How to protect luggage from damage …follow this advise and you WILL reduce the risk of damage.
It has happened to most of us, we queue up and check our pristine looking luggage in at the airport. A few movies and nap later, we get of the airplane and head to baggage reclaim. We ignore a suitcase on the carousel that is the same brand and color but it can’t be yours…because yours was pristine at check in…it’s yours.
Damaged, battered and bruised. Welcome to life of luggage.
It is estimated that over 22 million items of luggage were mishandled in 2017, and that figure does not even include items of theft or damage. It just goes to show how vulnerable your luggage is after check in.
You therefore need to…and can take steps to protect your suitcase from damage.
How to protect your luggage from damage…let’s work through some of them. Some of them you may think are irrelevant, some not as important but put together, you are giving your luggage the best chance it has to come out the other side unscathed.
What can I do to protect my luggage?
How to protect luggage from damage…here is what you need to do.
Summary – How to protect luggage from damage
- Buy bag protectors
- Send your stuff ahead
- Minimal travelling
- Choose the right bag
- Wrap it up in plastic
- Decorate your bag
- Keep it simple and generic
- Zip up toiletries
- Purchase Excess Valuation
- Keep duct tape handy
- Ask for a fragile sticker
Buy bag protectors
This is one of the simplest…as well as one of the cheapest things you can do. Made from PVC, they are specially made to fit suitcases, with cutouts in the appropriate places. They are normally secured with Velcro.
They do a fantastic job of keeping your luggage clean and also protect from the weather. Obviously, they are not waterproof but they will offer some degree of protection.
Not only are they cheap to buy, luggage protectors last many years and solve some of the basic issues you face when it comes to protecting your luggage…dust and dirt. They are also very good at protecting against scratches to plastics.
Send your stuff ahead
It is not an obvious solution but increasingly it is becoming more popular, especially when you know the people receiving on the other end. Some people are now choosing to ship their luggage via delivery companies. The advantages of this are that you can secure your luggage in boxes therefore offering more protection.
You also have the flexibility of sending things you may not be able to do in luggage and you may also be able to send more than the luggage allowance.
It is becoming cheaper and cheaper to send parcels abroad and it may not be that much more than actually checking in your luggage.
As difficult as it can be…try carrying less of it. If you can take the minimal number of things, then you are taking less baggage and thus less chance of damage. Aside from the fact it makes travelling less stressful, it actually improves the chance of your luggage not getting damaged.
As any baggage handler will tell you, it is the heavier bags that are treated with less care. They are the ones that get tossed around.
So, the solution, limit the number of things you take and limit the number of suitcases…but make sure that your suitcase is not too heavy…in which case it is better to have two…keeping up so far! Basically, take less with you.
Choose the right bag
As obvious as it sounds, you need to think about potential damage when you are considering what luggage to buy. Sure, some luggage sets look really stylish and sleek but are they more prone to damage?
Hard cases on the face of it seem like they will protect the contents really well but they are also prone to damage. Remember their hard shell is not flexible so when other heavy luggage gets placed on it, it can crack. They also tend to crack in cold weather and also slide of the stacks they are placed on.
Soft cases are much more suited to impacts and are more likely to come through unscathed, especially if they have recessed wheels as most do. They also handle other items being placed on them better but they do not protect your contents as well. Overall, soft cases are much more durable.
So much to consider…and you thought buying a suitcase was an easy decision!
Buy the same luggage
If you and your partner are travelling together, get the same luggage. A baggage handler once told me that the two pieces will more than likely stay together because they look the same. It also means that they will stack together better because they are the same size thus reducing the chance of damage.
Wrap it up in plastic
It is a simple solution but encasing your luggage in plastic clingfilm can help you protect your luggage. This is a service that is now offered at most airports and helps to prevent dirt and scrapes. Importantly, it also binds your luggage should the worst happen.
Given the number of people that handle your luggage, it also keeps at bay rogue employees who may be tempted to steal…we all know it happens. This step is likely to put them off your luggage.
It’s important to remember that the Transport Security Administration (TSA) can open your luggage for a check at any point…clingfilmed or not. At least you will know its been checked!
Decorate your bag
Decorating your baggage not only adds a touch of individualism, it can also protect it from damage. So, a popular example of this is wrapping the handle with a scarf.
This activity also has added advantages. It makes your luggage stand out so is less likely to be picked up by somebody else by mistake at the luggage carousel. It also makes it less likely to be taken by luggage thieves who like to prey on generic looking luggage as if they are caught can claim they thought it was theirs…less likely if there is a bright pink scarf tied to the handle.
Keep it simple and generic
The temptation is to buy a fantastic looking piece of luggage that is beautiful to look at. This isn’t always the best thing to do. Expensive luggage attracts thieves…we know this happens so no point being in denial. Not only is it vulnerable when it is checked in, it is vulnerable at baggage reclaim.
Simple and generic looking luggage does not attract attention to valuable contents inside. Bear in mind that some luggage can cost hundreds of dollars, the luggage itself is a target for thieves.
Take a photo
Taking photographs of your luggage can be a real help should the worst happen and it goes missing. It will help staff identify your luggage easier. Obviously, this is not protecting against damage…its protecting your suitcase full stop. A slightly damaged suitcase is better than no suitcase at all.
