There's a store in Alabama that's as big as a city block. It's called the Unclaimed Baggage Center, and it sells the forsaken contents of lost luggage. Most bags lost by the airlines are eventually returned to their owners. But many aren't. It's not just a matter of insufficient identification.
That piece of paper you grabbed from the airline check-in counter on which you scribbled your address might not be good enough. First, if your bag is lost while you're on your way to your vacation destination, you'll want it shipped to your hotel -- not to the guy bringing in your mail at your empty house. Additionally, many travel experts advise against revealing your address on your luggage, as this could make your home a target for robbery while you're on the road.
There may be a better way to keep track of your luggage than putting your address and phone number on it. Think high-tech; think micro-technology. Our telephones, our cars, our cats and dogs -- heck, even Jason Bourne -- can be tracked by using radio frequency identification (RFID) microchips implanted in the device, pet collar or rogue CIA agent's hip. If we can track the location these disparate things, why not our luggage?
Why not, indeed. The solution is to use a smart luggage tag that does more than just display an address and phone number. Below are three high-tech luggage tags and one smartphone app that have the power to transform your trip if your luggage gets lost.
ReboundTAG Microchip Bag Tags are printed with a barcode that airline personnel can scan in order to identify your luggage and view your itinerary. (The barcode technology isn't available at all airports.) If a person who doesn't have access to scanning technology finds your lost luggage, he or she can enter your tag number on the ReboundTAG website, and the system will notify you by text message or email. A Microchip Bag Tag costs 24.99 British pounds (about $41.79 USD as of this posting) and comes with one year's membership to the ReboundTAG system. Buy it at www.reboundtag.com.
Like the ReboundTAG Microchip Bag Tags, SuperSmartTags feature a code that anyone can use to report your bag online. Once the code for your bag is submitted, you'll receive a text message, email or phone call explaining that your luggage has been found. Enter your itinerary on the SuperSmartTag site and airport staff will be able to view your travel plans and forward your luggage to your next destination. SuperSmartTag retails for $19.95 AUD (about $18.59 USD as of this posting) and comes with a three-year membership to the SuperSmartTag system. Buy it at www.supersmarttag.com.
Magellan’s Retriever Tags
These tags aren't outfitted with special codes or microchips. But they're simple enough to work. The vinyl tag encapsulates instructions written in eight languages (English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, French and German) that tell baggage agents to check the itinerary inside your bag and send your luggage to your next destination, as opposed to shipping it back to your home address while you're en route to Tahiti. Buy it at www.magellans.com for $10.50.
Fly Delta App
Delta passengers can download a free smartphone app that features, among other things, a way to track your bags, even while in flight. Just enter the number on your bag receipt -- or scan with the barcode with your phone -- and you can follow your luggage from departure to arrival. The app is available for iPhone, Windows Phone, Android and BlackBerry. Download at www.delta.com.
-- written by Caroline Costello; updated by Jodi Thompson