Savvy Travel Decisions

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BAGGAGE ALERT:

There’s nothing worse than taking an extended vacation or a cruise, and having the airline lose your luggage.  Every sane traveler cannot help but worry that their luggage is not accompanying them in the cargo hold.

 

It the luggage carousel at your destination airport grinds to a halt and your luggage is missing, be persistent demanding answers on when you might expect the missing items will be delivered to your specified address.  Request names and telephone contacts.  Continue to call until your matter is resolved and your luggage is delivered.  If staying in a hotel, notify the front desk and concierge to expect delivery by the airline of your missing luggage and to notify you immediately upon receipt.

 

Unfortunately, your remedies are few.  The airline liability is strictly limited by law ($3,000.00 per passenger on domestic flights) and good luck getting it!  The airlines will reimburse you for items purchased while you await return of your missing luggage.  Reimbursement varies by airline, but most pay between $25.00 - $50.00 per day.  Don’t accept this token offer.  Keep in mind that the airlines, with their convoluted logic, get to define the rules of reimbursement, and generally require that at least seven days must elapse before an item is considered to be “lost”.  The DOT has directed airlines to be more flexible.

 

You’ll have to jump through a million hoops producing receipts to verify value.  It’s almost quicker to fly to Scottsboro and “re-purchase” your suitcase!!  Alas, the contents will be long gone.  Remember your wonderful Congress when you’re offered a pittance for your lost belongings.  How would you like to be on a fourteen-day cruise, with only the clothes on your back???  If this misfortune happened to Congressional Representatives with any frequency, the legal responsibility of the airlines would be increased in a jiffy!!

 

·                     Domestic U.S. airlines claim that only three bags are mishandled per thousand travelers.  Most bags are delayed, not lost.  The majority of these bags are reunited with their rightful owner within 48 hours.

 

·                     Arrive for your departure flight at least two hours before your scheduled flight departure - hopefully assuring adequate time for your luggage to get to and aboard the plane!

 

·                     Avoid putting items in your luggage such as appliances and cords - this causes a red flag with baggage inspectors who suspect potential foul play, and may choose to open and inspect your possessions, resulting in the bag not getting placed aboard the cargo hold of your departing flight.

 

·                     Your odds of avoiding mishandled luggage increase immeasurably by flying non-stop.

 

·                     Nowadays lots of luggage appear alike both in shape and color.  Try to make your bag distinctive from similar-appearing bags, such as having a bright nametag or colored ribbon - anything to preclude “carrousel grabbers” taking your suitcase by mistake.

 

·                     You would be well advised to always have contact information and your cell phone number INSIDE the suitcase.

 

Incidentally the “friendly,” accommodating airlines now charge for oversized luggage and heavy contents - each airline has their own rules as to weight allowances and overweight fees.

 

There are several huge warehouses nationwide selling so-called “lost luggage,” hopefully not yours.  The “Unclaimed Baggage” Center in Scottsboro, Alabama, is literally an orphanage for suitcases.  Over one million bags a year are processed.  Your luggage is forwarded to this “suitcase hell” after allegedly conducting an “intensive” 90 days of tracking effort to locate the rightful owners.  Your valued suitcase is then sold to a bargain hunter for less than half of its original value (cameras, jewelry, electronics, sporting goods, books).  7,000 “newly arrived goods” are added daily to the store’s inventory!  To give you an idea of how inefficient the airline baggage system is, consider that “suitcase hell” is more than a city block in size!  The center is located at 509 West Willow Street, Scottsboro, Alabama, and can be reached by calling 256-259-1525.

 

Children in tow?  Rather than taking half of your small child’s toys, car seat, crib, etc. along on your flight to your travel destination, you might wish to contact Travel BaBees, a full-service baby equipment rental company: they provide rentals and delivery of cribs, strollers, car seats, high chairs, and toys, to ease your concerns at your travel destination.  For more information, please visit http://www.travelbabees.com.

 

Convenience costs, so you need to decide which takes priority.

 

Several enterprising baggage companies, for a fee, will lessen your anxiety.  It’s not inexpensive, but it certainly is worth the peace of mind.  Here’s how it works:

you call the toll free service or check their website for a cost quote.  The service will pick up your luggage at your residence or place of employment.  They require a pick up at least two-three days in advance of your flight.  Your luggage will be delivered to your cruise ship, resort, or place of your choosing.

 

Purchasing baggage insurance is really not an answer.  No delivery by airline, you still have no clothes.  Depending on your physical stature, this can be seriously problematic.  Cruise ships and resorts do not offer big and tall sizes for women or men.

 

Some travelers arrive a day early for a cruise.  This is recommended; so that you are not left at the mercy of weather-related cancelled flights.  Having no luggage to tote through airports, retrieve in baggage, and customs are all handled for you.

 

There are several major baggage forwarding services:

Bella Online: http://www.bellaonline.com,

Luggage Forward: http://www.luggageforward.com,

Luggage Concierge: http://www.luggageconcierge.com,

Virtual Bellhop: http://www.virtualbellhop.com,

Luggage Free: http://www.luggagefree.com,

DHL: http://www.dhl.com,

UPS: http://www.luggagefree.com - even UPS is now in on the act.  Considering their lack of timelessness in delivering the mail, do you really want to entrust them with your belongings?

 

Federal Express is an efficient, less costly alternative, if you are organized and can send your luggage ahead a few days to its “intended” destination.  Several airlines have begun partnering with baggage shipping services.  The cost of the new Federal Express-United Airlines Door-To-Door Baggage program (http://www.unitedairlines.com/doortodoor) varies between $149.00 - $179.00 one-way per bag, depending on the distance of the flight.  Since Federal Express may direct that your bag be carried on an United Airline flight and not Federal Express, it begs the question why is extra care being expended for your bag by United when the cost is $149.00 versus a former free, now a measly $15.00 - $25.00??  Convenience carries a hefty price tag.

 

40 pounds on Luggage Concierge is $325.00 one-way from New York City to Los Angeles; $178.00 for three day shipping (includes $1,500.00 insurance, additional optional).

 

40 pounds on Luggage Free New York City to Los Angeles is $226.00, (includes $1,000.00 insurance, additional optional); three day shipping is $148.00.

 

Your luggage is picked up at your home or business office and delivered to your destination lodging or office.  Just think: no lugging suitcases through airports and airport baggage claim retrieval!

 

Even the U.S. Postal Service is getting into the baggage biz.  If you want the convenience of your luggage being picked up by Uncle Sam, however, you need to box the luggage, weigh it while inside the box and pay online.  Schedule the pickup online by 2:00 a.m. the day of desired pickup.  Sample rate: 40 pounds from New York City to Los Angeles is $144 one-way (includes $100 insurance, with more optional).  Two-day service is $75.  This cumbersome requirement makes the U.S. Post Office at a competitive disadvantage, as other services collect and bill later.

 

Pricing and destinations served varies, so check carefully, the pickup terms and weight pricing.  While you’re at it, you had might as well arrange for baggage pick up for your journey home.  Utilizing Federal Express via FedEx Ground for your baggage, but still having the convenience of pickup at your residence or office, would result in cutting your baggage shipment costs approximately one-third of the cost of overnight delivery.