The airlines have upgraded baggage tracking technology so reuniting passengers with luggage is much quicker and easier today. It's encouraging that only .005% of all checked baggage is permanently lost. Luckily, most bags will catch up with you within hours (usually the next flight on your route) and the airline will deliver it to you by courier.

As a passenger, you can take certain precautions that can help the airlines return items you leave on a plane or get your bags back to you quickly should they temporarily go astray en route.

Follow these tips whenever you travel:


It's important to remember that traveling has inherent risks. It's never prudent to pack (or in some cases, even take along) expensive items or belongings that are hard or impossible to replace.

Any valuables you have should be kept with you as you travel including prescriptions, travel documents and cash, as well as jewelry. Upscale catalogs and retail travel stores offer numerous products to conceal valuables such as money belts.

If the nature of your travel demands that you routinely take expensive jewelry and clothing or equipment, be sure you cover their replacement value under a policy you buy in addition to the automatic, limited coverage provided by the airline. Check with your own insurance company for this protection or buy excess valuation coverage on the spot at the ticket counter.


Bag tags are required, but they can be torn off. Some suitcases have a slide-in window about the size of a business card for secondary identification. Consider these when shopping for a new suitcase.

Some travelers put their identification on the bags tags when they purchase the luggage and never think about it again. Airlines sometimes discover the owner of the bag has not lived at the address on the tag for many years. Make sure yours are up to date.


Put additional identification inside your bag including a copy of your itinerary. This can help the airlines know whether to send your bags to your travel destination or your home.

With stricter conditions on carry-on baggage, you may find suitcases and hanging bags you previously were able to sneak on board will need to be checked. That's why it's smart to take precautions on every bag, even the ones you plan to keep with you on the plane.


Put your name and address on everything. Remember camp? The reason your mom sewed labels in your underwear is the same reason you want to label things you don't think of as luggage - your glasses case with your expensive designer eyewear inside, your camera and camera bag or the extra tote you bought on the trip to carry all those goodies home. If you leave these items behind on the plane, it's essential that you have identification on these items so they can be found among the hundreds of similar items left in overhead bins or seat pockets.


Before packing for any trip, check all the zippers and locks on your bags since they may have become worn or broken on a previous trip. And be aware, even if the zippers and locks are in good condition, overstuffed luggage is prone to burst open during the normal shuffle between the terminal and the plane.


Make an inventory of the items packed in each bag to assist the airlines in finding your luggage.


To prevent your look-alike bag from being grabbed off the carousel by a traveler too rushed to check the tags, tie a colored ribbon on the handle or secure a colored elastic band (made for this purpose) around your suitcase. These kinds of mix-ups are preventable, so take precautions.


At the airport, take the time to make sure the airline tag placed on your luggage correctly identifies the last destination on your journey. This can prevent your bag from being off-loaded too early or stopping in a city half-way to where you are going. If you don't know the three-letter ID for your city, ask the Skycap or ticket agent.

It's smart to be especially courteous to the Skycap. A tip and a respectful attitude can go a long way to making a Skycap extra careful to get your bags checked carefully.

Be sure you get your bag tag stubs with the UPC bar code. In today's new era of ticketless travel, it's easy to forget these. You probably will get a ticket jacket with the tags attached, but sometimes they're just stapled to whatever you have - a faxed itinerary, for example. These act as your receipt and are your proof your bag was checked. Treat them as important travel documents.


On the plane, carefully note where you've stashed items. If the only overhead space that is available is over row 27 and you're in row 23, you might grab your jacket from the closest bin and leave other belongings stowed elsewhere.


If your luggage does not arrive in the baggage claim area, find the baggage agent on duty immediately. There's a chance your luggage already arrived and is locked up in the agent's area for safe keeping. Sometimes luggage is loaded onto a non-stop flight even though you were on a plane that had a stopover on the way so your suitcases get there before you.

But if your luggage is not there, do not leave the airport before completing the paperwork for the baggage agent. Fill out all information about your luggage on the forms provided. Be as detailed as possible. Get a phone number to call in case you need to follow-up.

If you need basic amenities such as toothbrush, toothpaste and razor to be ready for a meeting, ask. Most airlines will provide these for you while you're waiting for your suitcase.

If you follow these basic, common sense tips, you should reduce the risk of losing your luggage and precious belongings.