Updated May 2022
I work a couple days of week at my local airport to help support my passion for travel. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the baggage claim office and I have learned so much about luggage. I’m still on team carry-on but even I need to check a bag every now and then. Here are some tips and tricks that may save you a headache in the future.
Your Bag Doesn’t Need A Bow
Yes, it’s true that many bags look the same and you don’t want to have mistaken bag identity BUT do not tie long, dangly things to your bag. These pretty scarfs are likely to get caught in the belt. When things get stuck it can cause a jam which can then damage your bag or someone else’s. It also slows down the process of you getting your bag if a jam needs to be undone. A colorful luggage tag or luggage strap does the trick and is less likely to cause an issue. I found some cute ones on etsy here and here. This dangly rule also goes for the long cross body straps that come with your duffle bag. This strap can easily be taken off and tucked in your bag for later.
Think Twice About Hard Shell Suitcases
Sure these bags look super durable but not all hard sided bags are created equal. When thinking of purchasing a hard shell case push on the outside, if it has any type of give walk away! Even if they are super cute with kittens dressed like old-timey pilots…walk away! These are the number one type of bags that get cracked or damaged. Now, if you push on the front and it’s hard as a rock with no give at all maybe consider it. These super hard bags can also potentially add 10 lbs to your baggage weight so keep that in mind. Travel and Leisure wrote up a whole article about best bags for travel 2021, it has some great picks.
Claim Your Bags At Customs
When you are coming back from an international flight, even if you have a connection, you need to claim your bag at Customs. Many first time international travelers don’t realize this, even though they basically yell at you in ATL to pick up your bags before continuing. And I mean YELL, it’s like a bad song on repeat they say it so many times. (but it is helpful, thanks ATL!) Baggage not picked up after your international flight will not get to your final destination so make sure you don’t skip this step.
Make Sure You Have Your Tracking Number
Each time you check a bag a unique number is assigned it. This is extremely helpful if your bag is missing, so keep it somewhere safe! That number will let the agent who is assisting you know if your bag made it on the flight or if it’s in cold storage for the night. This also applies if you are asked to check your bag plane side for lack of overhead space. These tags should be scanned and linked to your ticket, keep that tracking number! Even though your bag is literally next to the plane there is still room for human error and it could be left behind. If you do misplace your tracking number, you can find it on your airline’s app if you have used it to travel.
Pick Up Your Bags Before Getting Your Rental Car
This is especially appreciated if you come in on a late flight. Smaller airports don’t have flights that come in 24/7 so your 12:30AM arrival may be the last flight of the evening. If you don’t pick up your bag in a timely manner it could be locked in an office overnight because the agent has gone home.
I can’t speak for everyone but I usually wait 30-45 minutes after the last bag hits the carousel before I lock up. If I have bags to set up for delivery or need to put in a claim for a missing bag I may be there a bit longer but I’m tired and I want to go home. We do everything we can to contact you before calling it a night! Agents will typically page a passenger a couple of times and try their phone number but if it’s 1:30/1:45AM and still no show? I’m going home. So please, pick up your bags as soon as you can.
Pack Important Medications In Your Carry-On
Not having your bag show up at your destination is stressful enough, there is no need to add to that stress by missing important medications! You can travel with your medication in both carry-on and checked baggage. I would recommend that any medications that you need immediate or daily access to are placed in your carry-on. You can bring your meds in pill or solid form in unlimited amounts as long as it is screened. TSA does not require passengers to have medications in prescription bottles, but states have individual laws regarding the labeling of prescription medication, so be sure to check requirements. Medication in liquid form is allowed in carry-on bags in excess of 3.4 ounces in reasonable quantities for the flight.
Traveling can be stressful, especially lately and not having your possessions arrive with you can be extremely frustrating. I get that, the agent who is helping you locate your bag gets that. Be nice. They didn’t leave your bag in Atlanta on your way to San Francisco but they are going to do their best to make sure you get your bag ASAP! They didn’t buy the super flimsy butterfly suitcase but they will help you file a damage claim. Remember, most likely they’ve been in your shoes. Airline employees are not exempt from luggage issues. Mistakes happen, and that’s exactly what they are human mistakes.
Well, those are my top tips for baggage claim woes. I still say carry-on is best but I know that is not always possible. Especially when coming back from Belgium with a bag full of beer! If you do have an issue with your bag, just take a deep breath and try to remember that it will be ok. Someone is there to help you.
Safe and Happy Travels!