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10 ways to deal with lost luggage

It can happen to anyone, even airline bosses. So following the admission by Alaska Airlines CEO, Brad Tilden, that his own airline failed to get his luggage to the same airport as him, Skyscanner offers 10 top airline luggage tips.

1. Keep it simple

We understand the allure of designer luggage. The desire to splurge your hard earned cash on the Cadillac of suitcases. Something that screams quality, is easy to maneouvre and has more compartments than the Venice-Simplon express. But remember that the nicer your luggage, the more irresistable it’s going to be to the light-fingered fraternity. Play it safe, choose a less flashy bag and the chances of it being “accidentally” picked up by the wrong person are much lower.

Click on the image to find out how we tried eight suitcases to destruction.

Three crazy patterned suitcases, multi-coloured

2. Avoid an identity crisis

Of course, now that you’ve gone out of your way to avoid attracting attention with fancy designer luggage, you need to make sure no-one picks up your lookalike bag by mistake. Avoid an identity crisis by making sure nobody can mistake your bag for theirs. Here are a few suggestions: tie a bright red scarf around the handle; attach sticky labels everywhere and mark your name on them with highlighters – the brighter the better; buy a colourful luggage strap to wrap around your bags (there are several brands available) or get creative with some neon duct tape. Believe us, thieves will avoid your work of art in favour of something more discreet.

3. Your phone is your best friend

Your flight has been exhausting and you casually snooze off in your taxi ride to your hotel. When you get there (or wherever you are staying) jetlag has kicked in and you are so confused that you pay and get off… but forget your suitcase! Be smart. Before falling asleep, ask the taxi driver how long the ride should take and set up an alarm on your phone to wake you up with the word “LUGGAGE” in capital letters. When it goes off, you may be a bit drowsy but, hey, there is no way you will leave your suitcase behind.

4. Good Karma

You’ve made it to the final leg of your journey, but you’re the last one standing at the conveyor belt and your bag still hasn’t shown up. Oh no, not me! You trudge your weary way over to the airline desk, frustrated, angry and ready to complain. But remember, the person on duty is just as tired and frustrated as you. Top tip: breath in, be positive and friendly. A smile and a "thank you" will make them much more eager to help reunite you with your luggage.

5. Avoid flashy padlocks

In our own experience, a big and bright Green flashy padlock attached to your suitcase will not avoid it getting lost. Au contraire, once you have checked it in and it’s out of your sight for hours that padlock is seriously drawing too much attention. Some people would even go to the lengths of breaking it to figure out what is it exactly that you are trying to hide. Don’t make it look like you are carrying something valuable and your suitcase will most likely go unnoticed.

Click on the image to read more about how to beat the easyJet baggage fees.

Two padlocks on a black suitcase

6. Check your luggage labels

After you’ve checked in your suitcase, the airline attendant sends it off and you’re ready to begin your holiday. But just before you reach for that Pina Colada, ask to quickly check that your luggage label ID matches your flight number and destination – human errors can happen! Checking now could save lots of pain later. And don’t lose it – sticking the label slip to your passport is a good way to keep hold of it. This tiny piece of sticky label is the only way the airline can help you find your bag should it go astray.

And don’t forget to check the label at the other end, as you take your luggage off the conveyor belt. Although the bag may look exactly like yours, you’ll be mightily disappointed if you get to your hotel and lift out the wrong swimming cossie. What takes two seconds can save you two hours schlepping back to the airport.

7. Divide and conquer

If you’re not travelling alone, one way to minimise the pain of lost luggage is by dividing your belongings between suitcases. Having some of your clothes is certainly better than none of them if you’re unlucky enough to have one of the suitcases disappear. Just remember to distribute your clothes evenly between bags – 5 pairs of trousers is a little pointless if the case with all of your t-shirts has gone missing. Dividing luggage is especially helpful on long-haul holidays where the airline may only fly there a couple of times a week. Getting your luggage back to you may take the same time as your holiday duration, so even with the best will in the world, you may not be reunited with your items until you get home again.

Click on the image to read our review of the best hand luggage cases.

Man packing suitcase on a bed

8. Be prepared for any lost-luggage eventuality!

Although it feels a little OTT, researching and printing out the contact numbers for the airline is a good way to minimise the stress when you land at your destination and find your luggage is on holiday somewhere else. The baggage handlers at the airport are there to help you, but relocating your luggage and getting it back to you is the responsibility of the airline. Having a number ready to hand can save time (and money browsing the internet on your phone!) and can hopefully get you one step closer to reuniting with your luggage. This is particularly helpful when airlines don’t have airline desks at the airport and you’re feeling a little lost and alone!

9. Listen to your mother

You may not want to admit it, but your mother was right. Never, ever, stash important documents, cash, credit cards etc. into your luggage. You can live (for a while) without your clothes or toiletries, but being marooned at your hotel with no money for food and drink, or worse, being stranded at the airport without a passport, is a mug’s game.

10. Get technology on your case

We admit that even if you follow the above helpful hints, there’s no cast iron guarantee your luggage won’t go missing. But if the worst should happen, there are some great high-tech ways to find it again. A simple luggage tracker, like TRACE ME, which integrates with the worldwide airline baggage system to identify your bag even if you lose your luggage tags. Smart luggage tags with microchips embedded in them, like the ReboundTag. Or how about the ultimate in luggage protection systems, Bag2Go? This amazing system actually embeds a satellite tracker in your case and communicates with an app in your smartphone so you’ll always know exactly where your precious is hiding.

Click on the image to have your say about cabin luggage restrictions and hear what our other readers think.

Silver suitcase, Bag2go

For more luggage tips, check these out:

Readers’ opinion: cabin baggage restrictions

We’ve gathered some of your thoughts from a previous article on the subject: here’s what you think, plus a few unusual suggestions on how to make the rules work in your favour.

7 ways to beat easyJet’s baggage rules

Don’t get caught out, here are our top tips when travelling with hand luggage on easyJet.

8 suitcases tested to destruction

Suitcase must die! We review eight suitcases in our punishing ‘tough test’ to separate the hard gems from the softies.

Review: the best cabin bags

Beat the baggage charge! As a very well-travelled company, we asked Skyscanner staff what bags they actually used when flying with hand-luggage, and why?

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