Despite our best attempts to control every single aspect of the travel experience, sometimes things run amok in unexpected ways.
And one nightmare situation that every traveler dreads? Lost luggage.
However impossible it may be to control checked luggage once it leaves your eyesight, there are a few precautions travelers can take to increase the chances that luggage makes it safely to its final destination.
It’s most often during connections that bags get lost. If possible, choose a direct flight to give your bag less opportunity to go missing. When forced to travel with a connection, give yourself ample time to ensure that checked baggage has enough time to make the connection, too.
Traveling with smart luggage helps passengers keep an eye on their luggage as it travels with (or without) them. Some airlines, like Delta, have their own tracking systems that scan bags as they pass through each stage of travel.
And for those who leave an item at a TSA security checkpoint, the agency has an entire lost-and-found section where people can claim their misplaced items.
Travelers should bear in mind that they are not the only people coming in contact with their bag—and that they are not the only people capable of human error in getting their bag to its final destination. At the counter, make sure that the airline agent places the proper tag on checked luggage. Eliminate the possibility of another traveler grabbing the wrong back at the baggage carousel by customizing your suitcase with ribbons, unique tags and pins.
As cool as travel tags from previous trips may look, be sure to remove all old tags before heading out on a journey to keep bags from ending up in the wrong destination. It also will not hurt to tuck in any protrusions (like shoulder straps) that could get caught on a conveyor belt and pull a bag off course.
However, the best way to pack for a trip is to assume that your luggage can go (and might) go missing. Travelers should avoid packing any sentimental or irreplaceable items—just in the event that it does indeed go missing.
If, after preparing for the worst, the worst does happen, report lost luggage immediately to airline staff.
This Story Originally Appeared On Travel + Leisure