Imagine travelling for 21 hours to get to China, with all 3 flights delayed along the way at some point, only for you to arrive, but not your luggage. Unfortunately this is what happened to me.
There had been a bit of a misunderstanding at my transfer in Beijing. My bag was supposed to go all the way through to Qingdao, but I needed to get a new boarding pass for the internal flight. I arrived at the transfer desk and a fuss ensued because I did not have my luggage with me. Naively, I believed this was all a big misunderstanding; the airline assistant simply did not understand my Scottish accent and all would be fine when I arrived in Qingdao and reunited with my backpack. This was not the case.
It quickly became apparent that I was not going to get my bag in Qingdao when the few people on my flight collected their luggage, and I was left cutting a very lonesome figure in the baggage hall watching the empty carousel go round and round. I filed a lost baggage claim and left the airport for my new Qingdao residence.
After 18 phone calls and 4 days with no clothes or personal belongings, I was finally reunited with my backpack! Over 3.3billion journeys were made by aeroplane in 2014 and of these, 24.1million bags were mishandled (i.e lost or misrouted). Statistically this means there is less than a 0.1% chance of your luggage going anywhere but its intended destination. Unfortunately I was one of that 0.1%, and there is a very, very small chance you could be too, therefore this post outlines how you CAN avoid losing your luggage and also, what to do in the event that it does go missing.
How to avoid losing your luggage
According to some key travel experts, every time you fly you should assume your luggage will go missing and take these key tips to minimise the risk:
Never leave home without a nametag. This is essential to helping airport staff locate your bag if it does get mishandled and it could be the difference in you getting your bag within 24 hours or a few days. Another tip if you are unsure about putting your personal details such as your name, home address and telephone number on a luggage tag, is to print your Twitter handle or social media accounts on the tag. This allows any airline staff to quickly contact you without compromising your privacy.
Check in early
At least 2-3 hours before an international flight. This gives airport handlers maximum time to move your bag to the correct area of the terminal and on to the right plane.
Pack your itinerary
Place it somewhere easy to find in your checked bag. The journey from check in to plane can be quite rough for luggage and sometimes the airport tag with the intended destination can get ripped off. If you have an itinerary in your checked luggage, when airport staff open the bag to look for information, they can quickly identify the bag’s owner and intended destination.
Personalise your bag
Embellish your bag with stickers, ribbons or a luggage belt- anything to make it stand out! Firstly this helps at the carousel as it will stop somebody picking up your bag accidently but also, if your bag does get mislaid, it will make your luggage easily identifiable to airline staff.
Before you close your bag up for the last time and head to the airport, take photos of your belongings in a pile. This will help you remember exactly what was in the bag, and it will also help you prove the value of the belongings in your bag if you do have to make a lost luggage claim.
Double check the airport code
Airport staff are only human, and they make mistakes too. Double check that the right airport code has been attached to your bag so if it’s intended destination is London Gatwick (LGW), it doesn’t go to La Guardia, New York (LGA) by mistake!
If you really want to be on the safe side, you could invest in an electronic tag with a microchip that sends you updates on your bags location anywhere in the world.
Prior to leaving the UK, I was not aware of most of these tips. Unfortunately my bag ended up in South Korea but eventually I got it back after 4 days. Less than 0.1% of luggage gets mishandled or lost, so it is extremely unlikely that it will happen to you; but mind these tips to further ensure your luggage arrives in the People’s Republic at the same time as you!
Finally, it is also worth noting that in the event that your luggage does unfortunately get mishandled, you should have your hand luggage prepared with the necessities to keep you going for a few days. Remember to take:
Take at least a spare top and underwear. If you arrive in China without luggage, you will desperately want some clean clothes to change into. The spare clothing will also help you get by until you can get to a mall or market to buy some new garms!
Again, pack the necessities that will get you through at least your first night in China. This includes any travel-sized cleanser/moisturiser etc as it can be quite tough to find your preferred products in China due to the inclusion of whitening ingredients in the formulas.
Remember to take any medication in your hand luggage in case your checked bag goes missing. If you are staying in China for a few months or longer and therefore have a substantial amount of medication with you, remember to take a prescription and/or doctor’s note with you to present to customs if asked.
Charger and adapter plug
It’s really essential when you arrive in China to have a charged, unlocked, functioning phone. This is especially important when you arrive at the airport in case there are any delays, but also because you will use apps like Baidu, WeChat and Pleco frequently to navigate the city and keep in touch with your new friends!
The above list is in addition to standard carry on baggage items such as:
- Wallet/Purse with RMB, credit card (if you have) and at least 1 debit card.
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Pen- for filling out customs forms!
- Hand sanitiser
If you want to join us in China for an amazing internship, you can apply here!