En español | You're alone at the baggage carousel. The same three bags are going round and round, and none of them is yours. Don't panic. The airlines claim that some 98 percent of all lost luggage is returned (eventually), and they really do have ways to track and find stray bags. That said, the following strategies will help you prepare for (or handle) the worst if it happens.
1. Research Your Airline
Some people wouldn't think of booking a hotel without first checking its online reviews. So why not do the same with an airline? Sites such as Skytrax let you see how your airline stacks up in terms of customer service, among other things, so you know what to expect if it loses your luggage. In addition, on your airline's website, research lost-luggage liability policies. For instance, most airlines won't reimburse you for valuables in checked bags. These include jewelry, heirlooms, money, and computers or cameras. Leave these items at home or pack them in a carry-on. Some travel-insurance policies cover lost luggage; read these carefully, though, to be sure they're really worth the cost.
2. Take a Checked-Bag Inventory
Make a detailed list of items packed in checked bags. This will come in handy if your bags are lost and you file a claim with the airline. Note every article of clothing and all accessories, shoes and personal items as well as the brands, colors and sizes. Also write down the brand, color, size and distinguishing features of your luggage so that you can readily give the airline a description. Alternatively, take pictures of your bags using a cellphone or camera that you plan to carry on board. Speaking of distinguishing features, make your luggage stand out: place some brightly colored tape on to its exterior or mark it with a colorful permanent pen. This prevents people whose bags are similar to yours from accidentally grabbing the wrong one and helps the airlines better identify your bag if it's lost.
3. Pack for the Worst Case
If you're traveling with another person, and you're both checking bags, pack one of your outfits in your companion's bag and vice versa. It's rare that both bags will get lost, and, this way, the party whose bag is lost at least has a change of clothes. Alternatively (or in addition), pack a change of clothes (or at least a change of underwear) in your carry-on. Put a copy of your travel itinerary — including hotel contact information — into each checked bag. Finally, be sure that your luggage tags have hotel contact information, not just your home information.