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baggage claim airportAs 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.

What to Do if an Airline Loses Your Luggage

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

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5 Responses to “Lesson Learned: Our Worst Travel Mistake of 2012”

  1. Fortunately I’ve never really had any travel disasters other than the usual – toothbrush left at home, getting ripped-off by a taxi driver, sleeping rough under a bush because I’ve got nowhere else to stay…

    My mum did manage to miss her flight when coming to visit me last month, which was a bit annoying for all concerned. That’s one disaster I’d hate to happen to me..!

  2. More of a cultural faux pas, I guess. On a bus trip across a Mexican state, I went into a restaurant at a bus rest and asked a man behind the counter, “Tienes leche?” It must have been a really slow or tense day, because the whole room of employees, mostly men, couldn’t stop laughing for the entire 15 minutes I was there. Tienes leche translates into, “Do you have milk?”

  3. msesqct says:

    On a trip to Italy I got to JFK and discovered I’d left my carry-on with all my Rx and all my shoes at home. There was no time to return home to get the suitcase and I discovered if you FedEx Rx it is held in customs forever. I was beside myself as I have stomach problems and not eating Italian food was out of the question without my Rx. The hotel desk clerk in Venice came to the rescue, most of my Rx was over the counter in Italy and the hotel MD wrote me the one Rx I needed. Vacation saved!

  4. Madeleine McCarthy says:

    Our worst travel mistakes are numerous:
    going to the wrong airport,
    forgetting my passport home going on a cruise (even if it’s only going to The Bahamas, they denied boarding if you don’t have your passport),
    while going on a South America Cruise from Buenos Aires, some passengers from the USA have been denied boarding because they didn’t have a Brazilian visa (it’s one of the stop and you need a visa even if you intend to stay on the ship while in Brazil).

  5. Ava Roxanne says:

    I used to love a very basic bag that was black, brown or a very dark burgundy BUT after returning from a cruise one time I discovered that down right gaudy can be grand when searching for your luggage! My fav piece of luggage when I travel is an orange Tumi which is unique and lovely in it’s own way – not to mention amazing and functional! I also spot it immediately no matter how late is is or how long I have traveled when I am waiting by the turnstile. You can see it here in my blog post by the bed while I was on the Spa Level at The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead in Atlanta.

    Spa Travel Gal’s fav luggage http://www.spatravelgal.com/2013/01/best-holiday-escapes-near-atlanta/

    Chat soon! Ava

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