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Securing Your Checked Luggage and Protecting Your Valuables

Tips for Packing Your Bags Under New TSA Security Measures

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Securing Your Checked Luggage and Protecting Your Valuables

Example of TSA Approved Locks

The new TSA security measures announced on August 10, 2006 require that all liquids and gels now must be packed in your checked luggage. This includes much expensive makeup, perfume and other such items. If you are traveling to or from the United Kingdom, virtually all items must be packed in your checked luggage.

Obviously there are three immediate concerns that arise with these new requirements - the possibilities of loss, damage and theft.

Lost Baggage Concerns

The fact is that baggage is lost every day. Some airlines are better than others, but every airline loses bags. Some bags are never returned to their owners. The possibility of losing your bags has always been a concern and will now be an even bigger concern since many valuables will have to be placed in your checked luggage.

Most importantly, make sure your name, address and phone number are both on your luggage tag and on a piece of paper on the inside of each piece of checked luggage. List both your home and cell phone numbers. Even better, put a copy of your itinerary in each checked bag so the airline can locate you.

Airline liability for loss, delay, or damage to baggage is limited. For travel wholly between U.S. points, Federal Regulations limit an airline's baggage liability to no more than $2,800 per passenger. Check with your carrier for their specific liability. Additional limits apply to international flights.

Insurance is now even more important for travelers. If you will be carrying valuable items in your checked baggage:

  • Keep a detailed list of each item and its value.
  • If possible, take a digital photo of all valuables being packed.
  • Make sure that your homeowners insurance policy covers these items and to what limit.
  • Consider separate travel insurance to cover your valuables.

Damage Concerns

No one wants to place their valuables into their checked luggage. Luggage handlers are notoriously rough in handling bags as we all see every time we fly and watch them load and unload baggage. If a bag doesn't fall off the loading ramp it probably gets thrown around somewhere along its way.

Liquid items in glass bottles, such as perfume, cologne, wine and liquor, can easily break. My first suggestion would be to refrain for taking or bringing home liquor and wine. The danger of breakage is too great. As for smaller items in glass bottles, I would suggest that you visit your local Office Depot, Office Max or Staples and get a roll of bubble wrap. Wrap each bottle in a piece of bubble wrap and then double bag it in zipper plastic bags.

Electronic items such as cell phone, digital cameras, laptop computers, PDAs and the like, are also subject to breakage. These items should also be wrapped in bubble wrap and placed between items of clothing which will serve as padding. Do not place these items at the top or bottom of your luggage where they can be subject to a direct blow from the outside.

You may wish to consider a specially hard and padded case for your electronics. Our Europe for Visitors Guide, James Martin, has compiled his picks for the Top Hard Camera and Computer Cases.

If you are traveling through the United Kingdom current restrictions will require you to place all jewelry not being worn in your checked luggage. The easy solution here is not to take valuable jewelry on your trip.

Carriers assume no liability for fragile, valuable or perishable articles, so make sure that you have adequate insurance to cover damage to these types of items. Let your insurance carrier fight it out with the airline.

Theft Concerns

As secure as the TSA and airlines would like us to believe our checked luggage is, the reality is that thefts do occur. While reports of theft by TSA employees have occurred, it is more likely that theft occurs at the hands of airline baggage handlers.

Contrary to popular belief and the tendency of airline customer service representatives to ask if your bags are unlocked, it is permissible to lock your checked luggage. You must, however, use TSA approved locks. You can also purchase TSA approved luggage straps and even luggage with built in TSA locks.

If airport security personnel need to inspect your checked bag, they no longer need to cut your locks or force the bag open and risk damaging it. TSA approved locks allow them to open your locks and re-lock your bags, sending them on their way. You can shop for a good assortment of TSA approved products with our comparative shopping partner Pricegrabber.

The Bottom Line

This is a scary time for all travelers. In addition to the fear of terrorism we now must deal with the fear of losing our valuables. I hope the suggestions I've outlined help you better face the reality we all face when flying today.
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