Ten airline baggage tips to avoid the unthinkable

When travelling by air, there’s always a slight chance that something could happen to your checked in luggage – delay, damage or worst case scenario – total loss. With the thousands of bags loaded onto aircraft every day around the world, the likelihood is small but here are some baggage tips to firstly help avoid any occurrence and secondly, to make things a little easier should the unthinkable happen.

Plane and luggage

1. Take a photo of your bag

Should it be delayed or go missing, it will be easier to give a better description to the baggage handling agent to help with identification when located.


Take a photo of your luggage including the brand. If it goes missing, there are an awful lot of similar bags to yours out there all looking for their home.

2. Change of Clothes

Try to always have a change of clothes in your carry-on, even if it’s just a change of top and underwear. Should your bag be delayed, you’ll feel better having something else to wear rather than having to sit in the same clothes or having to start shopping around for a change of clothing.

3. Do not put valuables, cash, jewellery or fragile items in your checked in luggage

This includes items like laptops and tablets. Firstly, airlines will not cover these items should they be stolen (unfortunately this happens – it shouldn’t but it does) or your bag goes missing. You’ll find further information on items that are not covered in the airline’s Conditions of Carriage which are normally found on their website. Secondly, if a fragile item is broken, that will also not be covered by the airline. If you think about how bags come off conveyor belts with a bang, get thrown on/off the aircraft etc., you’d be crazy to expect anything fragile in your bag to survive the trip so don’t risk it.

Just another one to mention, in addition to valuables, don’t put your car and house keys in your checked in luggage. I know of incidences where someone has done exactly that – their luggage has been delayed and they can’t drive their car or get into their house. And no, the airline isn’t going to pay for the locksmith to get into your house.

4. Label your bag inside and outside with your details.

Label the inside with your name, address and phone number. On the outside, personally I’d use your name, phone number and maybe an alternative address if possible e.g. business address. The reason being that you don’t want any would-be thieves checking out your home address on your bag and then targeting your home as they know you’re away.

5. Keep your luggage tags/receipt until you receive your luggage.

Although the information is in the computer system, it’s your evidence that you’ve checked the bag in, and shows the destination and baggage weight. Make sure you receive one receipt for each bag you’ve checked in. Also check your receipt once received to make sure your bag is through-checked to your destination.

Another important note regarding luggage tags, ensure you take off any tags or barcodes from previous flights to prevent any issues. The barcodes are small and show the tag number and are stuck onto the side of the bag by the check-in staff.

Baggage barcode

Example of barcode that is put on baggage. This shows the flight number and date plus the tag number for tracing.

Luggage receipt

Your baggage receipt will be given to you separately or could be attached to your boarding pass or E-ticket. It will show where your bag has been checked through to and will have a tag number e.g. TG376251, for further reference.

6. Make your bag look different to the others.

Have you ever watched the bags on the conveyor belt and seen how many bags look alike – especially black bags? When your bag looks like everyone elses, it’s easy for someone else to pick it up in error and worse, if it goes astray, it will look like hundreds of other bags and be more difficult to find.

Identify your luggage with unusual tags

Use ribbons and large tags to differentiate your bag from the many others on the luggage carousel

If you have a standard coloured bag, tie different items to the handle to make it easier to determine that it is yours. Whether it be a coloured ribbon or unusual bag tag, any little thing like this will make yours stand out from the others. Apart from ribbons and tags I’ve purchased, I also made a couple using old greeting cards with my surname written on the back and then laminated. It’s cheap to do and not a big deal if they get torn off or lost. The few I made have lasted numerous long-haul trips and still going strong.

Baggage tag

These tags are made from old greeting cards and laminated. They’ve lasted many trips, cost basically nothing & make it easier to identify my bag.

7. Take any medication or important documents in your carry-on luggage.

Don’t put these types items in your checked-in luggage. If it’s delayed, you’re going to be in strife if you haven’t got immediate access to your medicine or documents for that important meeting. Also, any medication should always be in its original packaging which clearly states who it is intended for.

8. Avoid wet damage to your luggage. 

There are two main things that cause wet damage to luggage and its contents – something has burst or spilt inside, or your case gets left out in the rain uncovered. Make sure any liquid items e.g. shampoo. lotions, are put inside a plastic bag or container inside your bag in case they spill out.

Also, you may like to consider putting some of your clothes inside large plastic bags or cover them with a large plastic bag before zipping up. A liquid item in someone else’s bag may break and affect nearby luggage (yes – people still put that bottle of wine in their checked in bag and hope for the best) or you may encounter stormy or monsoonal weather either at the point of departure or at your destination. The baggage handlers are trying to load/offload bags in heavy rain and sometimes they’re just not covered completely and your bag could be saturated. This definitely happens and you don’t want to be one of those unhappy customers whose belongings are completely wet and maybe damaged when they open their bag. Not a good way to start your holiday or business trip.

9. Split up belongings between bags

If you’re travelling with your partner or family, consider splitting everyone’s clothing between the bags. That way, if one bag is delayed or goes missing, it’s most likely there will still be items of clothing to wear in one of the other bags, rather than having one person without anything to wear.

10.  Always, always take travel insurance.

Like most insurances, it’s going to be of great value should something happen to your luggage. To find out more about the reasons to take out travel insurance, please have a look at my article “Travel insurance – if you can’t afford insurance then you can’t afford to travel”.  

Travel insurance is a necessity when travelling overseas

Travel insurance is a must for any international journey.

Many of these baggage tips may sound like common sense, but hopefully there are one or two you haven’t thought of before and may come in useful. Have you got any other tips of your own to share? Let me know in the comments.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *