Travel Tips: Luggage and travel

Taxi driver assists tourists with their luggage in front of New York’s Penn Station. (Larry Luxner)

Stuffing a suitcase and hitting the road is something I look forward to and I enjoy doing it often. Granted, I get the opportunity to travel often so I have a system when it comes to packing, checking in at the airport, and so on.  I realize not everyone has the chance to travel on a regular basis and when I’m at the airport, this realization often confronts me head on.  Here are a few tips I’ve compiled from my travel observations.

  1. Don’t buy the cheapest luggage you can find:  Maybe because you don’t travel often you might want to get the least expensive bag you can find.  If you do, your bag might only last that one trip.  Consider going slightly above your budget and look for a suitcase that can stand up to the abuse of getting loaded on and off an airplane, in and out of taxis, etc.  That is, of course, if you like the idea of the contents of your luggage spread out across the tarmac or the baggage claim area.
  2. Don’t buy the most expensive luggage: When people show up to the airport with Louis Vuitton luggage and fly coach, I have to laugh.  I would rather fly with no name luggage because well, I’m not all into the big brand name stuff at ridiculous prices, but mostly because I don’t need to advertise.  If the bag is expensive, it might make someone think that what’s inside probably is quite good.  It’s nice to think that people won’t size you up and then mug or rob you, but isn’t it better to avoid this problem altogether?
  3. Luggage tags aren’t enough: While some people wait until they check their bag in at the airport to even fill out and place a luggage tag on their bag, that’s simply not enough.  Before you close your bag, slip in a piece of paper with your name, address, cell phone, email address, etc.  In case the luggage tag falls off, you can meet up with your bag again in the future with this one easy tip.  Despite the millions of bags that pass through airports each year, it’s estimated that customers retrieve 99.5% of domestic airlines’ bags, but there are still many that aren’t.  Why? Probably because they can’t be identified by the airlines.
  4. Luggage locks: Do you zip up your bag and go?  No locks for you? A lock can deter a thief by delaying them from getting into your bag.  If there’s a delay, they usually move onto the next bag and that’s good news for you.
  5. Non-TSA approved luggage locks: Don’t use the luggage lock that came with your bag if it’s not TSA approved.  What that means is that TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has master keys that allows them to open your bag should the need arise.  If you don’t have TSA approved locks, they will just cut the locks off.  Locks come in all different shapes, colors, and sizes with combination locks, keys, and keyless locks.  Buying a luggage locks are an investment worth making.
  6. Avoid a black suitcase: Everyone wants a black suitcase.  How do I know this? Because every bag rolling across the belt in luggage claim is a black bag.  Get a different color or a print of some kind and you’ll identify your bag far easier.
  7. Use only approved size carry on bags: Not all bags are the same and not all were intended for use as carry on bags.  You may think you’re tricking someone when you try to sneak it onboard, but you won’t.  You may miss the wrath of the flight attendant, but other passengers won’t let you get by.  Check with your airline to see what size bag is allowed, but generally it needs to be smaller than 45 linear inches – that’s the bag all the way around in height, width, and depth.  If it’s not, just check your bag.  It’s as simple as that.
  8. Don’t bring more bags than you can physically carry: Nothing makes me crazier than seeing people, specifically women, struggling like damsels in distress with their multiple bags.  If you packed it and brought it along with you, then you should be able to carry it.  If you can’t then it’s time to reevaluate your packing and lose a bag (or two).
  9. Don’t pack your valuables in your checked luggage: This may seem obvious, but don’t do it.  Don’t pack your laptop, cameras, iPads, jewelry, and so forth in your checked bag.  Bring it with you in your carry on and keep an eye on it.  If it’s not with you, you’re gambling on them arriving in one piece to your final destination.  That’s not a gamble I like to take and neither should you.

Hopefully, these tips can help you the next time you travel.  Do you have any tips that you’d like to share?