Delta Air Lines this week began a trial for a twenty minute guarantee on checked baggage when flying domestically. If your checked bag doesn’t reach the carousel within twenty minutes Delta will give you 2,500 miles (restrictions apply). The trial period runs through March 31, and they could possibly implement this on a permanent basis if it’s successful.
Here’s the deal. I hardly ever check my bag, especially on a business trips. It may sound like a really great idea to have someone else haul your luggage around for you, but you’ll discover quickly that it’s almost always a better move to carryon instead. Twenty minutes may not sound like a lot of time to wait, but after traveling all day that will seem like an eternity. Not to mention there are checked baggage fees, a higher risk of things getting lost or damaged, and if you have a connection a delay could cause your luggage not to make the flight. If you’re concerned about your luggage fitting in the overhead bin check out my carry-on luggage page for help. If you are determined to check your bag for a specific reason (like needing extra stuff for work, or if you have an injury) here are some tips for doing so.
Put valuables and important items in your carryon. I have heard many horror stories about valuables getting lost, damaged, or stolen when checking your bag. I’ve had a few minor things go ‘missing’ when checking my bag, and have fallen victim to damaged contents on more than one occasion. So don’t put your laptop, important documents, CASH, or other valuable or fragile items in your checked luggage unless you can live with the consequences if things go awry.
Put your medications in your carryon. If you have a medication that you can’t go without for a certain length of time please don’t check it. TSA has guidelines on carrying on medical supplies, for medications in general and for more specific issues like diabetes.
Put an extra set of clothing in your carryon. Again, if something happens and your bag is delayed by a day having that extra set of clothes will be the best decision you ever made. I also recommend you don’t check your coat for this same reason (just make sure you wait before you put it in the overhead bin). While we are on the topic of coats, I suggest you don’t ever gate check your coat either.
Know the fees. If you do end up checking your bag be prepared to pay up on many airlines. JetBlue allows your first checked bag to go free, and Southwest allows your first two checked bags to go free, but beyond that most airlines charge for checking bags (as you’ll see in this airfarwatchdog airline fee list). Elite status, and certain credit cards are ways to dodge checked baggage fees. Check out this helpful post from The Points Guy on how to avoid checked baggage fees on major domestic carriers.
Don’t put liquids in your checked bag. Air pressure can cause liquids to do some unexpected things. See what happened with my Contigo water bottle. Imagine something like that happening in your checked luggage! Also, if you ever see luggage getting loaded and unloaded from a plane you’ll notice your it tends to get thrown and usually has many other pieces of luggage on top of it. All these conditions can spell disaster for liquids in a checked bag. If you need liquids, put them in a plastic bag to protect the rest of your stuff.
If you are going to lock your bag use a TSA approved lock. If you lock your bag with a lock that’s not TSA approved then you most likely won’t have a lock when your luggage is returned. The TSA may need to search your bag, and without a TSA approved lock (such as this one) they will have no other choice but to break your lock to access your bag.
Use luggage tags. Make sure you have a luggage tag with your name, phone number, and address on it. This is essential. If your luggage is delayed or lost it’s going to be much more difficult for the airlines to track you down otherwise. Also, make sure you have the correct address on the tag if you’ve moved. Use a colorful, unique luggage tag (such as this one where you can choose your initial) so your luggage is easy to identify.
Readers, what is your take on the Delta guarantee, and what checked bag tips do you have?
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