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How to Survive Travel Day Disasters

Lost luggage can be the kiss of death for a business trip. Learn how to best protect yours on the road.
July 18, 2012

We’ve all experienced bad travel days. Here are valuable tips for surviving lost luggage and stolen belongings—two of the most common disasters frequent flyers face.

Stolen Belongings

Just as Casey Wohl was about to relax into her chair on a business trip to Puerto Rico, she felt a tap on her shoulder. It was the lady behind her asking if she could switch seats. Thinking nothing of it, Wohl exchanged places and settled in, putting her purse under the seat in front of her and wedging her laptop between her seat and the side of the airplane.

The aircraft landed a few hours later and passengers began deplaning. Gathering up her belongings, Wohl reached down for her laptop and felt only air. She looked again. Her laptop was gone. She filed a report with airport police, but outside of calling each passenger, there was no hope.

“I’m pretty sure the woman who switched seats with me was in cahoots with the person behind me and they planned to steal my computer,” says Wohl, a travel writer and author of Girls Getaway Guide. “My professional life was on that computer and without it, my business trip was basically shot."

Today, Wohl is extra careful when she flies and offers a few pointers on traveling with a laptop.

Keep eyes on valuables at all times. Carry your laptop case and purse with you to the airplane bathroom, no matter how strange you look.

Be wary of the people around you. “Especially if they are overly friendly,” she says.

Back up your work. If theft does happen, you won’t be totally out of luck.

Lost Luggage

Barry Maher is a serious business traveler. He is principal of Corona, Calif.-based Barry Maher & Associates and as a motivational speaker, he's on the road most days. Three years ago he was on his way to Rhode Island to do a keynote address when he landed at 11:30 p.m. and realized his luggage hadn’t arrived.

Most customer service agents had gone home for the night, so Maher had no choice but to sleep in his plane clothes and wake up at 6 a.m. to find a suit appropriate for his event.

“I got so lucky,” he says. “I banged on the door of a men’s shop and they not only helped me pick out clothes, but pressed and hemmed them for me in time for my speech.”

He offers several lost luggage tips.

Always carry extra clothes. If your suit won’t fit in your carry-on, wear it on the plane, he suggests. And make sure to bring a kit with toothpaste, toothbrush, etc. with you on the plane as well.

Make a beeline for the luggage carousel. Don’t waste time visiting the bathroom or shopping for magazines. Instead, go straight to the luggage carousel to make sure you are the first to your baggage.

Buy colorful bags. Maher’s bag is bright orange. “It is an awful color, but I know it is mine right away,” he says. Not into technicolor luggage? Tie a bright ribbon around your bag’s handle to make it stand out on the carousel.

Be nice. “A lot of times, customer service people have the power to deal with your problem straight away; it pays to be nice to them,” Maher says.

What travel day mishaps have you experienced?

Photo credit: Thinkstock