4 tips to make sure you pick up the right suitcase

Back in college, I had a roommate. She was relatively neat, organized, and responsible. One weekend she flew to visitluggage tag funny some family in Chicago, and checked her bag on the way home. Upon arrival she went to baggage claim, grabbed her suitcase, and drove to our apartment. Imagine her surprise when she checked our voicemail and she had a message from a woman she had never heard of:

“This message is for Beth. You have my suitcase. Please, please call me as soon as possible so we can exchange bags.” Whoops!

Turns out my roommate had picked up a suitcase that looked like hers without checking the luggage tag. When the other woman realized that her bag was gone and Beth’s—an identical suitcase—was the only one left, she called to make the switch. I can’t imagine how panicked that lady must have been!

Granted, I don’t recommend checking your bag if there is any way to avoid it. But I have seen people grab the wrong bag from the overhead bin as well as the baggage claim. In a sea of identical black bags, here are tips to make sure you’ve got the right one:

  1. Don’t get a black bag. There is a balance here—you want a bag that is distinctive yet not one that makes you look unprofessional. Yes, black is the most available color, but there are plenty of subtle colors that will stand out. The Victorinox Werks Traveler 5.0 is available in olive and navy, in addition to the basic black. TravelPro has a more affordable option available in blue, red, and purple.
  2. Luggage tag. Whatever color or pattern your suitcase, if you have a luggage tag it’s unlikely someone will have your exact combo. There are plenty of brightly colored yet professional options, including this patterned one and this colored one.
  3. Update your info. Had my roommate taken the wrong bag a month earlier she and the other woman would have had a much harder time finding one another, as the wrong phone number was listed on her tag. Make sure when you move you update your information!
  4. Check the tag. It doesn’t matter how positive I am that I have the right bag, I always always check my tag to make sure. Sure, it sounds silly. But after my college roommate’s experience I double check!

Readers, have you ever picked up the wrong bag?


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  1. Also, scotch tape your business card (or equivalent) on the back of every piece of electronics – laptop, iPad, e-reader. It helps in two ways – sorting out what you had to separate at security, so someone doesn’t inadvertently walk of with your laptop, and if you leave it in the seat back, the airline will know whose it is and where to send it. (I might just have recent experience with the last one!)

  2. I travel internationally, and often have to have a carry on (Europe size) then a checked bag as well. I have colorful bag tags -several of them, on my bags in case one gets ripped off (this has happened) I also put a terrible color of ribbon around the handles. I used to make fun of cruise people who do this, but I keep a small piece of the ribbon on my carry on bag and tell the porter “this color” It transcends many languages. You can also spot someone walking away with your bag, as I did a few months ago in Heathrow.

  3. Great advice! Also, watch your bags on shuttle buses! I had to get off a shuttle bus at O’Hare and chase a guy who had grabbed my bag and was dashing into the airport. I keep an eye on my bags all the time. You might be paying attention but I guarantee you, most people are not!

  4. As for putting your phone number on there, as an international traveler I find it is a waste of time. One thing that will almost never change is my email address so I just put that.
    When you are picking a luggage tag be careful how easily it comes off. I had a friend get me a really cool lego one from lego land and it got ripped off on the first trip. The tag should have some flexibility where it attaches to your suitcase in case it gets trapped.

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