The experience of traveling can be full of excitement and adventure. Unfortunately, it can also turn into a nightmare if things start to go wrong. Whether it’s a canceled flight or an unexpected delay at security, even the smallest hiccup in your plans can have a disproportionate effect when you’re travelling, especially when it comes to your luggage. Many people go to great lengths to ensure they arrive with their suitcases, including refusing to hand them over and only traveling with hand luggage. But if you’re looking to avoid any hassle, experts say there’s a trick to remember when checking baggage for a flight. Read on to see how you can make sure your belongings end up where they belong when you land.

READ NEXT: Never travel without this item, says flight attendant.

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Whether you’re trying to avoid expensive baggage fees or simply don’t trust the airlines with your belongings, it’s not uncommon for travelers to skip checking their bags on a flight. But experts say you may be doing yourself a disservice struggling with your mountain of bags through the airport.

“Some passengers are completely covered in sweat from carrying too many personal items, backpacks and hand luggage,” Arina Flower, a theft who worked in the industry for two years, wrote for Business Insider. “It’s so much easier to check in your bags and walk around the plane relaxed and stress-free.”

While worrying about your luggage going missing is motivation enough for many to travel light, data shows it may not be as much of a concern as it used to be. This is likely thanks to new technology and improved practices that have made it an increasing rarity. In 2020, only 3.5 bags per 1,000 passengers were lost, a 37.5% reduction from the previous year, according to a report by SITA, a communications and information technology company in air Transport. By comparison, 18.9 bags were lost per 1,000 passengers in 2007.

And even if you don’t feel like splurging for the airline to take care of your bags, chances are you can get by without spending a penny. “It’s not always possible to find space for everyone’s bag, so your extra items may need to be checked regardless,” says Bloom. “If you’re worried about paying extra, ask an attendant at the gate. They’re usually happy to check it for free if the flight is full.” But if you have more oversized items that you know you’ll need to hand over to an agent upon check-in, there’s still one thing to keep in mind.

A family wearing face masks speaks with a ticket agent at the airport
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Once you’ve decided to hand over your bags to the ground crew, you may feel like things are entirely out of your control for better or for worse. But if you’re not careful with your travel plans, you could leave yourself in serious trouble.

“One thing you should never do after checking baggage is assume it’s headed to your final destination, especially if you’re entering the United States from abroad,” Becca Siegelco-owner of Halfhalftravel.com, says Better life. “The reason for this is that when returning from, say, Mexico to Miami, when your final destination is New York, your checked baggage will exit the plane and will need to be collected and rechecked.”

Seigel explains, “It’s something unique to the United States, and it’s because of the customs claim.” But she also says it can happen in other countries, pointing to an experience in Jamaica where her bags weren’t automatically sent ahead of a connecting flight to South America.

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After deciding to check their baggage, travelers can sometimes take serious additional steps to ensure that they only temporarily part with their belongings, by attaching a tag with their contact details or slipping tracking devices into their suitcase. But one of the easiest steps to remember is to watch your luggage and make sure a baggage handler has placed it on the conveyor belt behind the counter and sent it to your plane, according to experts at The Points Guy. This can be especially important if you are checking in at the curb or are slightly late for your flight.

Passengers waiting at baggage claim
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Even if you feel helpless once you hand over your luggage, there are always ways to keep an eye on it once it’s out of your sight. According to the flight crew, downloading the airline’s dedicated app can give you up-to-the-second location updates on your baggage, from the time it’s loaded on or off the plane. and when you can expect them to be picked up. It can also make it easier to collect compensation if you take a little longer to get your stuff back due to a processing delay.

And even if you think you’ve picked the perfectly unique suitcase that matches your personality, you can rarely go too far to make picking a range easy. “My luggage tags are colored so I can easily spot my bag on the belt,” Heidi Fergusonstewardess with 20 years of experience in the commercial and private aviation industry, says Better life. “And the only identifying information is my name and a Google Voice number, not my real number.”