You’re standing at the baggage carousel, with that sinking feeling in your stomach. You’ve been there for a good 10 minutes, and the crowds are starting to thin out.
People are picking up their bags and merrily going off to start their holiday, and you’re standing there just praying your bag has just got a bit delayed and hasn’t been lost.
There’s nothing worse than losing your luggage, and no worse start to a trip. All those forms to fill in, and all that inconvenience. Nightmare.
The good news is there are plenty of things you can do to minimise your chances of being that person left standing at the carousel. Prevention is far better than cure, after all.
To be on the safe side, though, I’ve also included a few tips at the end for damage control if you are unlucky.
How to Stop It Going Missing In The First Place
If you’ve never been through the stress of this, you’ve probably got a bit slack when it comes to your bags. Here are a few things to tighten up on:
1. Book a Direct Flight
If there’s a significant price difference between flying direct and having a stop-over, then it’s understandable why you’d take the risk, but if the difference between the two is negligible, then please spend a little more and fly directly to your destination, for everyone’s sake!
Firstly, it’s easier and quicker. No one can argue with that. It’s also much less risky. If your suitcase only has to make it onto one plane, there’s much more chance it will. If you’ve checked your bags in in London and won’t see them again until Mexico, and have three flights between now and then, then your chances of something going wrong are much higher. Simple logic!
It’s also a nightmare if you’ve got flights with different airlines, as you’ll have to pick up your bags and then check them in again. If your plane is delayed and you’ve got to run for another flight, waiting for bags could be disastrous.
2. Schedule Reasonably Sized Layovers
If you’ve got to have a layover (no one’s getting from Europe to Australia in just one flight, after all), make sure you give yourself plenty of breathing space. Never leave less than an hour between flights, and leave longer than that in an ideal world, so that there’s time for your or your airline to switch your bags over calmly and efficiently.
3. Get There On Time
Always late? When it comes to plane travel, your serial lateness could be what ruins your holiday. If you get to the check-in desk just as it closes, your luggage might not make it to the plane, even if you do. If you’re having to run through security to make it before the gate closes, then chances are your bags won’t move quite so quickly.
Check in nice and early, then go calmly through security and have a chilled drink in a bar on the other side. You’re on holiday, after all!
4. Put Your Stamp On It
You probably already have some kind of ID tag on your bag, but what would you do if it broke off? It might be worth putting two on, to minimise that danger.
You could also consider making it obvious who’s bag it is on the inside, just in case! A printed itinerary with your contact details and the contact details of your hotels could mean you’re reunited much more quickly if it goes astray temporarily.
5. Make It Distinctive
You always see people at luggage carousels checking every black suitcase going round, completely unable to tell theirs apart from everyone else’s identical luggage.
Minimise the chances of someone walking off with yours by choosing colorful luggage or wrapping brightly colored straps around it, so there’s no question.
6. Get Rid of Old Tags
We all forget to remove the baggage tags from previous trips, but make sure you rip them off before you go off on your next adventure, as they could confuse a rushed baggage-handler.
7. Make Sure There’s Nothing Dangling
Does your bag have long straps? Anything dangling off it could mean your bag gets stuck somewhere or knocked off the conveyor belt it’s on altogether and doesn’t make it onto your plane with you. Make sure everything’s tucked in nicely and secured tightly. That also helps prevent any damage to your bags.
8. Double Check
At the check-in desk, take a second to double check the tag they’ve attached to your bag before it disappears off. The agent won’t be offended, and they might have ended up putting the wrong tag on your bag in the rush. It’s easier to take a moment to check at this stage than it is to sort out the problem at the other end.
9. Make Sure You’re Covered
This one probably goes without saying, but don’t go anywhere without the right travel insurance. Check if they only cover the contents of your bags, or if they’ll compensate you for the inconvenience, and when they’ll pay up. Some companies will give you a daily spending allowance for every day you’re without luggage. Shop around, and consider paying a little more for good cover.
Just In Case
Taking all the measures above should minimise your chances of anything going wrong, but you can never be 100% sure, so it’s best to come prepared anyway.
If you’ve got any valuables, pack them in your hand luggage. If there’s any medication you can’t go a few days without, you’ll need that too. Essentially, anything that you need to keep body and soul together should come on the plane with you.
It’s always good policy to pack a full change of clothes in your hand luggage if you can fit it in. If not, at least throw in a change of underwear to make you feel a bit more human if you end up baggage-less.
You should also make sure you’ve made a note of the contents of your bag before you set off in case you need to make an insurance claim. Taking a quick snap of your luggage can’t hurt either, to make it easier for people to identify it if it goes walkabout.
Tracking It Down
The days of having to place your trust in your airline to reunite you with your baggage are over, thankfully. These days, there are plenty of gadgets and services out there to help you track your luggage down to speed the process up. Using one of these can help take the stress out of waiting at the luggage carousel. Some of the most popular ones are:
- Global Bag Tag