Dealing with lost luggage, especially on the beginning flight of your family vacation, can be a nightmare. Often families have so much that they need to bring along that they simply cannot put all of their essentials in their carry-on bag. In fact, carry-on bags are not immune to being lost. Once I traveled on a cross-country trip for two days with only a carry-on, which the airline required me to check when there was no room in the overheads. Upon my arrival to Boston, the bag was completely lost, and it took over 12 hours to be recovered. So while you can try your hardest to avoid lost luggage, sometimes it’s simply unavoidable.
We asked some travel and parenting experts their advice on how to deal with lost luggage. Some offered advice on how to either prevent lost luggage or how to make sure lost luggage wouldn’t ruin your vacation. Others offered advice on what to do once the luggage is actually lost. We recommend that you follow all of this advice – after all, who wants to run around town trying to purchase essentials when you should be enjoying your vacation?
Preventing Lost Luggage
“Make sure the check-in assistant places the correct check-in tag on your bag. Don’t be afraid to say, “Can I check that you have the correct information?” (When we lost our bag, it was busy Christmas Eve and the gate agent placed another person’s destination tag on our bag.)” – Rachel Stephens, TrendyKid
“Before you take your next trip, you should make sure your luggage is properly “ID’ed” with your contact information – including full name, current address and phone number. Also, with lots of black luggage in the airport, it is important to have a key distinguishing feature on the suitcase, whether it be the stitching, a ribbon, or just a different color or print. I also recommend taking a picture of the bag, so you can easily show it to others should it go missing.” – CEO Mike Kelly of On Call International
“I also make sure that we book our travel with a credit card that offers generous insurance should our luggage get lost. American Express offers a program called Premium Baggage Protection. Once you are enrolled, the charge for the insurance is added to your credit card every time you purchase an airline ticket (typically $7.50-$9.99). Coverage starts with $500 for necessities if luggage has been missing for 3 hours.” – Tara Cannon of Pint Size Pilot
“I always recommend taking a picture of your items laid out or your open suitcase with all your items. If your luggage is lost, then you will know what valuable items you lost and can file a claim with your homeowners policy, travel insurance or common carrier (airline, train, etc.) or if stolen, then you can list the specific items in your police report.” – Adam Bates, Vice President Insurance for Trips
“Always arrive and check in your bags at least 2 hours before your departure. This minimizes the chance your bags get lost in the shuffle.” – James T. Dabbagian, M.A
If Your Luggage is Lost…
“Don’t spend any more time at the airport than you have to. If the airline asks you to wait, demand they deliver your lost luggage to your hotel. You have a vacation to enjoy. They only come about once or twice a year, maybe 30 in your child’s childhood.” – Donna Bozzo of The Lady With the Alligator Purse
“In most cases it is a matter of dealing directly with your airline, as they are responsible for their own passenger’s luggage. However, most airport’s do have a lost & found office or a customer relations manager that might be able to help or assist the passenger navigate the situation. Sometimes having another advocate on your side and someone familiar with the process can help the guest or passenger.” – Rich Johnson, City of San Antonio Airport System
“Ask your hotel’s front desk for their list of amenities. Your hotel will likely have toothbrushes, combs, and a handful of toiletries to tide you over until your luggage arrives.” – Shannon O’Donnell, Founder A Little Adrift