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Things Airlines Don't Tell You About Your Luggage

Lots of old luggage

Lots of old luggage


Ever wonder why most luggage end up battered and bruised when it finally arrived at a carousel of your destination... if at all? And did some of the contents not make the trip intact?

Please read the tips below so you will have a good trip. In no particular order...

Sub-bagging (Bags Within Bags)

Do you *really* want your luggage to survive the trip? Bag important stuff separately within your luggage. Use those vacuum packing bags to separate stuff inside the luggage. Shirts, pants, underwear and socks, all go into separate bags. That way, even if your luggage fell apart or popped open, your stuff will stay together (mostly) instead of spread over bazillion places all over the conveyor line or wherever it ended up.

Tag Your Luggage

It's surprising, even for an occasional traveler like me, while waiting for my bag at the airport carousel, that most bags that came around lack luggage tag other than the one put on at the ticket counter by the ticketing agent.

Do people honest expect that little piece of paper actually STAY attached to your luggage? When it's just a STICKER?

Buy a case with a built-in place for a luggage tag that you can fill in and slide back in!

While the traditional "tied-on" luggage tags look okay, they often get in the way of the baggage handlers, and/or get caught on things. If you can, velcro the back of the tag to the luggage so it doesn't flop around.


In fact, if you sub-bagged (see previous tip), put a tag in EACH sub-bag!

Luggage tag, with barcode barely visible... REMOVE THEM before you fly!

Luggage tag, with barcode barely visible... REMOVE THEM before you fly!

Remove Old Tags

Modern luggage handling system is automated as much as possible. A series of barcode scanners look for the barcode on your luggage, which tells the conveyor system where it should go. And a special purgatory is reserved for luggage that have more than one barcode or their barcode could not be read. They are routed into the "exception" area where someone will get to them and try to look for actual routing info by hand... probably too late to catch your flight.

You can't do anything about your real tag getting damaged, but you can remove ANYTHING with a barcode before your luggage enter the system.

Don't tempt the thieves... Don't check money (or other valuables) as luggage!

Don't tempt the thieves... Don't check money (or other valuables) as luggage!

Carry Your Valuables

Why would ANY ONE keep cash in checked luggage is beyond me, but according to some folks who'd know, it does happen. Unless you're a smuggler / mule (whether knowing or not knowing), there really is NO excuse to NOT carry your valuables with you.

This also means any sort of personal electronics (except maybe an electric shaver), jewelry, or such items. While most folks are honest hard-working folks, there are thieves in both airline and TSA.

Don't tempt them.

No Liquids!

Under no circumstances that I can think of should you pack ANY liquids in checked luggage! And I mean any sort of lotion, shampoo, conditioner, or God forbid, pepper sauce, soy sauce, and similar condiments. Or worse, alcohol, either hard liquor or red wine. I don't care if this is your dead grandma's secret recipe! Please, but no! Carry on, buy the stuff when you get there, or use the hotel freebies! Or do without!

Consider Murphy's law... Whatever the worst case is, it probably will happen. Your bottle will break. Your liquid will spill, and not only it will get all over YOUR stuff, it'll leak, and get all over the baggage handlers, their equipment, and OTHER PEOPLE'S LUGGAGE.

I know the TSA actually recommends you to check liquids as luggage if it's more than their recommended carry-on quantity. Please don't. Go WITHOUT liquids in your luggage. You'll thank me.

Hard side luggage, more expensive, but worth the inconvenience.

Hard side luggage, more expensive, but worth the inconvenience.

Use "Hard Side" Luggage

While a lot of people prefer "soft side" luggage as they think they can pack a few more items into them, as well as cheaper, I recommend hard side cases instead, due to several reasons.

The more you pack, the more likely the zippers will fail or the sides will split... or catch on something. Hard size case are less prone to overloading, and the latches are tougher than zippers.

Overpacking your bag so it bulges out will require special handling as it's no longer a regular shape, which will delay your bag. You can't do that with a hard side case.

Hard side cases are also easier to stack for the baggage handlers, who'll appreciate it.

Hard side cases are tougher and handle abuse better

Corollary: Do NOT use any non-standard size luggage, like duffle bag, unless you enjoy "special handling" for your bags (which means it'll have to be hand-carried by someone)

If you must use soft side luggage, do NOT overpack.

Some Leftover Tips

And here's a few leftover tips that doesn't quite fit above...

Do NOT use broken bags (bags missing a wheel, bags with broken handle, etc.) Those are left aside as they require special handling (i.e. the airline will document their damage first) and that will delay your bag's arrival.

Do NOT use luggage straps. Luggage straps invariably come loose, and will probably get caught in something, often in the worst places possible.

Do NOT use irregular shaped bags. Luggage that's not a rectangular "suitcase" proportioned will likely not fit well on regular luggage handling conveyors and thus cause your bag to be put on the "special handling" pile (i.e. delayed) along with golf bags, surf boards, and pets.

Do NOT overpack your carryons either. Want to get on the wrong side of the flight attendant? Try to get that overpacked carryon into that overhead bin. They don't fit into overhead bins, and are too big to fit under the seats either. So they have to carry it to the overflow bins for you.

Hope these tips help. Have fun out there.

© 2013 kschang


Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 31, 2015:

Great tips about your luggage and how to handle them for your next flight. Voted up!

Chipp Marshal from New Jersey on January 16, 2014:

We just invested in a set of the "hard" luggage. Thanks for the tips.

Linda Bryen from United Kingdom on November 15, 2013:

Very interesting hub about your luggage. Thanks for sharing this useful hub.

Cynthia Lyerly from Georgia on November 15, 2013:

Very good advice. I also think that purchasing luggage with a lock is a must. It creeps me out to think that someone might go through my things. I once had a TSA agent go through my luggage in front of me. I think I am forever scarred by that incident.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 05, 2013:

Very relevant hub about Air travel and the plight of our luggage. Its not only that we receive them in a battered condition, sometimes they go missing too. It has happened with me at least 2 to 3 times. That is why I keep my cash, other valuables and important documents along with me in cabin luggage. I also mark my bag, so that it does not mix up with other same coloured or similar looking bags.

Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub! Voted up!