Wednesday we will witness the busiest travel day of the year. While `tis the season to be merry, its also a season characterized by travel trouble. A recent study says that for the most frequent travelers – business travelers – lost or delayed luggage causes the most stress. With many families, friends and loved ones traveling with packages and Christmas presents this holiday season, the added stress of a potentially lost bag could bring out the Grinch in any of us.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center knows about lost luggage – each year our retail store sorts, cleans, refurbishes and prices over 1 million unclaimed items. Items range from the typical (suits, clothing, toys and electronics) to the very unique (wedding dresses, ancient artifacts and once a live rattlesnake). We have set up a small museum of crazy items found in various suitcases. While our business does revolve around lost luggage, we would rather your belongings not end up at our store this holiday season.

While lost luggage is a byproduct of travel, the reality is that according to published industry reports and our experience with airlines over the past 40 years, only a small portion of luggage remains lost: less than half of one percent of all checked luggage is initially mishandled. Of those, the vast majority are reunited with their owners within 90 days. There are a variety of reasons a bag or carry-on item gets separated from its owner, and eventually becomes unclaimed – not all of which are the responsibility of the airlines.


There are many things you can do to ensure your luggage ends up at the right place at the right time:

Inspect your luggage. Check all the zippers and locks on your bags because they may have become worn or broken on a previous trip. Also, overstuffed luggage is prone to burst open during the normal shuffle between the terminal and the plane.

Value your valuables, hold them close. Traveling has inherent risks. Don’t pack expensive items or belongings that are hard or impossible to replace. Valuables should be kept with you as you travel and not checked at the gate.

Stick your name ON it and IN it. Bag tags are required, but they can be torn off. Put additional identification inside your bag, including a copy of your itinerary. Also put your name on carry-on luggage. With stricter conditions on carry-on baggage, you may find suitcases and hanging bags you previously were able to take on board will need to be checked.

Mark your name on EVERYTHING. Put your name and address on everything. Remember camp? The reason your mom sewed labels in your clothes is the same reason you want to label things you don’t think of as luggage.

Check the information on your bag. Some travelers put their identification on their bag tags when they purchase luggage and never think about it again. Make sure your bag tags are up to date.

Personalize, customize and stylize. Prevent your look-alike bag from being grabbed off the carousel by another traveler by tying a colored ribbon or bandana on the handle. These kinds of mix-ups are preventable, so take precautions.

Make a list and check it twice. Make an inventory of the items packed in each bag to assist the airline in finding your luggage in case it gets lost. Take a copy with you in your briefcase or purse.

Check for mistakes at airport. Luggage handlers make mistakes too. Double check the three-letter airport code to make sure the right tag has been placed on your suitcase. Also, experts suggest going inside to check luggage and your odds will increase that your bags arrive at correct destination on time.

Don’t rush – take your time. On the plane, carefully note where you’ve stashed items. If the only available overhead space is over row 27 and you’re sitting in row 23, be sure to make mental note of where it is.

Check your seat pockets. One of the most common ways of losing items when traveling is leaving carry-on items on the plane. When you exit the plane, make sure you have all toys, games, stuffed bears and other items. These are the most difficult items to reunite with owners because they are often unlabeled.

One last thing to remember: don’t let worry or stress ruin your trip. Airlines have invested in advanced baggage tracing technology, so reuniting passengers with luggage is much quicker and more efficient than in the past. And, most delayed bags catch up with their owners within hours of being lost.  So while a misplaced bag is an inconvenience, it is not a reason to mess up your holiday plans.