Why Checking a Bag This Summer Is a Terrible Idea

The only way to guarantee seeing your bag again? Learn to pack light


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It seems like everyone this summer has an airport baggage horror story, whether it's spotting piles of luggage scattered around airport check-in areas, waiting at the baggage claim carousel hours after arrival, or having lost baggage delivery delayed for days on end due to staff shortages. And we've all seen the jaw-dropping TikTok footage of bags being left on the tarmac as planes take off.

In a summer where we did not need more to stress out about, checked luggage has become the latest snag in a season filled with travel tribulations. The latest Air Travel Consumer Report reveals that almost 220,000 bags were mishandled in the United States in April alone, more than doubling the 94,000 bags misplaced the year before.

And the woes don't only exist stateside. This week, pilots and crew flying out of London's Heathrow Airport were told to avoid checking in any luggage on the flights they were assigned to due to "too great a risk that their bags will go missing." Pilots are at risk of losing their bags, too—just like us.

How to Avoid Checking a Bag

So what's a traveler to do? Only one item can save the day, and that's a trusty carry-on. If there was ever a summer to roll, roll, roll, it's this one. Utilize every pocket, keep your toiletries tiny, and assess your wardrobe with an editor's eye. Whatever you can't guarantee you'll use on your trip must go. It may be hard to part with that sweater or that pair of shoes, but travel isn't permanent—we promise you'll see it again when you return. On the bright side, developing the skills to pack light will serve you well in many other decision-making tasks in your life.

What to Do If You Must Check a Bag

If you're embarking on a long-term trip or need to pack gear in your carry-on that you cannot carry on, make sure that your name and contact information is on every piece of your luggage. Triple-check that the labels printed for your bags have the correct airport codes and that your name is spelled correctly. Don't leave until you see your bag on the conveyor belt or if you're curb checking, in the baggage cart. If you want to be extra prudent, consider investing in Apple AirTags, which you can stash in your suitcase to monitor their whereabouts on your phone. While this won't help your chances of not losing a bag, it will at least give you the peace of mind of knowing which airport your bag was abandoned in.

The number one travel item to keep with you at all times? A sense of humor. This won't last forever, and we're all going through this together. So keep calm—and please, carry on.

Article Sources
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  1. Air Travel Consumer Report. "June 2022." Page 35. Accessed July 12, 2022.

  2. Paddle Your Own Kanoo. "Pilots and Cabin Crew Told Not to Check Luggage at Heathrow Because There's Too Great a Risk It Will Go Missing." July 11, 2022.