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by Aidan Booth February 13, 2019 5 min read

After an eight-hour flight sitting next to a stranger's crying baby, the last thing you want to deal with is a luggage issue. Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened to me on my first trip to Rome. All of the hard-earned money I'd intended to spend on a fancy Italian meal went into buying overpriced Roman toiletries, socks, and underwear. Ah well, when in Rome, dress like the Romans do…right? 

Anyway, I've learned a lot since that fateful Roman holiday, so I'd like to share some essential luggage tips you need to keep in mind. If you learn nothing else from this post, remember this: act fast! The longer you wait to report a luggage issue, the less you will get in reimbursement. Please remember the pointers listed below the next time you go traveling with a lot of luggage. 

What To Do Before Boarding Your Flight

Keep A Good "Luggage List"

As with most things in life, it's a good idea to "hope for the best, but expect the worst." This is especially true when fly/flying long distances with a great deal of luggage. One of the easiest things you could do to "prepare for the worst" is to write down everything in your luggage. If your luggage gets lost, then this list will come in handy when filling out your lost luggage claim. You could also use this list to help you get what you need if your luggage is delayed. 

Also, it's a great idea to snap a few quick pics of your luggage with your smartphone. Trust me, showing customer service representatives HD photos of your luggage makes it easier for them to track down your luggage than simply describing it. This is especially true in a foreign country where English isn't the first language. 

Keep Those Receipts!

When you're traveling, feel free to collect receipts everywhere you go. Hey, there's no judgment here; I'm a rabid receipt junkie myself. The more physical evidence you have of purchases you've made related to your lost luggage, the better for your reimbursement case. So, be sure to hold on to all those stubs, tickets, and receipts related to your luggage. Go ahead, let your inner "receipt hoarder" shine. 

Review Airlines' Baggage Claim Policies

Once you know what airline you're going to be using, it's a good idea to review the company's baggage reimbursement policies online. Knowing how much your airline will cover in the event of delayed or lost luggage will give you the confidence to pursue the full amount you deserve. While you're researching your airline, look up their customer service telephone number and put it into your contacts. This will save you aggravation if you need to get in touch with the airline in the future. 

By the way, many of the bigger airlines like Delta, United, Star Alliance members, and American have online baggage-tracking portals. As long as you have your reference number, you can easily keep tabs on your luggage. 

No Luggage? No Worries!: What To Do When Your Luggage Doesn't Arrive

Step 1: Take A Deep Breath

Now that you know the major pre-flight luggage hacks, what do you do when you're standing before a conveyor belt waiting…and waiting…and waiting for a bag that never arrives? Well, first off, don't panic! 

Before you head over to customer service, take a few deep breaths and soothe your mind. This suggestion may sound silly, but it's really easy to lose your cool in an airport. In the era of social media, you will regret making a rash decision. Just check out this video of a passenger flipping out over missing a flight. You don't want to be that guy, right? 

Statistically speaking, it's far more likely for your luggage to be delayed rather than lost. Keep this reassuring fact in mind as you head over to your airline's customer service area. 

Step 2: Fill Out Baggage Claim Completely

Once you get to the customer service counter, you will have to fill out a baggage claim. Be as thorough as possible when filling out this paperwork. This is the time to show the customer service representative all of the pictures you took of your luggage as well as the inventory of items inside your luggage. 

If you're on vacation, then it's crucial you list the exact address and telephone number of where you'll be staying. Before flying, you might want to print out all of your hotel's contact information and put it in your wallet for easy access. 

While you're at the customer service desk, explain your situation (i.e. are you here on business, holiday, or something else?) and ask what you're entitled to. Some airlines will give you kits with toiletries if you're on vacation. Before you leave, be sure to get a copy of your luggage's reference number and ask how to retrieve your luggage if it is found. 

Step 3: Filing Lost Luggage Claim

While every airline has a different definition of "lost luggage," usually the cut-off point is between 15 and 25 days. Once that final date has been reached, you'll have to fill out yet another claim for lost luggage reimbursement. 

On this form, you'll be asked to list the price of everything in your luggage as well as purchases you made due to your lost luggage. Go ahead and break out all of those receipts you've kept and add them to your file. Once your file is all set, keep checking with your airline on the status of your reimbursement. 

If you feel you're not getting good service from your airline, you could file a consumer complaint with the US Department of Transportation. You can find out more about the DOT complaint filing process on this link. 

Two Final Pro Luggage Hacks

Use Your Carry-On Wisely

One thing all travelers should do is pack their most valuable possessions (e.g. medications, electronics, important documents) in their carry-on baggage. No matter how well-respected your airline is, it's not worth risking your expensive iPad or, in the case of medications, your life! 

After you've got all of your valuables in your carry-on, try your best to pack a few pairs of clothes in your carry-on. This way you won't have to worry about buying a new wardrobe because of lost luggage. 

You could also consider purchasing a travel-friendly DOPP kit like the ones made by Vetelli. Toiletry bags make it easy to keep your grooming gear well-organized no matter how much turbulence you experience. 

What Does Your Credit Card Cover?

Did you know that many credit card companies offer their customers special travel reimbursements if you purchase plane tickets using their card? This could include baggage fees, delayed luggage, or lost luggage. Just like airlines, credit card providers have different policies on this issue. Do yourself a favor and check your credit card company's travel reimbursement policies before boarding your flight. 

Good Luggage Luck On Your Next Flight!

Flying is always a headache, but add luggage problems to the equation and you've got the makings of a migraine. Thankfully, there are many proactive steps you can take to protect yourself in the event of lost or delayed luggage. Follow the strategies listed above and you will feel calm and confident even if your luggage gets lost in the shuffle. Oh, and also don't forget to bring some really good earplugs…you know, in case you get stuck next to a crying baby.

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