Travel Tips

Baggage Woes? Keep It Closed

Locations in this article:  Phoenix, AZ San Francisco, CA

Dear Peter,

I just flew from Phoenix Sky Harbor to San Francisco on US Airways. It was late and I knew I wasn’t going to do any work on the plane so I checked my laptop.

When I arrived in San Francisco, my laptop was missing from my bag. While filling out a claim, I was told that this happens with laptops a lot because when they are removed from the bag and scanned for explosives, that the handler sometimes forgets which bag the laptop was removed from! Are you kidding me? Have you heard of this before?


Peter responds: Laree, it’s a shame about your loss. But my rule number one is that there are two kinds of airline bags–carry on and LOST. If you absolutely must check anything, never do so just because it might be expedient, especially with valuables–and you should NEVER check a laptop under any circumstances. It’s not just theft that I’m worried about…it’s damage.
A reader shares her travel tip on how to see if your luggage has been rifled through, even before you open it…

Saw the piece on Today and Peter’s suggestion of opening your luggage at the airport prior to going home is the hard way to accomplish anti-theft.

What I do with every checked bag is that I place a plastic cable cord tie lock on my zippers. The zipper is now locked — until and unless someone snips this tough plastic.

It accomplishes two things: When I arrive at my destination I know immediately even before opening it if my bag were inspected by the TSA or not.

When I take it off the carousel at home, if it is open I will know either that it was either inspected by the TSA or that someone else has opened the bag. At that point it is worth investigating it while still at the airport.

One truism that wasn’t mentioned in this piece is that luggage transfer to the carousel is typically so slow that in almost all cases, even with taking a leisurely stroll from the gate to the carousel, you can almost always beat your luggage there and keep an eye on it from the moment it hits the rounder.

I travel with a supply of the cable ties- they work very well, and the TSA doesn’t mind snipping them if they decide to inspect my luggage.


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For more information on lost or damaged baggage, check out “Avoiding Lost Luggage Woes”.