We traveled to Lima for a long weekend last month, and due to a relatively simple delay and misconnection, our bags didn’t make it to us in Peru until the morning of the day that we were leaving to come back home. I think many people are totally freaked out by the idea of losing their luggage. I wasn’t, which surprised and fascinated me. If you know me at all, you know that I’m not the most unflappable, zen personality in the world. So I thought I’d pass on a few things that I do to mitigate the impact of lost luggage, and a few things that I did once it happened.
I will preface this by saying that until we had two kids we carried on our luggage virtually all of the time, even for long trips. My friend Farnoosh did a great video about packing minimally for a carry on and still having all of your stylish stuff with you. I’m not stylish, but I do have kids, so the “packing minimally and still having all of your [fill in the blank]” necessity still applies. However, once we had two kids in carseats (and for a while, in diapers), carrying on just wasn’t a viable option, so we started to check our bags. I will assume that you needed to check your bag in the first place. Having said that:
Tips for Minimizing the Impact of Lost Luggage
1. Carry on essential items
I know you can’t carry on everything – I can’t either. But make sure you have the essentials with you. For me, personally, that’s about 3 spare pairs of underwear and a stick of deodorant. For the kids that’s one complete change of clothes each, and enough diapers and wipes to last until you might be able to get to the store – for me this is about three days worth. Medicines are in this category – my husband checked an item that wasn’t life-or-death essential, but makes his tummy a generally happier place. He regretted the decision to check that. Charging cables for your electronics are also a big one, but international adapters are not – you can usually borrow these from your hotel.
Imagine a situation in which you only had your carry on for a couple days. What minimum items do you need to function and and not kill your potential seatmate with your scent?
2. Know your benefits
The Chase Sapphire Preferred Visa has a lost/delayed luggage insurance benefit, as long as you booked the travel on that card. It’s pretty easy to file a claim and they cover up to $100 per day per cardholder up to $500 total. Check with your credit cards to see what kind of benefits you have. Knowing what you can be reimbursed for will help you make decisions about what you can or should spring for while you wait for your luggage to return to you. We had a small shopping spree at a Peruvian general merchandise retailer in the mall next to our hotel.
3. File a claim with your airline immediately, before leaving the airport.
Despite the annoyance of having your luggage delayed, it’s not often that the delay is super huge. You can minimize the time until you see your luggage again by filing the claim as soon as possible. In our case, they put the bags on the following day’s Newark-Lima flights, and the bags were delivered to the hotel lobby about 24 hours after we arrived. (They had misconnected the previous night as well, so we had actually gone about 48 hours without our luggage. But the time from filing the claim to getting the bags was pretty short, all things considered.)
4. Ask for an amenity kit
Many airlines, airports, and hotels have incidental items or kits available for stranded travelers. We’ve gotten the SAS kit twice – once in Bergen, once in Stockholm and we picked up United kits in Houston (the first night we missed our bags). These kits contain toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor, and deodorant. The SAS kits also include a packed of powdered laundry detergent and a plain white t-shirt to wear while you wash your stuff. (More on that in a minute…)
But make sure you ask for the kit everywhere – especially when you file your claim and also at your hotel. Ask for one kit for everyone in your party, even the infants. You never know when you’ll need the extra stuff
4. Do laundry
Wash your things in your hotel room sink with shampoo or body wash. Dry things that need rapid drying with the hair dryer. I wish I could tell you that I was already so super-savvy as to carry with me a packet of powdered laundry detergent in my carry on, but that is something I will be adding to my list of essentials above. I guess I got spoiled by the SAS amenity kits!
5. Go shopping
I find shopping of any kind to be a cool cultural experience. Deciphering the packaging of feminine care products written in Spanish was a whole new adventure. And I couldn’t figure out what clothes Peruvian toddlers were supposed to wear. Their baby section went up to 12 month sizes and their kid section started at 4T. My Spanish is certainly not good enough to ask that question. So I had fun with it. And now my kids have a small selection of Peruvian clothes to grow into.
As an aside, I was frustrated that all the print t-shirts contained text in English about California and such American nonsense. They even had a rack of football jerseys – England, Brazil, Argentina, and Italy. Seriously? I can’t buy a souvenir Peru football shirt while in Peru? I was hoping that my Peruvian clothes would seem more Peruvian. But alas, I’m typing this while wearing my “I <3 Summer” shirt that I bought that day.
6. Don’t panic
So you may not smell as fresh as a daisy for a day or two. In many parts of the world, this won’t even be noticed. And no one is going to realize that you are wearing the same outfit for three days in a row in your pictures either. It may feel like this is a trip-ruining occurrence, but it really doesn’t have to be. As with all things travel-related, the more you can roll with it, the more fun you can have, no matter what setbacks come your way.