit an unexpected bump in the road. Actually, I hit the same bump in the road twice. My luggage was lost both on my way to and from Italy this summer. Thankfully, I had taken a few precautionary steps to ensure a smooth arrival with or without my checked luggage. Unfortunately, there are also things that I only wish I had done or thought of. In honor of my temporarily displaced luggage, here are some tips on how to prepare in case your luggage is lost.
1. Put time on your side
The majority of luggage is lost or delayed during transfers. The connecting time between your flights is more important than you think. Now, I hate long layovers as much as the next girl, but I hate losing my luggage more. The more time you have to connect to your flight, the more time your luggage will, too.
2. Choose wisely
Roughly 96.6% of all luggage lost worldwide is eventually reunited with its owner and often returned within a day or two. However, even a day or two without your checked belongings can throw a serious wrench into your plans. Think carefully about which items you NEED for the first few days (or week) of your trip and put those aside for your carry on bag. Items you may want to consider carrying on: pajamas, undergarments, dressy clothes and shoes (especially if you have a business meeting or formal event), important medication, expensive or sentimental jewelry, chargers and adaptors for electronics or appliances, and itineraries or any other important documents (especially those that have the address of your first hotel or destination!).
3. Label, label, label
Labeling is the easiest thing you can do to make sure your luggage is returned to YOU and not left in some sad, nameless, ownerless luggage graveyard. Writing your name and contact information on a luggage tag should be standard procedure. Be sure to include your email address and the address/phone number of your arrival destination. Invest in some colorful or at least easily recognizable luggage tags instead of relying on those flimsy paper ones the airlines offer you.
4. It’s what’s on the inside that counts
Earlier this year, I witnessed a multi-suitcase pileup on the conveyor belt at LAX result in a luggage tag casualty. It was ripped right off the handle. Do yourself a favor and write your name and contact information on a piece of paper or index card and place it INSIDE your luggage. Place it so it is easy to find. If you really want to earn some savvy traveler extra credit, do this for every piece of luggage you bring with you, including all carry-ons. You earn a gold star if you leave a copy of your itinerary inside.
5. Divide and ConquerWhen traveling with a friend, family member, significant other, etc., pack half of your stuff in each bag. That way, if one of your bags is lost or delayed, you have a chance that half of your belongings will arrive.
If you’re wondering where all of those untraceable pieces of luggage eventually end up, here’s your answer. I guess there isn’t so much as a luggage graveyard as there is a magical place where items are reborn (and sold) to new owners.