Lost Luggage: Tips For Not Losing Yours

Lost luggage – a terrible way to start your vacation!

Lost luggage: Tips for keeping

What happens to lost luggage, anyway? The airlines swear only .5% of luggage ever stays lost and that 99.5% of all lost luggage is returned to owners. If true…that is an amazing statistic! If luggage doesn’t find its way home within 90 days it goes to luggage heaven.

Unclaimed Baggage Center: Where Lost Luggage Ends Up

Scottsboro, Alabama is home to the Unclaimed Baggage Center and oh, what an interesting spot to shop it must be! There are 4000 square feet of shopping space and the list of departments is just what you would expect at Dillard’s or Macy’s – women’s dresses, fine jewelry, cameras, formal wear, and men’s suits.


Bargains are to be had and the store gets 7,000 new items EVERY day. EVERY day. Can you believe it? The top two items that show up at ย this store are laptops and coats. Moms will not be surprised there. Everyone knows the lost and found bin at school is always overflowing with coats!

The Unclaimed Baggage Center began in 1970 selling items on card tables out of a two bedroom house. Now, it covers more than a city block and is visited by over 1 million visitors a year from all over the world. This place is BIG! They have their own onsite dry cleaning facility and they dry clean 50,000 pieces a month!

You would expect to find clothes and electronics here, but they also have some pretty odd stuff show up! They buy the bags, sight unseen, so even they don’t know what they’ll find! The large staff ย cleans, appraises, and wipes electronics clean before sorting them. The best stuff makes it to the floor for sale – the other 1/2? – part is donated and part is thrown away.

Some of the craziest things they’ve found in lost luggage?

*live rattlesnake *bear skin packed in salt (probably also the smelliest thing they’ve found) * Las Vegas show girl costume

*40.95 carat natural emerald *camera from a space shuttle (It was returned to NASA) *a shrunken head (see the photo here)

Ask for a chance to participate in the baggage experience!

Monday – Saturday at 2:30, one customer gets the chance to open an unprocessed lost luggage bag! They say each bag tells a story!

How NOT to lose your luggage.

1) Use a luggage tag.

This sound obvious, but apparently not everyone does it. Seriously? Buy a luggage tag and USE IT. We love to buy them from destinations, but my all time favorite came from this ETSY company, leathermadenice. Customize with your names! I bought a set for hubby. ๐Ÿ™‚

2) Label the INSIDE of the bag.

Luggage tags can be torn off so put another one inside the bag. The easiest way to do this is to tape a business card on the INSIDE of your luggage.

3) Include an itinerary.

Inside the bag include an itinerary. I leave it right on top so that is the first thing you see when you open the bag. I always hope this person will be me, but in the event the luggage is lost, the airline will be able to reunite me and my suitcase.

4) Double check the tag for the correct airport code.

I always ask, as cheerfully as possible, “Is that bag going to ___________?” The airline personnel always glance again and this makes sure your luggage is being sent on the same adventure as you!

5) Put a tag or ribbon or strap on your luggage so it does not look like all the others.

Sometimes luggage makes it to the correct airport but is taken home by the wrong person. Make YOUR luggage easy to spot. Use a sticker or a crazy strap or slap a crazy graffiti paint mark on it – anything to keep it from looking exactly like the other 800 black suitcases that are coming off the conveyor belt.

Why does luggage get lost?

Unlabeled bags

Labeling is the crucial to having misrouted bag find its way back to you.

Damaged tags

Remember the commercials with gorilla’s jumping on bags? Now machines are to blame. Sometimes a tag can get caught up during the process and become hard to read or get torn off completely,

Human error – traveler

You forget to pick up your bags. Think it can’t happen? With kids and bags and jet lag…anything is possible. When you realize your mistake contact the airlines to figure out the next step.

Human error – airline employee

Sometimes agents accidentally type in the wrong city code. They are human and mistakes happen. ย If your bag is properly labeled with your information they’ll be able to track you down and eventually get your luggage to the right place.

You have the info you need to hang on to those bags and have them arrive at the same exciting destination that you do!

Need help with what to pack IN the luggage you aren’t going to lose? Find tips here and a packing list here!

Lost Luggage tips: Brussels Griffon in suitcase

Happy travels and may you end up with all your OWN luggage when you arrive!

Natalie, The Educational Tourist

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39 Responses

  1. 99livesblog says:

    It’s been useful reading this post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. JC says:

    Thanks Natalie lots of great stuff to ponder

  3. Great tips, thanks for sharing!

  4. Such useful information in this post. The tips are brilliant-much needed guidance for all travellers! The historical details about the Unclaimed Baggage Center began were wildly interesting. Glad you included those as well. Great work!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Thanks for stopping by! I think working at the Unclaimed Baggage center would be a crazy job! They see all sorts of weird things. Makes me look at luggage differently on the carrousel….wondering what crazy things are in there! LOL!

  5. Alyssa Ramos says:

    Great tips! My dog gets in the suitcase too when I bring it out haha

  6. A rattlesnake?! That’s just crazy! We’re about to travel full-time, these tips are so helpful. I will be putting a luggage tag inside my bags with my itinerary as well. Thanks!

