This is an actual bag on the tarmac at Miami Int’l Airport. For hours we watched as all kinds of vehicles (even a plane) just drove around it without stopping to pick it up. I sure hope they had an extra change of clothes in their carry on because their bag was certainly not going to make it!

How to Pack in Anticipation….  Five out of the last nine trips that I’ve been on have resulted in one person in my party not receiving at least one of their bags when arriving at our destination. And it wasn’t just bad luck on my part…statistics show that more luggage was lost this past year than in any year since 1990 – 30 million bags failed to arrive on time, about 10,000 bags per day. Among the reasons: airline budget cuts, greater airport congestion, tight connection times, increased transfers among airlines and stricter security. In defense of the airlines, most bags are delayed – not lost forever – and on average are returned to their owners in 1.3 days or 31 hours after being reported missing.  So let’s face it…those odds are not good nor in a travelers favor and has caused me to rethink how I pack. “Who checks a bag these days” is what most backpack wielding, yoga pant wearing under 30’s must be thinking. Not that I have anything against them…quite the contrary. I wish I could travel that light. But, being that I was a Girl Scout and then a Leader for many years, the motto “Be Prepared” has been ingrained into almost every area of my life….especially travel. And that means being prepared for anything including but not limited to severe fluctuations in weather and natural disasters. Simply put, if I’m headed off to the hottest place on the planet, I always pack a few sweaters or a jacket “just in case” it gets chilly at night. Likewise, I always pack a wide variety of OTC meds “just in case” I get anything from a sinus infection to motion sickness to an ingrown toenail. I’ve gotten better about the latter when traveling in the US as there is usually a Wal Mart or drug store in virtually every city. In any event though, when I go on a trip that is going to last any longer than a week, I need to check a bag….or two depending on the itinerary and weather. For instance, if I’m going on a cruise and expected to “dress” for dinner then that would require basically two changes of clothes per day. Add to that the shoes and accessories to match and I’m looking at quite a bit of baggage. And, if I’m planning a trip to a cold weather destination, sweaters, jeans and the like are considerably more bulky than a bathing suit, flip flops and a few pair of shorts. Don’t get me wrong, I have packed lightly for trips. I once packed everything needed for a nine day motorcycle trip in a Harley Davidson saddle bag (I’ll write about that award winning feat later). So, I’ve come up with a few ways to insure that when I reach my destination I at least have a change of clothes, my toiletries (including all necessary meds), and my electronics. If I’m warm weather bound, I definitely pack my bathing suit in my carry on as well so I can comfortably sit by the pool and sip fruity drinks with umbrellas in them while waiting for my lost luggage to arrive. Sounds much better than hanging out in the hotel lobby in the Caribbean sporting a cable knit sweater, socks and hiking boots because you don’t have anything else to wear…..Right? (that did actually happen to me….I’m from Chicago and usually travel to warm weather destinations during our harsh winters so I’m dressed accordingly). Consequently, I’ll share a few tips to possibly prevent your bag(s) from being lost in the first place and then how to pack in anticipation that it will be.

An ounce of prevention:

1. Remove any old baggage claim tags from your luggage as they can cause confusion to baggage handlers.

2. Keep your luggage tags current. That way, even if your bags don’t make it to you on your trip, they will eventually make it to your home.

3. You can also go one step further and place a copy of your itinerary inside your bag. On that itinerary it’s a good idea to include your email address. Most people don’t subscribe to an international call plan when traveling overseas but almost everyone can get connected to the internet. That way, if the airline is trying to contact you, they can do so via email.

4. Check your bags as early as possible. Airlines suggest at least 90 minutes in advance (two hours for international travel) but at daily high-traffic times and with seasonal crowding you should add 30 minutes to this time. Last-minute checked bags simply may not make it through security screening and onto your plane.

5. Make sure that your bags have been ticketed to the correct destination and on the correct flight number prior to you leaving the luggage check-in area or ticket counter.

Smart packing or checked bag alternatives:

1. If you are traveling with a partner (i.e. husband, close girlfriend, children, etc.) then you should plan to put a few things in each other’s luggage. That way if one bag gets lost, you each still have at least some articles of clothing appropriate for your destination.

2. It’s better to simply anticipate a lost bag while packing. By thinking in that way, you will not be tempted to pack anything valuable or essential in a checked bag.

3. If you are female and traveling alone, invest in a Versalette. I say invest because the item is not cheap however it’s worth its weight in gold due to its versatility. This beautiful piece of women’s clothing can be worn several times/30 different ways practically eliminating a few outfits altogether. If you throw this in your purse or carry on and your luggage gets lost, you literally have a couple of outfits to get you through. To view the Versalette and read the many reviews, visit the Seamly website.

4. Ship your luggage ahead to your destination using services like FedEx, Luggage Concierge or Virtual Bellhop. It not only will save you loads of time standing in the check in line, you won’t have to wait at the baggage carousel upon landing. Most hotels will accept and hold your luggage until you arrive. In some instances, shipping fees can be less than the airlines’ fees for a checked bag or overweight/ over-sized (think sports gear) luggage.

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