Don’t put the wrong information on your luggage tags


Lost luggageLuggage tag info is important, very important.

At your destination airport at the start of a big trip, with your limo waiting to take you to an important business meeting or your tour bus with 20 others who already boarded impatiently waiting for you or your cruise ready to sail within hours, is there anything worse than waiting and waiting for your luggage to appear on the baggage carousel, while passenger after passenger retrieves their bags, only to realize yours are a no-show?

A few years ago my wife and I were almost in one of those predicaments. The wait at the carousel was torturous. Our bags never showed up. Fortunately, we built in three days to our itinerary before our cruise was to leave. Plus, we had detailed luggage tag info with our delayed baggage. With the help of our cruise line, after considerable nail biting, the airline located our checked bags via our luggage tags and our photo of our bags. We got our luggage the night before we sailed.

Personal luggage tag info can be crucial in recovering lost luggage. The information travelers list on them is important. All luggage tags should list your name, phone number and an email address.

Some experts suggest not using your full name on your luggage tags. I don’t agree. I understand the identification and privacy concerns when using one’s full name, however, if the airline’s luggage tag is missing, the airline can more easily and quickly identify your luggage and contact you if the name on your luggage tag exactly matches the name on your ticket.

When traveling, a cellphone is an invaluable resource. If your luggage is delayed or lost, it can be your lifeline to the airline aiding in its fast recovery, hopefully while you’re still on your journey. If you have a cellphone with you, list its phone number on your luggage tags.

In case of cellphone problems, list an alternate phone number, too. If you’re staying at one destination, use its telephone number. Alternatively, ask a trusted friend or family member about putting their number on your luggage tag.

Don’t use your home telephone number, particularly if it’s a land-line. They are especially vulnerable to reverse lookup on the Internet to find your home address.

Download Airplane Carry-on ChecklistUse an email address on your luggage tag that you receive on your cellphone. That will help facilitate communication with your airline while you’re traveling. It will make it easier to recover your belongings while on the go, which can make your journey easier. Don’t use your primary email address. Instead, get an alternate through your ISP (Internet Service Provider) or use a free service to get an alternate address for your trip.

In addition to the above identification information, I include this statement at the bottom of my luggage tags:

“Please check my trip itinerary inside this bag and send it to the next destination at which it can safely arrive before I leave it, if you can’t reach me by phone.”

Inside each piece of my checked luggage, in a marked envelope, on top of my belongings, is a detailed itinerary of my trip, listing each stop with dates and hotel contact information. For a cruise, I list each port visited with the arrival and departure times at the ports and the cruise ship phone number. It’s the same itinerary I give to family and friends.

Never put your home address on your luggage tags. Anyone at the airport can read what’s on your tag. Use a work address or skip putting any address on the luggage tag. Using a home address tells them the location of your empty home and makes it easier for a thief to clean out your house.

The information on your luggage tag must be legible or it’s worthless. I print mine on address labels and affix them on my luggage tags. If you write your information on the tags, print it.

Use a minimum of two tags on each piece of your luggage in case one is somehow knocked off or destroyed. Don’t think it can’t happen. It’s happened to me three times over the years. I attach one to the top handle and the other to the side handle.

Take a photo of your luggage before you leave so you can email it to the airline for identification, if necessary.

When traveling internationally, don’t use luggage tags which identify your nationality. You may encounter people who have an unfavorable view of your home country. Get a luggage tag that is sturdy, uses a strong cable (stainless steel cables are best) and has a cover over your information. Don’t broadcast your identification information to those who don’t need to know it.

Personalize your luggage, too. Each of my checked bags has a brightly colored, wide, strong, elastic luggage belt around each bag’s girth. I have a ribbon tied around the top handle.

In the end, you need to provide the airlines and other travel companies handling your luggage with enough information to enable you to recover your lost or misplaced luggage quickly, hopefully long before your journey is over. On the other hand, you don’t want to provide them with so much information that you’ll make your home a target for major theft or make it too easy to steal your identity or breach your privacy.