Keep your luggage safe

2012-06-25 15:46

Whenever I enter an airport terminal, Bridget Jones and her catastrophic Thailand misadventure enters my mind (spoiler alert: she becomes an unknowing drug mule, gets thrown into a Thai prison, but nonetheless has some fun singing ‘Like a Virgin' with her cell mates).

How easy would it be for someone to sneak something dodgy into my backpack, leaving me to face the fearful consequences?

And if you flip the coin the other way, how easy would it be for someone to remove something precious out of it too?

No matter how much of a seasoned traveller you are, luggage safety is always of the utmost concern, because, let's face it, having it tampered with or, heaven-forbid, lost could make or break your long-awaited holiday or important business trip.

Here are a few tips to ensure that your bags are as safe as you can make them

1. Pack & carry your bags yourself

Do all you can to be 100% certain of the contents of your bag before reaching customs, boarding a flight or checking in. Sometimes a friendly, even charming, stranger may offer to help carry your bags, but rather refuse. You never know who you're dealing with and without you knowing they could quickly slip something unwanted and illegal inside. The same goes for helping someone else carry their luggage. Rather let each carry their own.

2. Never leave your bag unattended

Not even for a split second. And if you can't watch it, get a TRUSTED friend/travelling companion/family member to keep an eye on it while you do whatever it is you need to do. While staying in hotel rooms, make use of the safe to store your valuables, and if you're staying in a hostel or some other budget accommodation, secure your zips with a lock.

3. Check in early

Checking your bags in last minute, could mean that they never even make it to the plane on time. Avoid running this risk by sending them through at least 90 minutes before boarding, and up to two hours before boarding during peak hours.

4. Cable-ties, locks and bag-wrapping

Cable-ties are a highly effective mechanism to instantly spot if your bag's been tampered with. Tie up all your zips with these little plastic strips just before heading to the airport and go over each one before checking your luggage in or going through customs to see if they're all still in place, and then once again on arrival. Black and white ones are the most common, so mix it up a bit by using different colours.

Locks are obviously a great way to secure your luggage, but if airport security wants to search your bag for some reason, they are allowed to cut the lock. So, if you're serious about your luggage safety, make sure you have another one or two on hand as replacements, or alternatively a few cable ties.

Most airports offer a bag-wrapping service these days, mostly at a nominal fee. If you want to be sure nothing gets subtracted or added to your load, go for this option.

5. Get to the carousel quickly

As soon as you touch down on the tarmac, start preparing your exit, so that you can reach the luggage conveyer belt as soon as possible. Of course this is a priority to everyone, so no need to be nasty, but rather leave loo visits and that sort of thing till you have safely gathered all your luggage. Otherwise your lonesome little bag may attract some unwanted attention, and no longer be there when you finally make it to the carousel.

6. Distinguishing features

Mark each of your bags with something that will set it apart from other bags. In this way, you can easily spot it from a mile away, which is great if it's being lugged away by a sneaky someone else.

7. Tag your bag

Make sure each of your luggage items have a sturdy tag with your name and contact details on. If you don't want to give away your home address, give a business address and instead of a phone number, an email address. Remember to put identification information INSIDE your bag too, in case the outer tag falls off.

8. Don't have a whole luggage entourage

Apart from being an unnecessary burden, lugging too many bags around can also be a logistical nightmare, making it difficult to keep track of where everything is. Keep things simple by having a large bag for clothes and shoes, a smallish daypack with essentials, and then an additional handbag/laptop bag if totally necessary if you're heading on a longish trip. For shorter trips, try to fit everything into a single bag, with the addition of a handbag/laptopbag.

9. Don't confuse the baggage handlers!

Remove all your previous flight tags from your luggage so as not to confuse those who are supposed to get it safely to the other side.

10. Hold on tight to the luggage receipt

When the ticket agent at the departure airport prints out the sticker that will be attached to your bag, he or she will also print out a receipt that will often be attached to your boarding pass (or its jacket.) Hold onto this - airline representatives can use it to track your bag.

11. Make a list

This could be tedious work, but if you are really serious about keeping ALL your luggage safe, make a comprehensive list of all is contents and leave a copy at home. This will be your saving grace if you need to claim compensation.

12. Rather look stupid, than feel stupid

If you use a backpack as your daypack, constantly check that all the zips and flaps are closed, so that nothing can fall out without your knowing. If you're squeezing through a crowded area, like a market or a train station, rather look like a fool wearing it in front and hugging it to your body, than feeling like one later when all your stuff has been stolen.

13. Get the right travel insurance

Make sure you're getting the right level of insurance, especially if you're in possession of expensive equipment, such as smart phones, cameras and laptops. Double check with your insurance company, or travel agent what the coverage includes and what it doesn't. Check out Q&A with a travel insurance sales manager.

14. Know the quarantine laws

The things that aren't allowed to enter a country may surprise you. For instance, in Australia you could get into serious trouble for bringing any sort of edibles through customs, while something like a set of knives could go unnoticed. In certain countries things like wood carvings are even prohibited to enter without being declared. So, make sure you know which items you're carrying should rather be brought to the attention of authorities before they pummel you into a little room for questioning.

Read more on:    travel tips  |  travel international

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