You are on the beginning of a vacation of a lifetime, and you get off the plane in an exotic location ready to start your journey, but first you need to make your way to the baggage claim. As you stand at baggage claim and wait and watch bag after bag come down and circle around, your bag is just not appearing. As people are getting their bags, yours is still not showing up, you start to get a little nervous. You try to tell yourself that someone has to have the last bag off the plane, and you can be that someone.

Then the moment of realization sets in as bags stop descending, and you are still standing there waiting – your bag did not make it to the baggage claim carousel. Now what?

This same situation happened to us right before we were to go on a cruise of a lifetime, and it was quite frustrating in many aspects. The first is that we were leaving for a cruise in a couple of days so we had a hard deadline. Second, we were getting different information from different people so we really had no idea what was going on. Some of the airline representatives would say our luggage was lost somewhere in Germany (which we did not ever go to Germany on this trip), some would say it was still in the United States, others would say it would be at our hotel in a couple of hours. It was frustrating when it didn’t arrive the many times they told us it would.

If this happens to you, the first thing you need to do is go to the airline customer service desk and explain the situation. The most important piece of information is your baggage claim tag. They will use this to track the luggage down. You will also need your destination address (vacation rental/hotel) and any other information that might be relevant (other phone numbers, travel itinerary if you will be moving locations soon). If you are traveling on a cruise (have the cruise line, cruise ship, and room number).

Once you have filed a report with the airline and provided the needed information, make sure you get a contact phone number (both for the number from your home country and the one you are visiting), report reference number, and any website info that will be needed to track that status.

It is helpful to have someone from your home country (if that is the main airline hub) to call the airline for you since their hours will match the main airlines hours, and you will tend to get better information. This helped us a great deal and also having someone from the hotel call for us so the language issue is not making the process take longer.

Since most luggage is not completely lost but only delayed (it might not have left the departure airport, was placed on the wrong plane or missed a connecting flight), the changes of your luggage catching up to you is really good. It did finally catch up to us, but it took about four days.

If you are on a cruise ship and still waiting for luggage, make sure to go to the guest services desk and file a report. The cruise line will help you contact the airlines and get your luggage on the ship.

Finally, if your luggage was missing for a day or more, file a complaint with the airline after your trip is over. They will compensate you for the time missing and reasonable amount of clothing/personal items that you had to buy while it was lost. Make sure you keep all of your receipts so you can turn them into the airline.

Tips for Next Time

Cross Pack – We were just using one suitcase per person since we had a direct flight and thought the chances of something getting lost were small. We were wrong there. You should pack a portion of everyone’s clothes in each suitcase. If there are three people going then each suitcase should have some of each traveler’s items in there. This way if one gets lost, everyone will have something to wear while the luggage is being found.

Change of Clothes in Carry-on – This one is a little obvious, but sadly, I didn’t pack a change of clothes in my carry-on bag. This meant I was wearing the same clothes for several days while my luggage was being found. By doing this, you will have something to change into and during big frustrations like this, having fresh clothes is nice.

Take a Photo of Packed Clothes (or make an itemized list) – Before you close up your suitcase, take a quick photo with your phone to make it easier to itemize things if your luggage is truly lost. An itemized list is better, but a photo can help during this situation.

Destination Address – We tend to put our home contact information on the luggage tags, but it is also helpful to have the hotel address/phone number (and if you are going on a cruise – the cruise line, ship name and room number) on your bags before you check them line. If your bag ends up in a weird place, it will make its way back to you much easier with that information readily available.

Hopefully, these tips will keep you from having the same frustrating time that we did when this happened to us and will keep your trip as happy and stress free as possible.