Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Oh Bag, Where Art Thou?

I heard a fairly disturbing fact last week, that because of the restrictions on what you can bring on board a flight there are many more checked bags (duh, and thank you again, terrorists. I just hope that one day I can kick your as... I mean, return the favor.) Because there are an increased number of checked bags, the number of lost bags by the airlines is up 30 percent.

Since I've already been on two trips where my luggage didn't come on vacation with me, this number is startling. It also makes me want to bang my head against my wall. (The photo is of me hugging my bag after it arrived 2 days late in Venice, just before I was supposed to get on the train to go to Florence.)

However, I have developed, over time, some packing strategies to help counteract the stupidity by the airlines. It may not mean that your bag meets you at your destination, but it can get you through.

1. Your carry-on is your best friend.

  • Let me introduce you to SPACE BAGS. These are the best travel invention since rollers on your suitcases. Stuff them full, roll them up to get the air out, and voila! You can get at least two outfits in the space of a half an outfit. I often use them for organization purposes as well. For example, I put all my swimsuits and swim accessories in one bag, so I can pack them while wet, if needed.

  • Use all available space. I find that the insides of shoes make a good place to store underwear and socks.

  • ALWAYS pack all your undies in your carry-on. Nothing is worse than being in Egypt without underwear. Trust me, I know. And ladies, make sure you pack some emergency "products" if you get my drift. European "products" are not like American "products." My friend found this out the hard way when her "aunt came to visit" while we were in Italy and our luggage was still on the runway.

  • If you take medicine, make sure it goes with you at all times. Either put it in the carry-on or in your "personal item."

  • You're going to need at least one, if not two outfits in your carry-on.

2. Use your partner like the mule they are.

  • For checked bags, have your travel partner pack some of their things in your suitcase and pack some of your things in their suitcase and do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around. But seriously, if one bag gets lost, you have at least some items in your partner's bag.

  • Use that "personal item" loophole. For example, the BF doesn't carry a purse (thank goodness) but he only takes his carry-on bag on the airplane. THIS time, I'm going to make him take a backpack. If he doesn't want to fill it, I will. :)

3. When your bag goes AWOL:

  • First, go in the bathroom and have a good fit. Get it out of your system, cuz now you have to catch flies with honey.

  • Report it at lost luggage. And be nice. Most major airlines will at least give you some supplies, like a t-shirt and a toothbrush. Get the process started to get your bag back sooner.

  • When you get to your hotel, let the concierge/front desk know what happened. They can help you by calling the airlines while you at least try to enjoy your destination. They'll also be expecting the bag when it arrives and can bring it to your room.

The strategy that I'm still unsure about is to mail your checked bag to your destination. It's pricey (expect about $40 each way for each bag.) The benefit is that your bag actually arrives, and if it doesn't, it's insured. Plus, the ability to not have to drag several bags through a busy airport may be worth the price of admission. Not having to wait at the carousel might be the biggest bonus in my book for this. I haven't tried it yet, and not sure when I will. Think I can talk my frugal BF into trying it for our Vegas trip?


Yoshi said...

Those are definitely good tips!

One thing I've learned is that a backpack with a lot of pockets is a great carry on! I've managed to pack a lot of things into my backpack, including my camera equipment, laptop and a lot of other stuff. It's definitely worth it.

Cheysuli and gemini said...

One glitch--make sure the airlines know where to leave the bags. We traveled with a group and one young man has his luggage make a detour on the trip. The airline was supposed to drop it at the hotel front desk. However, they left it outside the lobby. We are not sure if the hotel lobby door was momentarily locked or what but he wasn't all that thrilled to think that all his stuff was locked out the front.

As far as sending stuff ahead: what about people going on sporting (ie skiing) vacations?

Pink Chihuahua Princess said...

I'm going to take your advice next time I travel and really work the carry on. I usually really like to not be bothered with carrying something extra around...but then again I've never lost my luggage.

Renee said...

So far (knock wood) we've never had a problem with our bags getting lost...damaged? YES but never lost. I watched the baggage handlers throw my bag on the ground.

Course another thing we have going for us is that we have never traveled to someplace where we would be left high and dry if our bags were lost. Even to Korea we could buy stuff easily.

That said, if I ever get lucky and get a trip out of the country I'll make sure to follow your tips because they are all really good ones.

Melli said...

Some excellent tips! Mailing luggage, however, would NEVER get past MY inspector general -- even if I were traveling ALONE!

Red said...

If you care for your luggage, I would urge you not to fly to or from Terminal 5 at Heathrow anytime in the future...