Until you’ve had one of your suitcases lost by an airline, it’s difficult to imagine that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach you experience when you’re the last person waiting beside the luggage carousel and there are no more suitcases circling on the conveyor belt.
It happened to us about ten years ago and I found myself wondering “Has someone taken/stolen my luggage either intentionally or accidentally?” or “Is my luggage on it’s way to some remote location in Alaska?” Either way, as panic sets in, you’re next thought will usually be “Am I going to have to wear the same clothes for the next couple of days?” or “How am I going to face the world without my makeup?” … sound familiar, girls!
Luckily, our luggage was well labelled and was couriered back to us within about 6 hours, however, if we hadn’t attached labels, it may have been a different story. Each year, several million bags are lost by airlines around the world and, while I can’t guarantee it won’t happen to you, I have compiled a list of some simple tips to help you label your luggage effectively.
- Actually label it … This may sound blatantly obvious but I travel quite a bit and have noticed that a lot of travellers don’t even bother to put any kind of label on the outside of their luggage. Even if you’ve forgotten to put a good quality label on your suitcase before you leave for the airport, at the very least, fill out an airline luggage tag at the airport and attach that … something is better than nothing!
- Buy a good quality tag … in particular, make sure the strap or elastic that attaches the tag to your suitcase is hard wearing and won’t come off the first time it’s handled roughly. Don’t be under any illusion that your suitcase is handled gently … it will usually face some fairly rough treatment and you want that label to stay firmly attached.
- Try to purchase a weatherproof tag … bad weather happens and if your suitcase has to cross the tarmac from your plane to the terminal in a thunderstorm, a cardboard tag might either rip or smudge which won’t be helpful if your bag is lost.
- Buy a distinctive tag … this will help your luggage stand out on the luggage carousel so you can identify your bag quickly. Consider also tying an equally distinctive ribbon to the handle to help you identify your suitcase easily.
- Once you’ve purchased your tag, put some effort into filling it out so that it has as much information as possible and is easy to read. I don’t typically handwrite luggage tags. It can be extremely difficult for someone in a foreign country to attempt to interpret even the neatest handwriting and if your handwriting happens to be messy … well, that’s just a recipe for disaster. Take the time to type a tag (if you can) including all your relevant information. I would suggest the following:
- Full name (including your title) e.g. Mrs Jane Karen Smith
- Full address including State, Country (both spelled in full and not abbreviated) and postcode (or zip code) e.g. 2501 Bermuda Street, Broadbeach, Queensland, 4218, Australia
- Home phone number (including the relevant international codes) e.g. +61 7 1234 5678. If you’re taking your mobile (or cell) phone with you, include that number as well.
- Email address e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org. This is optional and, if it provides another way for an airline to contact you, you might be grateful you did. Some people are wary of putting so much identifying information on a luggage tag, so it’s really up to you and what you feel comfortable with.
- Label every item, including carry on luggage, handbags, suit bags, backpacks, laptop cases, camera bags and any other bag or item you may be travelling with. It’s not always possible to stow your carry on luggage directly above where you sit. If you’re one of the last passengers to be seated, the overhead luggage compartments above your seat might already be full and your carry on and other items could find themselves stored half a plane away, so it needs to be labelled.
- Be sure to remove any labels or stickers from previous trips … you don’t want your luggage to inadvertently end up at a previous destination.
- Even after taking the above precautions, do be warned … even the sturdiest luggage tags can become detached from their suitcases and if you’ve got nothing but clothes, shoes, toiletries, other personal belongings and no other identifying information in your suitcase, the chances of recovering your bag are next to zero. That’s why it’s a good idea to record your name, address, home and mobile numbers and email address on a label inside your suitcase as well. I usually type up the information clearly in a larger font and tape this inside where it can be seen as soon as the suitcase is opened. An airline will open a suitcase to try to identify the owner if there are no luggage tags or any other identifying information on the outside.
- And finally, make sure you take out comprehensive travel insurance so that your bags and their contents can be replaced in the event they are lost or stolen.
So tell me, have your bag ever been lost? Did you get it back and how long did it take?
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