When Your Bags Just Have To Get There
If, like me, you are a cynical traveler, then you believe there are only two kinds of airline bags – carry-on and ‘lost’. And with airlines now cracking down on carry-ons, more of our irreplaceable stuff – like wedding dresses and holiday presents and bulky souvenirs – will go into checked luggage.
Maybe so, but I have got some surefire ways to ensure your bags get there when (or before) you do. First, some facts. According to the Air Transport Association, 99% of all checked bags either travel with you or are ultimately reunited with their owners. On the surface, that is an impressive statistic. But it would not help you much to get your cruise clothes two weeks after your cruise. And with 730 million suitcases checked each year, what happens to that remaining 1% of bags that never show up?
So, if so absolutely must put your best suit in checked luggage, follow my lead:
Insure Your Belongings
Get to the airport a little early, go to the counter, and ask for something called “excess valuation”. The airlines do not exactly advertise it, but excess valuation is a great insurance policy. It increases the limits of the airline’s liability on your baggage. Under current rules, airlines are liable only for up to $1,250 if they lose or damage your bags. But few folks ever get that $1,250. Why? First, that is the high end of the limit, and it is a top figure based on a per-incident payout, not on each bag. The payout is also based on depreciated, not replacement value. Definitely a bad deal. To make matters worse, some airlines then try to pay it off in flight vouchers, not cash (actually obligating you to fly that airline again). With excess valuation, you can bump up the liability to as high as $5,000. The cost: about $2 per $100 of coverage. So for $20 you have got another $1,000 of coverage as an incentive for the airline not to lose your bag; bags are tagged with a code that lets baggage handlers know not even to think of misrouting your stuff.
Check Them At The Gate
When you get to the airport, skip the line at the skycap; avoid the counter. Rent a baggage cart and head straight for the gate. Sure, you will get some dirty looks at the security station as you put all your bags on the conveyor belt. But the effort has a nice payoff. When you reach the gate to check in, the agent will invariably tell you the obvious: Your bags will not qualify as carry-on luggage, and they will have to be checked. Indeed, they will. But you get two bonuses here: You absolutely know they made the flight, and, because they were boarded last, they are first off.
Send Them To Yourself
Think about how much time you spend lugging your bags to the airport, waiting to check them in, and then hanging around the carousel at trip’s end – – and that assumes your luggage made the flight. Instead, avoid the airline and, two days before departure, send your bags directly to your hotel by any low priority courier service. The cost depends on the weight and destination. You arrive at the hotel and your bags have preceded you. At the end of your stay, reverse the process. It’s convenient, it saves time, and it eliminates anxiety and stress. And, there is no need to tip the skycap.