Zip up toiletries
This is such an obvious one but so many people still do not do it. Zip up clear bags are necessary for carry on luggage but they are just as useful for checked luggage. A leaking shampoo bottle or perfume can cause immense damage to your contents. Why take the risk if a simple solution like a zip bag can remove that risk?
Purchase Excess Valuation
Again, this one is not directly linked to damage but it is a way of protecting your luggage. If an airline loses your luggage, their maximum liability is $3300 which is a figure set by the Department of Transport (DOT) for domestic flights.
This means that if your contents are worth more than the maximum compensation figure, you ae in trouble.
However, you do have an option of purchasing excess valuation (EV), a little-known insurance sold by airlines. This will increase the maximum insurance payout should they damage your luggage. If you know the value of your contents are greater than $3300, ask about the EV insurance at the check in desk.
Keep duct tape handy
The secret of seasoned travelers. Duct tape can be a life saver…not literally but you know what I mean. Many a seasoned traveler will roll up some duct tape and keep it in their toiletries bag.
Whether it is a broken zipper or a hole in your luggage, patch it up with Duct tape and you are good to go…at least in the short term.
Ask for a fragile sticker
There are no guarantees that anybody in baggage handling will pay any attention to a fragile sticker. You would think they do…at least hope they do. The reality is that they probably wont even see it let alone pay attention to it. Normally, the pressure to turn around an airplane in an hour means they work fast. Hence why luggage gets treated so dismally.
Putting a fragile sticker on your luggage may be wishful thinking but we live in hope…Right?
How to Protect Luggage Wheels
Wheels on luggage were first introduced by Travelpro, a pilot who started the business noticed that wheels on suitcases just made sense.
However, in most cases they are the most vulnerable aspect of your luggage. So, how can we protect our luggage wheels?
One way is using covers. You can purchase wheel covers that attach over your existing suitcase wheels. These covers are attached to your wheel and luggage protecting them from direct impacts. They do afford some protection so are worth considering, especially as they are cheap to buy.
You may also want to consider a luggage cover that actually covers the wheels too. All too often, they cover the body but not the wheels. You can however get ones that cover the whole thing.
Another thing you can do to protect the wheels is to ensure that your suitcase is not too heavy. A heavy suitcase places a load on your suitcase wheels that may result in damage. The solution is obvious, do not overload your luggage and distribute the weight throughout your suitcase rather than loading the heavy items at the base.
You may also want to consider the surface that you are rolling the wheels over. On smooth surfaces, everything is perfect. On rougher surfaces or rougher terrains, all they do is to damage luggage wheels. The solution is to lift the luggage over these kinds of surfaces.
If your wheels do get damaged, replace them. It costs very little to do this and often you may find that the replacement wheels are much stronger. Have a look at your luggage…how are the wheels attached. Normally they are bolted from the inside so it is relatively straight forward to replace them.
How to protect your luggage from tampering
Your luggage is vulnerable…that is a fact. Thieves know that most people travel with valuables in their suitcase.
There are mainly two aspects when your luggage is at its most vulnerable. Firstly, when you check it in and secondly, when you are taking it around with you. There may be moments where you take your eye away from it.
Steps to take to prevent your luggage being tampered with
- Never leave your luggage unattended – Airports and train stations attract thieves because they know they can wheel a suitcase out without anybody noticing them. They blend in to the scene of the airport. This is the perfect scenario for thieves.
- Make your luggage identifiable – Do this by placing a sticker or scarf on it. This reduces the chances of this being taken by accident.
- Reduce your luggage – Reducing the number of items you carry means that you have more chance of keeping it together. The more bags you take, the greater the chance of a mishap.
- Keep important things on your person – It can be tempting to put money in your suitcase but the reality is that it is very vulnerable in it and can leave you in a real situation should your luggage go missing. My father always wore a money belt under his clothing, a perfect solution as it is discreet and secure from pick pockets.
- Keep things toned down – If your luggage is attractive or flashy, it is a magnet to thieves. The assumption is that there are valuables inside it. This is on top of the value of the luggage which can cost hundreds…sometimes thousands of dollars.
- Never leave your luggage with people you do not know – It is easy to judge people at face value but resist. There are so many documented incidents of travelers leaving their luggage with somebody dressed as a nun…only to return a few moments later with everything gone.
I hope that the information above answers your question… How to protect luggage from damage. Please leave a comment below and let me know if you have any tips that might help your fellow travelers.
Frequently asked questions
Can you wrap luggage in plastic?
Yes, you can. You can wrap your luggage in cling film at home or you can get it done at the airport. It is worth noting that the TSA can cut through it if they want to check your luggage. They will not reapply the plastic. It is therefore at your risk whether you do this.
Can I put a zip tie on my luggage?
Yes, you can put a zip tie, string, rope…anything to secure your luggage. The TSA may however cut through it if your baggage is checked.
What is a TSA luggage lock?
It is a lock on luggage that can be opened by the TSA and then locked after a baggage check. The TSA lock makes it simple for the TSA to open a lock without breaking it. If your luggage has a TSA lock, it is easier for it to be checked.
How does TSA Open TSA approved locks?
They have a special master key that allows them to open all TSA approved locks.
Are TSA locks secure?
Not particularly as they can be opened with a master key. This means that every TSA lock can be opened with one key. Getting access to that key may be a problem but there have been reports of the key images and dimensions being posted online to be made by a plastic printer. This is a worrying concern for any traveler.