A few years ago, I made my glamorous entrance into Italy with chapped lips, stained sweatpants, twisted glasses, disheveled greasy hair and an army of facial acne -- a true survivor of the stale cabin air. Yet, general excitement about being in Italy superseded any qualms about my appearance ... initially.
After being told that my luggage had not made my connecting flight in London, I made the connection that my carry-on contained nothing useful. My lost-luggage debacle tainted my first few vacation days as I strolled around one of the most fashionable countries in the world wearing the same sweatpants for three days straight.
My first piece of advice? Always keep essentials and valuables -- including medications, toiletries, and a change of clothes -- in a carry-on bag.
Despite learning from my Italy mistake, I experienced another instance of lost luggage a few months later that had me questioning the merits of checking a bag at all. Of course, the only way to completely avoid losing luggage is to carry it on. It eliminates the wait at baggage claim, and it's more economical since almost all airlines now charge a checked bag fee to offset high fuel costs. But for every pro, there's a con, so remember the 3-1-1 rule, which limits the amount of liquids and gels that you can bring. And don't forget to investigate your airline carrier's baggage size and weight restrictions.
Luggage-forwarding services like Luggage Forward are another alternative to avoiding the hassle of checked bags. Your suitcase is picked up and delivered to its destination. While the cost tends to run a little high, it may make sense depending upon the items you're tying to transport.
If you need to check a bag, there are unfortunately no guarantees that it will arrive with you to your destination. The reasons why luggage gets lost are infuriating, but taking a few precautionary measures can minimize the chances of it happening.
Keep these six tips in mind when you're planning your next trip to ensure your bags arrive on board:
1. If you have to connect, make sure that you leave ample time for both you and your bag to make it to your next flight. Having spent a ridiculous amount of time in Atlanta's airport, I am a huge proponent of direct flights!
2. Additionally, make sure that you leave time to properly check-in for your flight. Some bags don't make it on board because the luggage crew was simply too pressed for time to load it onto the plane.
3. Before checking a bag, remove any luggage tags from previous flights. In the luggage abyss that exists behind the check-in counter, some tags are misread and it's best to minimize any confusion as much as possible.
4. Save your baggage stubs! In the event that your luggage is lost, those stubs are invaluable in finding your bags.
5. Make sure to clearly distinguish and identify your bag. While airlines do lose luggage, it is also not uncommon for people to accidently or purposely take each other's bags. I was lucky enough to snag a bright orange luggage set a few years ago, but I definitely recommend marking more generic suitcases with colored tape or a bright ribbon. Don't forget to attach your name, phone number, and address.
6. Don't meander around the airport while waiting for the luggage carousel to start. Make sure that you are there to claim your bag or to stop someone else from doing so. Additionally, putting a TSA-approved lock on your suitcase may deter potential thieves from taking it.
If your bag really is lost, be sure to file a claims form before you leave the airport. And remember, you do have rights if your bags are lost. Most bags are found within 24 hours and can be delivered to an address that you provide. Only 2% of all baggage is truly 'lost forever. Happy traveling!