Lost Luggage Survival Guide

By Susie Reese

The baggage claim can be a very lonely place when it’s just you and a few bags, none of which are yours; however, the venture into the unknown doesn’t have to be painful when denial ends and reality leaves you with a single carry-on and no fresh clothes. Follow these five easy steps to (hopefully) reclaim your luggage in our Lost Luggage Survival Guide!


Step One: Remain calm.

Most likely your bag was misplaced and is not lost, and you’ll be reunited with your precious, fluffy slippers soon.

baggage claim travel tips lost luggage

Be optimistic! Your bag will be found!


Step Two: Visit your airline’s baggage counter, which is usually located by baggage claim.

There, a friendly customer service representative will aid you in your mission. If you checked in early for your flight, your bag might have flown on a different aircraft and arrived before you, so the rep will direct you to the oversized/previously shipped bag area as well as other baggage carousels from flights that came from your original destination. With any luck, you’ll find your missing bag.

lost luggage

Your bag might be on another carousel. It happens more times than you think.


Step Three: No luck, huh?  Still, no need to worry.

Your baggage might have been confiscated by the airline because you had two jars of jelly wrapped together from a trip to Knott’s Berry Farm, and the airline feared the contents. Good news—they didn’t pull you from the plane, so most likely, the airline still has your bag. The airline rep will now ask for those tags you received at check-in (you kept them, right?) before giving you a short form to fill out. The form usually includes your name, address, email address, and phone number. In return, you’ll receive a new reference number and a website in which to check for updates.  If you didn’t keep your luggage tags, the airline will still be able to locate your bags, but it will take longer.

lost luggage

Remember those tags that the airline desk clerk gave you? Now’s the time to find them.


Step Four: Panicking yet? Relax.

You’re doing great, and the airline’s optimum goal is get those fluffy slippers back to you within 24 hours, 48 hours at the most. If you’re at your home destination—yay! You can go home and get a fresh set of clothes and a new toothbrush while you wait. If you’re not, the airline will give you vouchers to buy toiletries and usually a change of clothes. (Vouchers vary by airline.) Now, it’s time to play the Waiting Game! The airline should send you updates via email or ask you to check the provided website address, using your new reference number as a log-in, to read updates.

lost luggage emails

Check your email. The airline will contact you with updates!

Step Five: Don’t wait to hear from your airline.

Go online as soon as reasonably possible and read the airline’s complete policy concerning lost luggage. Depending on the airline, a more in-depth claim may have to be filed in as few as three days after your luggage went missing or in as many as seven days. This step is paramount especially if your bag isn’t found. If you had something of value in it, such as work electronics or fluffy slippers, you’ll want to make sure you file the claim when needed.

Looking for more travel tips? Find how to travel solo, book a single parent’s vacation, and more here.  

Solution One: The Airline Found Your Bag!

Whoo! The airline sent you an email with information pertaining to your found baggage. It also will transport your bag from the airport to your house/hotel and provide a picture of the courier who is delivering your bag. The email should also give you a time of the delivery and notice that you will have to sign for the bag or leave a release form.


lost luggage

You got your bag! Do a happy dance!

Solution Two: The Airline Still Hasn’t Found Your Bag?

Boo! You have to file a claim.

Oh, man. Worst case scenario time.

Oh, man. Worst case scenario time.

This entails you going online to your airline’s website and filing out a more detailed report with a description of your bag and the contents. If your bag isn’t found within the allotted time period, you will be reimbursed, but there are limits as to how much the airline will refund. Also, they won’t be able to replace those fluffy slippers, so if those slippers are important to you, always carry them on instead.


Worried about baggage fees, too? (Who isn’t’?) Then check out our guide on how to avoid paying them here


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