How to Keep Your Cool when the Airline Lost Your Bag


I stood next to the carousel, watching with a pit in my stomach, as my mom and fiancé’s bags dropped onto the belt. They slowly made their way around the oval toward us, past the crowd standing around waiting for their own suitcases. My bag was not with them. We stood around a few more minutes, all of us knowing, but not saying it out loud: my bag didn’t make the plane.

On our recent trip to San Diego, I had an airline misplace my checked bag for the first time. I was so frustrated, since we were going for a short trip, and I wouldn’t have normally even checked a bag. (My mom wanted to check her bag, so we all did, since we’d have to be waiting for hers anyway.) I ended up getting my suitcase the next day, but I was so mad in the moment. I hadn’t even been running late at the airport! My mom and fiancé’s bags had made it just fine!

I pulled it together, though, and kept my cool. Being without my hairbrush for a day was not a tragedy, and I knew I could handle it. By keeping a positive attitude, I avoided letting the airline’s mistake ruin my trip. If you don’t want your trip to suffer without your luggage, here are my tips for making it through until you can be reunited once again:
 If you don't want your trip to suffer without your luggage, here are my tips for making it through until you can be reunited once again:

Before You Go: Prepare to Be Without Your Bag

This is so hard for me to remember on short flights, since I obviously don’t need as many toiletries in the air, but if you’re checking a bag, always make sure that you can make it a night with what’s in your carry-on.

Here’s are some of the things I ideally like to have in my carry-on, in case my suitcase doesn’t find me at baggage claim:

  • Contact Solution & Glasses
  • Any Medications That I Take Daily
  • Socks and Spare Panties
  • My Makeup Bag (or at least tinted moisturizer, concealer, and eyeliner)
  • Face Wash and Moisturizer

When possible, avoid checking your bag for short trips, and of course, don’t leave any life-saving medications in your checked bag. Preparing for the worst will make your life so much easier if you have to go a night without your toiletries.

They Lost Your Suitcase: Now What?

If you travel enough, it will probably happen at some point that your bag simply doesn’t get on the plane with you. It can happen because you were running late, or your bag somehow got mislabeled, or you missed a connection. Sometimes, like earlier this month for me, there’s no real reason, and you will never know what happened. How do you deal when the carousel is empty and you’re still waiting?

Be Calm

This is the most important thing. It totally sucks to not have your suitcase, but keep it in perspective: there are much worse things that can happen. Stay calm and be patient with airline employees. Chances are, there’s nothing they can do, and, if there is, they wont want to help you if you’re being crabby.

Let them Know

Find the lost baggage counter and let the airline know what’s up. They’ll be able to look up your bag by the number on the tag (or on the app in some cases) that they give you when you check it in. Then, they can give you an update on its location and let you know the next steps you need to take and what will happen next.

When Delta lost my bag, the lady at the counter let me know that it would be arriving the next day, got my hotel information for delivery, and gave me a little toiletry kit for the night. It had a toothbrush, lotion, hairbrush, and things like that.

Buy What You Need

Once you get checked into your hotel, run through your evening and morning in your mind, and buy the things you absolutely need. Your airline will likely have a system to reimburse you for purchases, and they’ll tell you to save your receipts. They may not reimburse every purchase, though, so don’t go nuts. Stick to important things, like contact solution or a swimsuit.

Wait It Out

Then, all there is left to do is wait and hope for the best. I was very lucky because Delta delivered my suitcase to the hotel the next day and it didn’t impact my vacation too much. You may have a longer or shorter wait depending on the flight schedule, but keep in mind that the airlines generally reimburse you based on the number of days before you get your luggage back, so you can get new outfits and such if you need to.

Whatever happens, just keep your cool and assume everyone is doing their best. If you let a lost bag ruin your trip, nobody at the airline cares. You aren’t hurting anyone but yourself with a poor attitude. Chin up, girl! You’ll make it through.

Have you ever had to go a night or two without your suitcase? Tell me in the comments how you dealt with it!


PS: How to Keep Your Cool When Traveling

Click here to download my free 4-page packing guide

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