5 Ways to Safeguard Your Luggage
Don't let stolen luggage ruin your trip
When you're traveling, so much can go wrong, like getting stuck at the airport in bad weather, getting sick or getting robbed. Another major bummer: Arriving at your destination without your luggage, or finding items missing.
Unless you can pack light and use only a carry-on bag, chances are you're going to hand over your luggage to a bunch of people you don't know (security personnel, gate agents, bag handlers and more). And a lot can happen after you kiss it goodbye. Last year the FBI made a handful of arrests at Los Angeles' LAX airport because workers there were allegedly stealing items from travelers' luggage.
If you do have a carry-on, don't let it out of your sight. As for the luggage that will travel out of view, here's what you can do the give the bag and its contents the best chance of safe journey.
Related: 7 Tips for Avoiding Jet Lag
1. Choose the right luggage
You don't need to spend $1,000 on a stainless steel suitcase to protect your things. In fact, you want to make it seem like your bag wasn’t costly at all. A pricey bag sends the signal that what's inside is valuable, too.
That means avoiding designer brands and aiming for a less fancy but well-made bag with good reviews from travelers. Soft-sided or hard-sided comes down to a matter of preference, but a hard-sided bag will have a decided edge in preventing breakage of what's inside.
2. Mark your bag
Use a colorful luggage strap (sold online and at luggage stores) or put some sort of distinguishing flourish — a ribbon with a unique pattern, a sticker from your favorite team, a piece of fluorescent duct tape — on the bag to keep it from looking exactly like everyone else's so no one takes it accidentally at baggage claim. If the bag does go missing, the unique identifier may help you get it back.
3. Pack with a strategy
Avoid putting anything valuable in luggage that's going to be out of your hands. In other words, don't pack your jewelry bag, tablet or a pouch of spare cash along with your underwear.
Take a picture of what you do pack. In the event your luggage is lost or stolen, it will make putting together a claim, whether it's with an airline or insurance company, a lot easier. And if you really want to be thorough, make a list of what's inside. Just don't pack that list with the luggage.
4. Secure the contents
Some travel experts say it isn't worth using a luggage lock since they are small and easy to pick. But others note anything that creates a pause for a thief — is it easier to open the bag with the lock or without it? — is an advantage. So, consider a bag lock approved by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and remember the key or combination.
TSA-approved locks are supposed to work with a master key that airport security officers have so the locks don't have to be cut off. These small locks should have either a "Safe Skies" or "Travel Sentry" mark that indicates they are made to TSA specifications. Unless you're really bad at remembering three-digit numbers, consider the combination lock so you don't have to fish around for a tiny key when you arrive at your destination.
As a simpler, low-tech alternative, consider using a cable-tie, a plastic strip that threads into a slot and locks into place (available at most hardware and electronics stores), to secure the zipper ends to each other. You'll need to cut it open when you get where you're going. Bring an extra tie for the return trip.
You could also consider bag-wrapping, a service offered at most big airports for a nominal fee. Your suitcase gets wrapped in plastic and, if it needs to be opened by a
4. ID your luggage and keep that bag tag
Be sure your name and contact information (phone number, email address) is on a strong luggage tag on the bag. If you want to list your address, put that inside the bag so you're not advertising to robbers where your empty home is located. Go straight to the baggage carousel upon arrival so no one has a chance to grab your bag before you do. As for the baggage tag you're given at check-in, hang onto that. If your bag goes missing, it can help the airline track down the bag. If your bag does go missing or you notice that items inside have disappeared, contact your airline immediately. Don't delay.
5. Consider a luggage tracking device
These work by giving off a signal that can be transmitted to smart phone apps to help you figure out where the bag is. Three options are LugLoc, Trakdot and PocketFinder. LugLoc costs $69.99 and comes with 15 days of tracking, after which you have to buy more time. It costs $29.99 for a year of unlimited traces. Trakdot costs $49.99 plus a $19.99 subscription for a year of service. And GPS-based PocketFinder is $129.95 plus $12.95 per month of service.