Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tips for Preventing Lost Luggage

You do want to take some measures to prevent lost luggage on your trip. Lost luggage is a nightmare you really don't want to deal with when you're starting your long awaited vacation. Here are some tips to prevent lost luggage:

The absolute best way to keep from losing your luggage it to carry it on. It's also a way to save money on domestic flights since most airlines now charge to check bags. We've always advocated that you really don't need to travel with more than one bag each, but you have to plan for this and have the discipline to avoid that "just in case" syndrome.

If you must check your luggage, there are some things that you can do to help make sure it arrives with you, or that you will at least be able to survive until it is reunited with you.

Survive without your luggage? Yes, you can if you must. First of all when you're packing, pack as though your checked luggage will be lost. Don't pack expensive or hard to replace items in your checked bag.

Put prescriptions, jewelry, cameras, and computers in your carry-on luggage. Your cash, credit cards, and travel documents should be with you also, either in your carry-on bag, or when you're not using them, in a safe place like in a money belt. It's better not to travel with expensive jewelry in the first place. No need to call attention to yourself.

Now to prevent lost luggage.... once you have your bags packed, make sure they all have the proper identification. Name tags are required for all luggage whether it is to be checked or carried on. You can put a tag of your own on your bag or write your identification on one of those paper tags that airlines supply.

Either of these can get torn off as checked bags are moving up and down conveyor belts in the airport, so to make sure that airline agents can identify your bag for you should it be lost, it's a good idea to put your name, address and phone number inside the bag as well.

We actually write ours in permanent markers on the inside of the suitcase itself... even our carry on bags. If you are just starting your trip, a copy of your itinerary with phone contacts can help get your bag to you on the road.

It is a good idea to take these precautions with bags that you think you will be carrying on because sometimes you will find that rules have changed, or that they are stricter abroad... and what you thought you could carry on, you will be required to check.

Some airlines allow only a certain number of "wheel aboard" bags on the plane, and when they reach their limit, they will gate check your bag. You probably won't have to pay for this, but there it is checked when you didn't plan on that.

There is no way to completely prevent lost luggage, but if you use these few common sense tips, you have a better chance of getting it back quickly, and still enjoy your trip without it.

Your Travel Preparation List

Lists are good to help you remember everything... a travel preparation list, grocery lists, honey-do lists. Notice the order we put those in? Might make you think that travel is more important to us than eating... and you might be right! ...But then you would expect that, wouldn't you, since you know how much we love travel.

Our travel preparation list is a little different from our pre-departure checklist. Actually, this one is kind of a combination. There are just some times you want to make a couple of lists and check things twice.... You don't want to be half way around the world and have an anxiety attack because you can't remember if you turned the water off off somewhere.

We actually have our travel preparation list (or should I say our lists) in the computer so we can print it out before each trip and check things off as we've done them or packed them. Even as much as we travel, and as routine as packing is, we want to make sure we don't leave something at home.

I actually don't like packing. It's probably the part of travel I like least.... but my list gives me a starting point. I print it out, and it helps get me motivated. I try to get going a couple of days before we leave. I know some people who say, "I always just throw some things in the night before." If that works for them, fine. I've done that too, but I prefer having a day or two in case I need to do a last load of laundry or pick something up at the store that we'll need for the trip.

You know we love telling stories on ourselves to illustrate our points, so here's another... We were going to Brazil a couple of years ago... to see Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls, but the focus of the trip was the Pantanal. We were going to see birds, and if we were lucky, jaguars. So we packed our "safari clothes", our bug repellant, and our Pepto-Bismol, and off we went to the airport. As we were boarding the plane, we looked at each other and said, "Did you pack the binoculars?"

Neither of us had! Can you believe it? We were on a birdwatching trip without binoculars.

Good thing there was a duty free shop upon entry into Brazil. That saved us some embarrassment.... but the whole incident shows you that anyone can forget something they'll need on a trip. It also proves the point we often make... that if you forget something, you can always get it there.

Now that DOES NOT mean you should pack everything you might need "just in case". We advocate packing light... and that means packing smart. A travel preparation list, a packing list, a documents list, a pre-departure checklist.... any or all of those will help you keep your packing light, and give you peace of mind once you're on the road that you haven't forgotten something.