Do You Know Where Your PJs Are?
10 Ways to Avoid (or Survive) Lost Luggage
By Susan Foster (http://www.smartpacking.com)
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More luggage was lost worldwide in 2005 than
in any year since 1990 -- 30 million bags failed to arrive
on time last year, about 10,000 bags per day.
Among the reasons: airline budget cuts,
greater airport congestion, tight connection times,
increased transfers among airlines and stricter security.
In defense of the airlines, most bags are
delayed -- not lost forever -- and on average are returned
to their owners in 1.3 days or 31 hours after being
reported missing. But even 1.3 days without your luggage
is enough to cause enormous stress; imagine your delayed
luggage missing the sailing of your cruise ship.
Susan Foster, author of Smart Packing for Todayıs Traveler
suggests travelers take the following steps to keep this
from happening to their bag:
Use a sturdy ID tag with a durable strap on each bag. The
best tags have a cover hiding your name to protect your
privacy; use your business address and phone whenever
Include your identification information
inside the bag. This is especially important if the outside
tag is lost en route. Place a travel itinerary in an outside
pocket or inside your bag on the top so airlines can track
you in transit if your bag is delayed or misrouted.
Magellan's Travel Supplies (http://www.magellans.com) offers
a handy product called Retriever Luggage Tags -- these
sturdy vinyl tags invite baggage agents (in eight languages)
to remove the itinerary placed inside and forward a bag to
you while youıre traveling, instead of returning the bag to
your home address.
Mark your luggage in distinctive ways to distinguish your
black bag in a sea of black bags. Tie bright ribbons onto the handles, apply
stickers or your initials in large, colored stick-on letters on all sides,
paint a design or a large X on the top and bottom then take a digital
photo of the bags. Should a bag be misplaced, show the photo to the baggage
agent to illustrate the brand, shape, color and distinctive markings so your
bag will be easier to identify and recover.
Remove any old baggage claim tags from your luggage as they cause
Check your bags as early as possible. Airlines suggest at
minutes in advance (two hours for international travel) but at daily
high-traffic times and with seasonal crowding you should add 30 minutes to
this time. Last-minute checked bags simply may not make it through security
screening and onto your plane.
Make sure that your bags have been ticketed to the correct
and on the correct flight numbers before you leave the luggage check-in area
or ticket counter.
If you do find yourself separated from your checked luggage, Foster has more
tips for minimizing the inconvenience. Successfully surviving lost luggage is
a skill that most travelers learn the hard way once, and then create
contingency plans for every future trip. When Patiıs luggage found its way to
Japan for a month while she was traveling to six U.S. cities for speaking
engagements, she discovered that she could live quite well with the few things
she had in her carry-on. It changed her personal travel packing forever.
Always carry medicines and anything that is valuable or not
replaceable (including your keys) on your person or in a small ³never check²
carry-on bag. If it would break your heart to lose it, either keep it with you
or leave it at home.
Travel in clothing you can wear for a day or two in case your
delayed, including appropriate shoes. Tuck a change of underwear into your
carry-on bag plus a clean shirt so you have an item to wear and one to wash.
Pack a swimsuit and/or shorts in your carry-on if headed to a sunny locale.
Ann wore comfortable black pants, a blue tee-shirt, and a
blue/black/white-striped shirt with her comfortable walking shoes to fly to
Europe for an Adriatic cruise. She arrived on schedule but her luggage did not.
At the end of her weeklong, casual cruise she was finally reunited with her
luggage as she prepared to fly home. Ann survived by being creative with her few
pieces and through the generosity of other cruise passengers. She sums up her
new way to travel light: ³Borrow clothes! I received many compliments on the
cruise for my ingenuity in the face of bad luck.
Traveling with someone else? Ann recommends cross packing some
of your clothing in their bag and some of theirs in your bag. Rather than have a
separate suitcase for each of us, if one bag is delayed at least weıd each have
SOME clothes, Ann suggests.
Complete lost-luggage reports at the airport and donıt leave
claim number and contact information so you can check the status of missing bags
if one is missing in action. Keep baggage claim tags, ticket coupons and
receipts for your purchases, so the airline will be able to research your claim
and reimburse you more quickly.
Always create a packing list that includes every item in each
packed bag and leave a copy at home to retain an accurate record. Most travelers
undervalue the contents of a lost bag because they canıt remember everything
that was inside. Take a second copy of the packing list with you to check each
time you unpack and repack to prevent forgetting items in the rush of departure.
Most importantly, remember it is not the end of the world or the ruin of a trip;
it only feels like it at the moment when you are the last person waiting at the
luggage carrousel. Pati and Ann were part of the lost luggage statistics but
learned valuable travel lessons and became great survivors.
To help travelers avoid other luggage nightmares, Foster offers lots of other
great packing tips both in her book, Smart Packing for Todayıs Traveler, and on
her web site, http://www.smartpacking.com.
Smart travelers plan ahead so that their memories are of the vacation or
business deal, not of a travel disaster.