  7. betsywuebker says:

    And take the inside tag out when you donate used luggage! Otherwise, you’ll get middle of the night calls from Amsterdam, where your former suitcase is separated from its new African owner. Don’t ask me how I know. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  8. carolcolborn says:

    Of course! We are so used to just putting a luggage tag! Thanks.

  9. noelmorata says:

    All excellent tips on not getting your suitcase lost in transit – my last time, it was lost for 5 days while I was travelling in different cities – not a fun experience with no clean underwear

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Wow! Five days is LONG time! Hopefully it was your last experience with that though – we can hope, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. Bethany Dickey says:

    Great tips!! I rarely travel with more than a carryon but these are excellent and creative.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Good for you! ๐Ÿ™‚ I did that once upon a time, but with kiddos….even packing lightly you have more stuff!

  11. Megsy says:

    Great tips. I’ve had my luggage lost a few times – it’s such a pain!

  12. Great Tips!
    I never thought about putting an ID tag inside my backpack [so simple and effective]…

    • NatalieTanner says:

      You are welcome! I hope you never find yourself with lost luggage but better safe than sorry, right?

  13. Sue Reddel says:

    I had no idea about the Unclaimed Baggage Center that sounds like an interesting place to visit. Great tips on how to avoid lost luggage. I very rarely check bags but when I do I follow your suggestions.

  14. mappingmegan says:

    I can’t believe someone tried to travel with a live rattlesnake in their luggage!! You think you’ve heard it all, but then humanity surprises you every single day!!

    Fantastic tips … we lost our luggage earlier in the year coming from Istanbul to Venice, luckily we’re sticklers for keeping our luggage stickers in case we ever have to claim – thankfully it was returned to us the next day, but I learnt a very valuable lesson that day to always travel with a spare change of clothes in your carry on!

    • NatalieTanner says:

      I know!!! I so don’t want to know if someone near me has a live snake of any kind in their luggage! I would just prefer to be blissfully unaware of that!! LOL!! Did you see the you tube video of a green snake that got loose in the overhead compartment on a plane while in the air?? I would have just passed out. LOL!

      Losing your luggage is always a bummer, but….it sure leads to some unexpected adventures….like buying toothpaste or panties in a foreign country! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  15. onlybyland says:

    I had know idea what happened to lost luggage, I just presumed it was stolen. You have educated me that it is a lot more complex than I thought. They should make a TV show about people buying the lost luggage, it could be similar to Storage Wars. I may actually put more identification on my bag after reading this.

  16. ljlegend says:

    I have to say, I love reading your posts always informative. Don’t think I could cope with the rattlesnake (what kinda crazy person would even just randomly carry a snake in a suitcase? I suppose it could have been a snakes on the plane movie moment haha), but I’d of loved a peek at the NASA Camera

  17. Diana Chen says:

    I never check luggage when I travel, but great tips for people who do! One reason I only travel with a carry on backpack is because I don’t want my luggage to get lost. I can’t believe a rattle snake was found in a luggage once! I would not want to be the person to find that.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      Oh, I’m TOTALLY with you on this! The very thought of a snake creeps me out and I’m afraid if I ever found one in that job…I might have to have a new job!! Or….I could beat on every suitcase with a stick before opening it. LOL!!

  18. Neha Verma says:

    I am traveling long distance in couple of months, and I am really worried about my luggage getting lost. Thanks to your tips, feeling much relieved now. Particularly the double check on the tag by asking the airport personnel sounds quiet smart

  19. saraessop says:

    I definitely wouldn’t want to be the person finding the live rattlesnake. I was amazed when I first heard about the Unclaimed Baggage Center . I guess it’s only for American airlines though? All countries should have something like this!

  20. I’ve now feel very lucky that I have never lost my luggage before. ๐Ÿ˜› These are all super great and helpful tips. I would feel so sad if my suitcase ever got lost!

  21. Wow, I never heard about the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Itโ€™s both sad and hilarious. Losing luggage is terrible. At the same time, finding a bear skin or a Las Vegas show girl costume would certainly make my day ;). Or even 50 vacuum-packed frogs (followed the link and checked they favorite finds). Thank you for sharing.

  22. rhiydwi says:

    Some great tips here! Other than your standard luggage tag I don’t actually follow any of them, but maybe i should from hereon out. I’ve only lost my luggage once and that was due to my own human error. It was my first time travelling alone AND my first time travelling. I was going from UK to Peru via Miami and had no idea I had to recheck my baggage in the States! So my backpack had an extra 2 days vacation in Miami while I wore the same clothes for days on end in Peru haha.

    • NatalieTanner says:

      LOL! That is a funny story…..that I bet is a lot funnier now, right? LOL! Those things are rarely funny at the time. ๐Ÿ™‚ We all live and learn. Thanks for sharing.

  1. August 29, 2016

    […] Donโ€™t put all your eggs in one basket by packing each personโ€™s stuff in a separate suitcase. What if one gets lost? Put a little for each person in EACH suitcase. Then, if one piece of luggage gets lost you still have a clothes for each person. Thankfully, luggage doesn’t get lost that often. Read here for tips on how to avoid having your luggage lost. […]

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