How to Make Sure Your Luggage is Not Lost (& What to Do if It Is!)

lost luggage

Written by Scott Shetler on

Scott Shetler is a freelance writer who enjoys offbeat destinations, national parks, urban adventures, cultural experiences, and everything in between. Follow his travels on Instagram @quirkytravelguy and his blog, Quirky Travel Guy.

lost luggage

Few travel mishaps are as frustrating as dealing with lost airplane luggage. If your bags go missing, here’s how to stay cool and get them back fast.

It’s every traveler’s worst nightmare: approaching the baggage carousel at the airport and discovering that your luggage did not arrive with you. You may think lost luggage is a massive problem, but the percentage of luggage that gets lost by airlines is very small. That said, with millions of travelers in the air, the number still adds up to thousands of misplaced bags every year. If your checked bag goes missing, don’t panic.

If you’re prepared properly—and today that means choosing trackable luggage—and you know the right steps to do as soon as you realize your luggage has been lost, then you can more easily navigate this stressful situation and increase your odds of getting your suitcase back in a timely fashion.

3 Ways to Ensure Your Luggage is Not Lost

The first step in minimizing your baggage hassles—no matter where you travel—involves making the right packing and luggage choices before you even leave home.

1. Use a Carry-On Bag When Possible

Most travelers can pack for two-week trips in a carry on bag, depending on the type of trip planned. When that’s the case, opt for a versatile carry on bag and pack light. Using packing organizers and compressions sacs can help you streamline your gear before packing. Luggage that you can easily carry can keep by your side is luggage that makes it to your final destination.

Our Favorite Pick: The Gear Warrior™ Wheeled Duffel International Carry On is perfect for travelers who want a bag they can hop around the globe with but never worry about paying checked baggage fees.

2. Opt for Smart Luggage That’s Trackable

In our increasingly connected world, it only makes sense that smart, trackable suitcases and bags would allow travelers peace of mind when it comes to lost luggage. Using Near Field Communication technology to communicate with your bag through an app, GPS chips, and other technology, smart luggage contains lost and found integrations that you can activate \ as soon as you discover the airline has misplaced your luggage.

3. Properly Tag Your Luggage

Sure, smart luggage is likely the best way to ensure your checked luggage is never truly lost, but if you’re bringing a larger suitcase not equipped with tracking technology, go old school. Attach a bright colored personal identifier or luggage ID to your checked bag with all of your contact information. Then, don’t leave anything to chance on your vacation: Pack a few essentials in your personal item and small carry-on—that is, toiletries, medicines, undergarments, a change of socks, and anything you need immediately upon arrival.

Our Favorite Pick: The bright colors offered on the Gear Warrior™ Wheeled Duffel 95l / 30" mena there’s little chance anyone will mistake your bag for theirs on the conveyor belt! And remember, when packing large bags and duffels, packing cubes are the single most effective way to keep your gear organized.

What to Do if Your Airline Luggage Gets Lost

Should your bag still get lost, use these strategies to ensure that you get it back—or get compensated—as quickly as possible.

1. Stay Calm and File a Report

Don’t leave the airport right away. Head to the nearest customer service counter and file a report with the airline. Remember, the folks behind the counter aren’t the ones who lost your luggage, so ranting and raving at them won’t help you get your bags back any sooner. Remind yourself that most lost bags are found within a day or two, and remain calm in your conversations with airline representatives.

If you’re using an app and trackable technology on your smart luggage, have that handy. The representatives will want a description of your bag and its contents, as well as your contact information. U.S. consumer protections mean you have the right to ask for a copy of the delayed baggage report, and to confirm that the bag be delivered to you at no cost once it’s located.

2. Request Compensation, If Applicable

If you paid to have your luggage transported and it wasn’t transported properly or promptly, at the very least you’ll want to request a refund of the baggage fee. Each airline handles these situations differently. Some will not refund the baggage fee but will instead offer a voucher that’s good for savings on future travel, which can be a good deal if you fly frequently.

In addition, if your luggage isn’t located within 24 hours, companies may offer reimbursement for essential items such as toiletries and clothing, provided you keep your receipts, so be sure to ask about your airline’s specific policies. If you did not pack a small toiletry bag in your carry-on, many of the airlines will give you toiletry kits to hold you over. Make sure to ask customer service for one.

3. Be Persistent

Whether you were given the phone number of the local baggage counter or a 1-800 corporate number, don’t be shy about calling twice daily for an update on the status of your lost luggage. Airlines are handling a bunch of lost luggage claims at any given time, and if you’re dealing with a lengthy baggage absence, your case could easily get lost in the shuffle unless you keep putting the pressure on the airline.

It’s rare that travel bags are really lost forever—only two percent of bags are never found—and those statistics are only getting better now that you can help airlines locate your bag using smart tracking technology. If your luggage is currently lost, hang in there! Chances are, you and your bag will be reunited in no time.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Buying Guide: Choosing Luggage, Travel Packs, and Carry-ons

Buying Guide: Pack-it Packing Organizers and Compression Bags

Checked Baggage Vs Carry-on: Which is Best for Your Trip?