Photo: David HarwoodBy David Harwood
Communications Specialist

Miriam and her husband were excited to travel to Budapest for a river boat cruise. The lead-up to their vacation was smooth sailing until a mechanical problem changed their flight plans at the last minute. But they still arrived in Budapest in time to meet their ship.

Unfortunately, their bags did not.

The threat of lost luggage is a major concern shared by vacationers all over the world. No luxury traveler can afford to arrive at their destination without their belongings. The good news is that a recent report suggests that the global air transport industry has reduced the rate of mishandled baggage overall since 2007. The bad news, however, is that the average rate of lost luggage remains 7.3 bags per 1,000 passengers.

Lost luggage: woman wheeling carry-on bag
One way to prevent lost luggage is carrying it on the plane

Here, then, are some suggestions to avoid losing your luggage while en route to and from your vacation destination.

Practice Total Abstinence

The only way to guarantee your bags don’t get lost or misplaced is to not check them in the first place. Many travelers are enthusiastic about the sense of zen that can be achieved by traveling with a minimal number of possessions.

But it’s not for everyone.

If you can’t abide the thought of traveling only with whatever might fit into a carry-on suitcase, other options are available – such as shipping them ahead. Not only is this technique the ultimate in convenience and luxury, it is a weight off your mind knowing that as soon as you arrive on your vacation, everything you need will be ready and waiting for you.

Another growing trend among individuals who frequently travel to the same hotel or resort is travel caching. Many hotels allow regular guests to keep a trunk of their belongings in storage. They’ll take them up to your room when you’re due to check in – eliminating the need to even pack in the first place.

Lost luggage: bags on airport carousel
Buying the right suitcase can help you be reunited more easily with your luggage

It’s All About The Bag

No matter how appealing the idea of traveling without baggage in tow, it’s not always practical to do so. At those times, you can reduce your chances of lost luggage by being deliberate in your choice of suitcase.

Avoid bags with straps or anything else which could potentially get caught up in the automated baggage handling systems. If this happens – and your case causes a blockage – attendant staff will waste no time in destroying your luggage. They want to clear the machinery and get the other bags moving again.

Making sure your suitcase can be easily identified as yours can also help reduce the risk of it getting lost. For you, this means something eye-catching that you’ll notice as soon as it is arrives at the baggage claim carousel. (Think bright yellow or leopard print instead of drab black or grey.) For airport staff, it means making sure all your bags are clearly labeled with your name, contact information, and destination.

One caveat to that last point: Don’t tape your business card to your case as a means of identification. Thieves are known to frequent airports worldwide, and a suitcase which identifies its owner as a doctor or CEO is just begging to be stolen as it sets the expectation that its contents must be valuable. (Ditto for designer luggage.) Many suitcases and tags allow people to slide a business card in without it being visible to onlookers.

Lost luggage: two suitcases beside carousel
Advance planning can prevent your luggage from ending up lost

Plan to Minimize Problems

Being preemptive and prepared are key factors in reducing your risk of lost luggage.

Make sure your luggage is covered by your travel insurance. Pack in such a way that your bag does not arouse any suspicion among security personnel, as an inspection of your case could cause it to miss your flight. For example, the TSA advises that you spread out books within your baggage rather than stack them, as this allows individual items to be more easily identified via X-ray.

The scheduling of your flights can also play a factor. The likelihood of lost luggage increases during short layovers, so these should be avoided wherever possible.

Similarly, arrive at the airport extra early to make sure your bags have plenty of time to make it on board. Experts recommend that you check in any bags at least 90 minutes prior to the scheduled takeoff time.

Finally, it may be worth investing in new technology solutions designed to help travelers keep track of their bags. These range from simple $25 products to more expensive options specifically designed for long-distance travel.

How to Deal with Lost Luggage

Lost luggage: suitcases on airport cart
About 7 bags per 1,000 passengers get lost – prevent yours from becoming a statistic

Unfortunately, despite all best efforts, bags may still go missing in transit. If this happens to you, file a claim with the airline as soon as possible. However, realize that it will probably take a while before your belongings are officially considered “lost” and you are compensated.

Even when you’re dealing with the most understanding airline, this process can be an extremely frustrating experience – and not one that you’d want to experience when your expectation had been for a relaxing getaway.

Fortunately for Miriam, she had booked her vacation with Virtuoso travel advisor Rosie Goldberger. When she found herself on a luxury cruise sans luggage, she knew just what to do: “I emailed Rosie about our bags from Budapest. After five days without our bags she was able to get the bags sent to our closest port as we had already boarded the ship for our cruise. Now, she more than generously offered to help us with getting the claim arranged for reimbursement on the money we spent on clothing, and personal effects needed. Thank you Rosie for saving us and making the trip go much smoother.”

Hopefully with these tips you’ll be able to avoid the nightmare of lost luggage. Regardless, booking your trip with a trusted luxury travel advisor will ensure you have an experienced advocate on your side just in case.

Do you have any other tips for avoiding lost luggage? If so, be sure to share them in the comments.


  1. I was suggest to clients to take pictures of their bags before checking them. It makes it so much easier to describe airline personel. Especially if there us a language barrier.

  2. Good tip about taking a photo. #1 advice: travel light! You can almost always buy the basics, the bulkier, the heavier items once you arrive at your destination (most places). #2, Always travel with the expectation that a bag won’t make it on time. Plan accordingly. Put essentials in your carryon bag.
    #3, Never, never pack in baggage irreplaceable items, not just monetary items, but personal items, eg photos, contacts, mementos. And medicines! #4. Take it all in stride! Travel is still an adventure even in this high tech age. What did Marco Polo do when his Gucci trunk ended up in Aden instead of Cathay? I don’t know, but i am quite sure he had a plan B! Happy travels.

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