What’s in Your Suitcase

Have you ever arrived at your destination or returned home after a flight, opened your suitcase, and saw a little card indicating that your contents were inspected by the TSA?  Well, if not, it can be a bit disconcerting to know that someone has breached the confines of your precious, private space and rifled through your belongings.  While this can be a bit annoying, nothing can be more invasive and unnerving that having someone steal your belongings.  Although the reported number of thefts of contents in luggage is relatively low (keyword being reported), this issue is not to be taken lightly.

But wait, aren’t the airlines responsible for ensuring that a passenger’s luggage and its contents are free from tampering and theft?  Not necessarily.  Although airlines do have a responsibility for the transport of ones luggage, that is where the contract ends; they are not responsible for safeguarding the contents therein.  This is basically a “buyer beware” situation.  If you check your bag, you take a risk of having your contents searched at a minimum, stolen as a worse case scenario.

So, what can one do to prevent valuable items from being removed from their baggage?

  1. Perhaps the most obvious things is to carry-on your bag vice checking it.  This is ideal for individuals who do not need to carry toiletries over 3.5 ounces , those who can stuff all of their clothing and personal items in a regulation sized carry-on bag, and/or who will not be bringing back rum or other liquids from other destinations.
  2. If you absolutely have to check a bag, remove all valuables such as jewelry, gifts, electronics and high ticket items.  Under NO circumstance should one ever place a wallet or money in your checked bag.  I know this seems like common sense, but… unfortunately, there have been documented cases of people doing this and learning about the consequences the hard way.
  3. This may sound really nasty, but I believe that it could be a deterrent for some – use the dirty laundry method.  When traveling back from a vacation or business trip, I have (on occasion) scattered my dirty clothing around the suitcase to make it a little less appealing to would-be thieves.
  4. Consider using some of the new high-tech devices that track your bag.  While this device will not necessarily alert you to someone searching your bag, it will provide you with the ability to check the status of your bag in transit.
  5. Finally, consider taking photos of your contents before checking the bag in just in case you have to provide a description of a stolen item.
  6. Consider buying insurance to cover any stolen items.  It is going to add to the cost of your trip, but may provide you with peace of mind.

Bottom line, unless you are using your own personal vehicle, boat or plane (for those who ever so fortunate), you must understand and accept the fact that there is a possibility that your luggage may be searched and your contents could be removed by sticky fingers.