If your bags end up lost, don’t panic: “Generally airlines are pretty good about getting your bags to you very quickly. It’s rare that your bags will disappear never to return,” says St. Louis. First, go to the customer service counter to report your bags missing and make sure to get a receipt or something tangible that says they are looking for the bags, he says. Inquire about how your bags will be returned to you—some airlines will deliver your bags to your final destination and others will not. If your bags are missing for a number of days, some airlines will also give you money towards a new wardrobe, says Pauline Frommer, editorial director for Frommer's guidebooks and Frommers.com.
To avoid this sticky situation in the future, both Frommer and St. Louis recommend not checking a bag if at all possible. If you do decide to send your bags through, make sure they’re marked in several places, says Frommer. In addition to identifying tags on the outside of your bag, “it’s good to have a little slip of paper inside with your ticket number, name, and address, and your cell phone number,” she says. Another helpful hint: When connecting flights, ask the agent at your connecting gate to scan your checked luggage receipt to see if your bags made the flight, says Greenberg. “If your bags didn’t make your flight, you can start the lost and found process then—not hours later when you arrive at your destination.”