Arriving without your luggage at your vacation destination can instantly ruin a trip. Although you can generally track your bags through an airline’s app, there’s always a chance you could end up scrambling to buy missing essentials during your vacation.
We asked travel insurance experts for their best packing suggestions in case luggage is delayed or lost.
Prioritize Your Packing
A good strategy is to keep the most important items you need as close as possible. This includes your passport, itinerary, prescription medicines, travel documents, credit cards and money.
“Plan for the worst, hope for the best,” says Carol Mueller, a spokesperson for Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. “Always pack a carry-on with the essentials you can’t live without for at least two days.”
The safest thing to do is to leave any valuables at home, says Christina Tunnah, a spokesperson for World Nomads. “Otherwise, take them in a carry-on, where you can keep a close eye on them,” she advises.
Tunnah has these tips for smarter packing.
- Take photos of the contents of your suitcase. If you later need proof of ownership for a claim, you’ll have a record handy.
- Consider using a baggage tracker to keep tabs on your missing luggage and turn on the location tracker of all of your electronic devices. Your travel insurance company’s travel assistance team can also help with tracing if your baggage doesn’t arrive on the carousel when you land.
- Keep all your essentials on your person or in a carry-on bag: prescription medicine and an extra change of clothes or a toothbrush, for example. Toiletries and other basics can be covered by travel insurance but it’s a hassle to go out and buy them again, especially if your flight arrives at an inconvenient time.
- Place identifying information inside your suitcase. That way, if the outside luggage tag falls off, your suitcase can be more easily traced back to you. You should put your name on any laptops or other devices for the same reason.
- Keep all liquids wrapped up and sealed in case they leak; the resulting damage to the contents of your bag isn’t covered by travel insurance.
How Baggage Insurance Works
If your travel insurance plan includes baggage benefits, your insurer will reimburse you for loss, theft or damage to your baggage and personal effects, says Daniel Durazo, a spokesperson for Allianz Global Assistance.
Check the baggage limits on the policy before you buy it. For example, minimal lost baggage coverage is usually $500. Some travel plans will provide $2,500 or even $3,000.
“A deductible and certain exclusions may apply and all losses must be reported to the airline, airport, police or other relevant authority,” says Durazo.
A travel insurance policy will typically have a per-item limit and a total maximum benefit. For example, Tunnah at World Nomads says your policy may also have a specific maximum for specific items such as jewelry, watches, and articles trimmed with or made mostly of fur.
“Some things are excluded altogether. You should check the ‘exclusions’ section of your policy for more details, but common exclusions are cash, antiques, and musical instruments,” she says.
If you have to file a baggage insurance claim, you will need to provide documentation from your common carrier and receipts that confirm the purchase and your ownership of the item.
How to Pack Vacation Purchases
To protect your vacation purchases during the trip home, Durazo says hard-shell suitcases are often preferable to duffle bags.
“It’s a good idea to pack gifts in a suitcase in the same manner by which you would pack them in a box,” he says. “Distribute the weight evenly and use your socks and T-shirts as packing material.” If something is very fragile or valuable, save it for your carry-on bag.
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