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lost luggageThere is nothing more exasperating than finally getting to your holiday destination, waiting at the airport carousel as the bags come bouncing down to be picked up by their anxious owners…and realizing that your bag will not be showing up.  Of course, you can’t avoid human error completely, but there are some things you can do to increase the odds that you and your luggage will celebrate the holidays together.

Here’s a few tips on how to avoid lost luggage:

1. Don’t fly with overtly expensive luggage.

Oh, I know you don’t want to part with your gorgeous leather Tumi, but you may pay more than the hefty price of the bag for your brand loyalty. That’s because expensive luggage seems to disappear more often. High-end luggage is a hint that the contents may be worth stealing. Not to mention that nice bag. Save your gorgeous, expensive bags for road trips.

2. Tag your bags inside and out.

Make sure your contact info is on tags–I always have at least two attached to the two handles on my bags in case one gets destroyed. Yes, that’s happened.  I also throw a business card in my luggage, right on top. It’s also a good idea to include your itinerary inside your bag, easily found by airline personnel if necessary.

avoid-lost-luggage3. Tie a colorful ribbon around the handle

Many bags look like, but an obnoxious ribbon will help prevent someone from accidentally taking your bag. After all, it’s not their ribbon.  A couple years ago we bought obnoxiously purple bags to take to India, figuring they would be easy to identify. Apparently, it wasn’t an unusual idea because darling hubby walked off with someone else’s purple bag. It was 1 a.m. in Mumbai. Fortunately, all parties were reunited with their luggage a few hours later, but only because the concierge at our five-star hotel got it all figured out. Left to our own devices, the story might have had a different ending.

So yes, tie a colorful ribbon on the handle. We do that now.

4. Check the airline tags as they are being attached.

Make sure it’s your destination on that tag and not the customer ahead or behind you. It’s easy for airline personnel to make a mistake, especially when they are helping clueless passengers at “self-service” kiosks.

Airlines are testing digital luggage tags that include tracking devices inside a bag but they’re not in use, yet.

5. Buy your own GPS luggage tracker.

I’ve seen several interesting options now available. Trakdot gets great reviews and is around $80.  Here’s what they claim:

Trakdot Luggage™ provides airport-specific location information for your checked luggage by constantly monitoring the cellular network to determine its city location. When you fly, Trakdot™ Luggage knows and goes to sleep. Upon arriving at your destination, Trakdot™ Luggage wakes up and reports its new location. Depending on your preferences, a text-message or email is sent to you confirming that your luggage has arrived with you.

I’m going to get at least one of these to try it out.

avoid-lost-luggage6. Divide your belongings between your bags.

It would be unusual for more than one bag to get lost on a trip, although it’s happened. In any case, my husband and I divide our belongings between our bags so that even if one gets lost, we’ve got some things to carry us over until it’s found. Of course, my gay husband was on our Sicily trip last year and his luggage was lost for weeks. All of it. Weeks. In any case, if you are traveling with another, splitting your stuff between your bags is still a good idea.

7. Carry on a few days of clothes.

Alitalia lost my bags for three days one year. Since then, I always carry on at least three days worth of outfits and maybe more, plus underwear. Oh, the blessing of clean underwear!

And just in case:

Bring along airline contact info for lost luggage just in case you are stuck somewhere. Normally, there is a lost baggage counter, but it’s helpful to have with you a phone number for lost luggage claims.

So that’s my best advice to avoid lost luggage. Got some advice of your own? I hope you’ll share it in the Comments so everyone can benefit.  Happy trails!

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