Traveling as much as I do, it would be impossible for my luggage to always arrive at the same destination as I do all the time. At some point if you travel the luggage gods will definitely frown upon you and your luggage will be lost, delayed or arrive not looking quite as good as you do (damaged). It starts with that feeling of panic as you wait at the baggage carousel. After everyone departs and the lonely remaining bags circling are not familiar you come to the dreaded realization that your luggage has not arrived with you. What do you do now? Don’t panic too much yet; the good news is the bags are usually traceable. The first step after you realize you don’t have your luggage is to take your luggage claim tags to an airline employee and have them direct you to the proper desk to fill out a missing luggage claim form. Make sure you do this before leaving the airport and be sure you get a phone number you can call for updates or a website you can visit to check on the status. It is important that you fill out the claim form completely indicating clearly where you want the lost bag sent once it is recovered (it will do no good if it is sent to your hotel room and you have already departed for home). Usually the airline picks up any expense that is involved in returning your bag to you.
Most bags are recovered, but if that is not the case with your luggage, you must check with the individual carrier and begin the process of filling out a lost luggage claim form. These are usually available at the airport, by mail or online at the airline’s website. Be sure you check to see each carrier’s individual baggage liability cap. For domestic flights it is approximately $3,200 per person, while international flights depend on the destination. Here’s the hard part – if you have to fill out a lost luggage claim form you may have to submit receipts to prove the value of the items claimed. Remember to account for depreciation, as you won’t get full value for the item if it was purchased several years ago. Prior to your trip if you know the value of your luggage may exceed the allotted amounts for that carrier it might be a good idea to purchase travel insurance or check into what is covered under your homeowner’s policy. If baggage shows up damaged you should report it immediately before leaving the airport. The airline will want to inspect the piece and then most likely they will provide you with a list of approved vendors that you may bring the luggage to for repair. It is best in most cases to take it to an approved vendor because then they bill the airline directly and it saves you from having to submit a receipt and wait for reimbursement.
There are some ways to avoid angering the luggage gods including arriving at least an hour prior to flight time for a domestic flight and two hours prior for an international flight. Make sure your luggage is clearly labeled with your contact information in at least two places on every piece. Ensure that you don’t leave any straps hanging out that could catch on something and damage the piece. Make sure to check your baggage claim tags against your itinerary to be sure the flights and destination match and last but not least make sure that you pack all your valuables like jewelry, medication, cameras, makeup, etc in a carry-on bag. Include a change of clothes and under garments as well so that if you do wind up having to do without your luggage for a bit at least you have something to wear.