Perhaps you’ve traveled before and mistakenly left something behind on the plane. Or maybe you’ve waited at the baggage carousel and realized your luggage wouldn’t be coming around. Maybe you’ve been fortunate and never had your luggage misplaced at the airport. Even so, you’ve probably heard the horror stories and want to avoid the situation yourself. At Palm Beach International Airport, we’re familiar with what makes luggage more likely to become a no-show. We’ll go over our top tips to avoid lost luggage at the airport and exactly what to do if your cargo does go missing.

Check out the recent story on WPTV News Channel 5 all about what happens to the unclaimed items left behind at PBI.

First, be sure to check-in early at the airport. Baggage handlers need an adequate amount of time to load your luggage onto the airplane. The closer you check-in to the departure deadline, the greater the likelihood that your bag may not make it onto the plane. Likewise, try to avoid booking flights with short layovers. Again, baggage handlers need sufficient time to transfer your luggage from one plane to the next. If you have a tight layover, there’s an increased chance that your bag will miss your next flight. Leaving adequate time between flight legs will help both you and your bag make your connection.

Second, take care when selecting your luggage. Many bags look similar. If you have the same nondescript black suitcase as everyone else, it’s more likely that someone else will inadvertently pick up your bag from the carousel. If you do have a bag that looks similar to other luggage, think about tying a colorful ribbon or other material to it that will make it stand out.

You can also take it a step further and purchase special tags for your luggage. If your bags do get lost, luggage tags can be your saving grace. Brands like SuperSmartTags and ReboundTag offer technology that help locate your bags and reunite you with them. The latter option comes with a microchip, similar to those implanted in pets. Once found, the microchip can then be scanned and you will be notified when your bag has been located. With ReboundTag, your personal details remain secure. You are contacted through the company’s system via email and SMS  once your luggage is found . Similarly, SuperSmartTags have unique codes that you can register with the company’s site along with your contact details.

If you opt for paper tags instead, be sure that you have your contact information prominently displayed on or inside your bag. In the unfortunate situation that your luggage does become lost, airline staff will look for a way to contact you. Having this information readily available will speed up the process of getting your luggage back to you. Also, be sure to remove any old stickers and tags from previous trips from your bag. This can lead to confusion when your luggage is scanned at the airport.

Taking these precautions will help reduce the likelihood that your luggage will become misplaced. However, there are certain additional steps you should take to prepare for a worst-case scenario. For instance, take photos of your belongings once your items are packed. This will help you to remember everything you had in your bag should you need to file a claim for lost luggage. You should also take a photo of the luggage itself to help airline staff identify your missing suitcase.

In the event you find yourself standing at the carousel without your bags, stay calm. The first thing you’ll want to do is locate your airline’s informational office. Many bags aren’t actually lost, but rather delayed or temporarily misplaced. Check with the airline office to see if your bag mistakenly made it onto the wrong flight. It could possibly even be sitting there in the office waiting for you if it made it onto an earlier flight by mistake.

If you check with the airline and your bag is not immediately located, be sure to fill out a report for your records. If your luggage isn’t simply delayed, you’ll also need to fill out a claim form to itemize your lost items. Airlines have different policies regarding reimbursement. It’s best to know the airline’s policy before checking your bags. If you know you’ll be traveling with expensive items, check with the airline to see if you’re able to purchase “excess valuation” prior to boarding your flight.

Regardless of whether your bag is lost or delayed, if you paid to check your luggage then you should be entitled to a baggage fee reimbursement. Also, if you need clothing, incidentals, or other items for an overnight stay, check with the airline to see what compensation is offered while you await your luggage.

Remember that all is not lost, even if your luggage may be. If you purchased traveler’s insurance for your flight, check to see if lost luggage is covered by the policy. Typically, permanently lost luggage will be covered by your traveler’s insurance up to the allowable amount. If you are like many other travelers and did not purchase traveler’s insurance, you may not be out of luck. Check to see if your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers your lost bags. Many insurance policies will cover items lost away from home. Also, if you paid for your ticket with a credit card, call the credit card company to see if any travel benefits are offered such as lost luggage coverage.

For a compilation of the most recent rules governing lost baggage, check the U.S. Department of Transportation site. If you feel dissatisfied with your experience or simply have questions regarding the rules and regulations, give the department a call and a representative will inform you how to proceed.

To file a claim with the PBI Lost and Found team, click here.