Traveling alone has distinct advantages: travelers have free reign to see what they please without compromising their ambitious plans to accommodate companions. Rather than viewing landmarks and sights with a familiar group, the traveler branches out; he sees the same sights and landmarks but interacts more with locals. The lone traveler experiences more than a chain of cash-raking tourist stops and takes a closer peek at local culture.
However, traveling alone is not without its downsides. It often means no group discounts and steeper hotel rates; for many unfamiliar with local language or culture, loneliness sets in. Staying in hostels can ease financial constraints and provide a community of fellow travelers, but safety concerns applicable to lone travelers are not as easily addressed.
Safety is always a travelers’ primary concern, but lone travelers must be especially conscious of their personal security: if others realize that a traveler is alone, that person is more vulnerable to unwanted attention and crime. Especially when visiting an obscure destination or venturing out at night, it is often best to arrange a group trip with hotel or hostel companions. However, there are times when one is left alone; in this case, a dose of deception is in order: mentioning that a spouse, fiancée, or in-law is waiting across the street fends off unwanted attention. Some even wear a cheap or fake wedding ring to present at nightclubs and bars. In general, travelers should adhere to a simple rule: to avoid becoming a target and garnering unwanted attention, lone travelers should always conceal the fact that they are by themselves.
Avoiding Lost Luggage Woes
Air travel is way up again, with a record number of travelers expected by the end of the year, despite insane security lines and fuel prices.
However, so are the incidents of the airlines losing checked luggage; especially since an earlier ban on carry-on liquids resulted in a 30 percent increase in checked bags.
In fact, nearly four million bags last year were either lost or damaged, making it the number three complaint by passengers, after flight delays and cancellations.
And while a few airlines are worse than others, this is a situation that is costing all of the airlines dearly -- not just in claims, but also in installing new bag technology into airports.
While there have been discussions of various options for the future, what can you do right now to avoid the nightmare of lost luggage? Here are a few tips that may help.
Ship Your Bags Ahead
We are strong advocates that if at all possible, ship your bags ahead of you via any number of services, including Fed Ex and Luggage Concierge. Of course, if you decide to go this route, make sure you don't pack any items you will need over the next 24 hours, such as medicine -- and never pack valuables such as jewelry or electronics.
Put Your Contact Information Inside Your Bag
Of course, your luggage probably already has tags on the outside with your name, address and phone number, however, these can sometimes get torn off during the travel process. Make sure to put another label with your name and contact information (and possibly, your itinerary) INSIDE the bag as well.
Take a Picture
You might also consider snapping a quick photo of your luggage with your cell phone or digital camera so that if it does get lost, it will be easier for the airline officials to identify.
Take A Non-Stop Flight, Whenever Possible
If you've ever had to run to catch a connecting flight, you can imagine how easy it is for the baggage handlers to miss getting your luggage on the right flight. If at all possible, take a nonstop flight, but if not, make sure to allow plenty of time for your bags to make your connection.
Check Your Bags Before You Leave The Airport
Don't wait until you get home (or to your hotel) to see if something is missing from your luggage. Rather, check inside your bag while you're still AT the airport so that if there is a problem, you can go straight to the baggage claim office and file a complaint.
If Your Bag Goes Missing
If all of your efforts fail and your bags still wind up MIA, don't panic. According to industry experts, most passengers get their bags back within 24 hours and only a small percentage lose their bags forever.
If you are one of those unlucky few, you should know what to expect. For example, you may be surprised to learn that the airline is NOT going to buy you a new vacation wardrobe; chances are, you'll only be offered a basic bath amenity kit for those first 24 hours (and possibly enough to buy a clean tee shirt). Nevertheless, make sure to keep all of your receipts in hopes that you will get reimbursed -- and then know that what you receive will depend on your class of service and frequent flyer status.
Do remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so make sure to get the phone number of the baggage claim office (not the 800 number, but the actual on-site number), as well as the name of the agent you spoke to, and call back early and often.
If your bags are gone for good, don't expect a whole lot. In fact, the maximum amount you can get is the federal cap of $2,800 per passenger, domestically (not per bag) -- with receipts required for any item valued over $250. Internationally, you'll get even less, from about $9.07 per pound of luggage -- up to $1500 per passenger (regardless of how many bags), depending on whether or not the country has ratified the "Montreal Convention." You also may be protected under your homeowners insurance or the credit card you booked your flight on, so check with them as well.
While there can never be any guarantees, with a little planning, you may have a much better chance of avoiding the lost luggage woes -- and of enjoying your trip!
Important Documents to Take With You
Don’t forget your passport, traveler’s checks, ATM and/or credit cards, adequate ID, and photocopies of all of the aforementioned.
Photocopy the page of your passport with your photo, as well as your visas, traveler’s check serial numbers, and any other important documents. Carry one set of copies in a safe place, apart from the originals, and leave another set at home. Consulates also recommend that you carry an expired passport or an official copy of your birth certificate in a part of your baggage separate from other documents.
If you lose your passport, immediately notify the local police and the nearest embassy or consulate of your home government. To expedite its replacement, you will need to know all information previously recorded and show ID and proof of citizenship. In some cases, a replacement may take weeks to process, and it may be valid only for a limited time. Any visas stamped in your old passport will be irretrievably lost. In an emergency, ask for immediate temporary traveling papers that will permit you to re-enter your home country.