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Losing our Luggage

One of the things I advise people traveling with children to do is check their luggage. Yes, luggage fees are each way and can quickly add up and become cost prohibitive but there are a few ways to avoid these fees such as getting the airline’s credit card (usually these cards have an annual fee but many are free for the first year). It is so much easier to take care of your kids and push a stroller without having to worry about your roller board suitcases.

We learned this the hard way after a few challenging international flights. When we made the decision to take a trip to Japan we decided to check out luggage. We only brought with us our stroller, diaper bag (with a change of clothes for the baby), and a backpack loaded up with valuables and snacks to take on the plane. All our clothes was packed into our checked bags.

Life as an airline employee has many benefits, such as standby travel privileges. Many people outside the industry don’t realize employees can only get on a flight if there are empty seats. We can’t confirm ourselves on a flight. The empty seats are not guaranteed. If someone buys tickets or changes their flight at the last minute, they get on the plane and not us. We did not get on our flight. But our luggage did.

We do everything we can to make our bags easy to find. We have a hard plastic tag on the outside of each bag with our name, address, phone number, and email. We also put the same information on index cards inside our bags in easy to find locations. Besides that, we take cell phone pictures of our bag tags (that you get from the airline after you check your bags) just in case we lose the tags. We used the airline’s app to track the bags the whole time they were “lost.” Other things you can do is to tie bright colored material around your luggage handles to make your bag stand out and take pictures of your packed suitcase to help identify it if it is lost.

I write down my personal info on a notecard and place it inside our suitcase in case the outside tag breaks. Also note the colored handle to help identify the bag when we get to baggage claim.
I put a second notecard in one of the outside pockets. Also my bag tag is attached with thick rubber to ensure it doesn’t get torn off. Suitcases go through a lot of abuse during their travels.

The problem was that we couldn’t wait for our bags to get back to us. There were empty seats going from a different city and we left for Japan from there. Before leaving, I talked to as many different agents as I could and explained our situation. They put notes into our file but let us know the bags might just get returned to our departure airport. We could end up in Japan without clothes.

That is actually exactly what happened. We got to Japan and I talked to another agent. The bags were being sent to the same city we left from. They said the bags were scheduled to be sent on the next day’s flight and we could either come back to the airport to pick them up or pay to have them sent to our place in Tokyo. We paid since Narita is quite far from Tokyo. When we got to Tokyo we went clothes shopping. Our bags arrived 2 days later.

We learned a valuable lesson from this experience. With modern technology bags are rarely lost for good. But sometimes your bags might not make it in time for your vacation. What if your bags didn’t make it? We now take 1 roller board suitcase, packed with about 2 days of clothes, onboard the plane with us. We still check our other suitcases with the rest of our clothes. We always take our valuables in our carry on bags, but we also make sure our important, expensive to replace clothes comes with us in our carry on. The clothes in our checked luggage can be easily replaced. Also, if you are traveling to a cold place, bring jackets and coats with you just in case.

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor

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