How Much Information Should You Include?

Q&a Luggage Tags

July 19, 2009|By Catharine Hamm | Catharine Hamm,Tribune Newspapers

Question: : What's the recommended information to include (and not to include) on one's luggage tags? I know people say you should put your cell phone number on them, but I don't keep mine turned on.

Answer: : Vacations are all about doing things you don't usually do, so maybe this is the time to think about turning on the cell phone. And it's definitely time for travelers to rethink the luggage tag. We've all heard the bromide about not putting one's home address on the tag because crooks will dash right over and break into your house. OK, could happen.

But the bigger issue is that you expose information about yourself to prying eyes, said Kevin Coffey, president of the Web site Corporate Travel Safety. Do you really want the drunk from seat 15C to know your name and where you work? Or allow the corporate spy to take a chance that you have valuable documents?

So use a minimum of contact info - a first initial, your last name, your cell phone number (or the phone at your destination or where someone will answer and tell the caller where you are) and perhaps an e-mail address. Use a secure tag (a metal ring is better than leather, which can stretch and snap), and put it on before you leave home "so you don't expose the information at the airport or other departure point or wind up using less-secure tags," said Chris Grniet, vice president of Kroll Security Group, the security services arm of global risk consulting company Kroll Inc.

Because baggage handles can snap off, put your name and contact info on a slip of paper inside the bag too.

But luggage tags aren't just for checked baggage. You should have one on your carry-on bag and every other separate article you carry. Fliers can get flustered and leave things behind, so tagging every item increases the chances you'll be reunited.

No matter whether you're checking or carrying, the tag can help differentiate your bag from every other black piece of luggage. The TudeTag comes with such expressions as "Don't even" and "Hanzzoff" and has a hidden place for your itinerary and your name and phone number. There's the neon-colored handle wrap that attaches with Velcro and contains your info facing inward so it's hidden in the handle. (Google "privacy luggage tags" or "funny bag tags" to find a retailer.)

The number of mishandled bags has decreased with passenger counts - fewer than four per 1,000 passengers in April, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says. Sounds small until you realize there were about 650 million domestic passengers last year.

Making it easy for the airline to contact you if yours goes astray? If you follow this advice, it should be in the bag.

- Catharine Hamm, Tribune Newspapers

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