"You can't take it with you," goes the old saying, and when it comes to air travel, that is truer now than ever. Anything more than 3-ounce sizes of liquids -- including the water bottles so many of us carry on flights -- are now considered contraband. Find out more about the latest airline rules and regulations here.
Baggage handling with care
If it turns out that you can't carry such high-value electronic items in your carry-on, they'll have to go in your checked luggage. Since you'll be more motivated than ever to pack smart, here are a few tips:
- Make sure your luggage is up to the task: sturdy, zippers/latches working, nothing that can come off with rough handling (handles, straps, wheels, handles).
- Consider bagging or using special luggage cubes to sort your clothes into small groups (shirts, jeans, pants, beachwear). Not only will this keep you organized, but it will come in handy if your luggage is hand-searched, as it will be easier to put your bag back together. It will also help protect your clothes in case of a leak elsewhere.
- Pad your valuables by putting them in sturdy cases and packing clothes and soft goods around them.
- Don't over-stuff your bags. A hint: If you have to sit on your bag or get someone to jump up and down on it while you fight the zipper closed, you're bringing too much stuff. One penalty for suitcase stress is getting your clothes -- and whatever else is in your bag -- strewn all over the luggage conveyor or cargo hold because the bag just couldn't take the pressure. (That's not even to mention that your bag might go over the weight limit, resulting in fees or even fines. Don't let this be you.)
- Be sure to label your baggage inside and out. Include your name, address and contact number for your destination and/or your cell phone number.
- Easily identify your suitcase or pack with a bright luggage tag, colored wrap-around band or even by reeling some yarn around the handle. Not only will it make your luggage simpler to spot on the carousel, it will also be more obvious if someone tries to make off with your stuff.
- When you check your luggage, make sure you get a claim ticket for each item, and that the destination sticker on every case or bag is correct.
- Keep a detailed record of what is in your bag, as this will be required for any insurance claim. If you have to buy necessities at your destination to get by until your luggage shows up, keep every receipt.
- Most airlines' liability for loss, damage or delay is limited to $2800 per bag. If your stuff is worth more than that amount, you might want to sign up for excess valuation insurance -- which you can get for up to a total declared value of $5000 -- when you check your luggage. (The valuation pertains to domestic US flights only; check with your carrier for international rates.)
- Report lost or damaged bags as soon as possible. Usually you have just 24 hours to report lost luggage on domestic flights, and seven days for international travel -- but you shouldn't even leave the airport before making a claim for damaged luggage.
- Ensure you're insured. Check your homeowners policy to see what coverage is offered for lost, damaged or stolen property. You might also want to look into purchasing separate travel insurance.
Checking in late and too-tight connections are two of the biggest culprits behind lost or late baggage. Get to the airport plenty early, and make sure your layovers make sense. If you have 30 minutes to get to a completely different terminal, chances are you're not going to make the other leg of your trip on time. Better a longer scheduled wait than a really long wait on standby as you hang around to board the next available flight.
How long these restrictions will be in place remains to be seen. But when you finally -- and thankfully -- get to where you're going, buy yourself a big bottle of water and some new sunscreen... and remember how it's times like these that make you relish the simplest things all the more.
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