As a experienced traveler, I know all the right things to do when it comes to making sure you go home with your own luggage. I have a very distinctive red Rimowa suitcase (I’ve never encountered one quite like it), I’ve tied colored ribbons around one handle, and there are some flight and hotel labels stuck on it — so it’s hard to miss.
But last year, after a 10-hour flight from Helsinki and a 1.5-hour wait at Newark’s border control, I was tired and distracted, and when a red suitcase came around the belt, I grabbed it and set off. The wheels were wobbly, which I chucked up to yet another annoyance in an annoying day. Literally 10 steps past the customs agent, I bent down to check out what had happened to the wheels, and that was the moment I knew: this was not my suitcase. It was an absolutely identical model, but there were no ribbons, no decals.
I immediately went back to the customs agent to ask if I could swap the suitcase, but he said, “No can do” (which was understandable). He called an agent from my airline, who told me that I’d eventually get my suitcase back — but because I had cleared customs it would take three or four hours. Hanging around wasn’t a palatable solution, so I anted up about $82 to have it delivered the next day.
I consider the whole affair an $82 learning experience. And I felt badly for the person whose suitcase it really was (and hope she’ll get those wheels fixed someday).
What’s the silliest travel mistake you made in 2012?
— written by Carolyn Spencer Brown