Skip to main content

Lost Luggage Tips

Lost luggage—it's every traveler's worst fear. Will it arrive safely or will it be lost—for a day or possibly forever?

The good news is that there are a variety of options available to help ensure your belongings arrive at your destination when you do.

Ship your bag to your destination: UPS, FedEx, and DHL offer affordable shipping options, both domestically and internationally. Considering what you may pay for airline checked bag fees, shipping fees may be comparable or even less expensive. Shipping also allows flexibility to select a delivery time and date, plus with a tracking number, you can rest assured your luggage will be waiting for you upon arrival.

If possible, don’t check a bag: Traveling light with just a carry-on will nearly guarantee you will have possession of your luggage from take-off to touch-down. (The only caveat is running out of overhead bin space during the boarding process.) If you're planning to only carry on, double check your airline’s bag size requirements to ensure your luggage will be acceptable to bring on the plane.

If you must check a bag:

  • Try to choose non-stop flights or avoid flights with a short connection window. Any delays may increase the chance of your luggage not making the connecting flight.
  • Consider using an electronic bag tag. These reusable plastic tags use Bluetooth to allow you to track your bag’s location directly from your cellphone.
  • If using paper luggage tags, remove old ones as soon as you arrive to your final destination.
  • Check-in early so the airline has plenty of time to get your bags routed to the correct plane.
  • Put one (or better yet, two) bright luggage tags with your name and cellphone on the outside of your bag. Put one INSIDE your luggage as well, with your flight itinerary.
  • Use brightly colored luggage straps or other personalization options to distinguish your bag from others. In a sea of similar-looking suitcases, make yours stand out—you can find it quickly, and other travelers will not mistake it for theirs.
  • Always pack a complete change of clothes, some basic toiletries, any medications, keys, and charging devices in your carry-on. If your luggage is lost or delayed, you'll have the essentials with you when you arrive at your destination.

If your luggage is lost:

  • File a claim immediately. Inform the airline of your schedule and how they can contact you. Also, make sure to get the name and phone number of an airline representative you can keep in contact with until your bag is reunited with you.
  • While it's fresh in your memory, make a complete list of everything in your bag. If the worst happens—your luggage is lost permanently—you’ll need an accurate inventory for your claim.
  • Check your credit card benefits and any travel insurance coverage you have purchased. Many have a stipend for lost or delayed baggage that will allow you to buy what you need for your trip.
  • Request your bag fee(s) back from the airline. A refund may be due if the airline failed to deliver your bag on time.
  • Be patient. Most major airlines use sophisticated bag tracking systems, and a misplaced bag will usually be put on the next flight to that same destination.