Nothing puts a dampener on the start of a holiday quite like picking up from baggage claim what was once your suitcase but has somehow, throughout the journey, morphed into a Cronenbergian horror.
That might sound dramatic. Your suitcase won’t have grown a set of mandibles, nor will it have sprouted a set of legs. But there’s a chance it could emerge from the baggage carousel looking unrecognisable to how you put it in.
In 2022, 26 million pieces of luggage were mishandled in some way - either damaged, delayed, lost, or stolen. Of these 26 million mishandled pieces of luggage 13% were damaged. That’s 3,380,000 damaged pieces of luggage.
More than ever it’s crucial to be aware of the consequences of damaged luggage and the precautions that can be taken to avoid it.
What happens if your suitcase breaks?
If your suitcase breaks while under the care of an airline then the airline is obligated to provide compensation.
Don’t let this put your mind at ease though. Several caveats mean you shouldn’t trust an airline to compensate you if your luggage is damaged while under their care - more on this below.
Why should you protect your suitcase?
There are plenty of reasons why you should protect your suitcase. First and foremost of course - to keep your possessions safe.
There are also the caveats I mentioned earlier regarding airline compensation in the case of them damaging your suitcase.
These caveats include the fact that it can be both difficult and tedious trying to even prove to an airline that they damaged your suitcase.
Additionally, you likely won’t be reimbursed for the full value of your suitcase and its contents. The airline will probably try to negotiate some kind of settlement with you where you may get less than you deserve.
Other caveats include the fact you need to make any claim within seven days of your flight, which could potentially cause undue stress on your holiday. Finally, they won’t reimburse you for anything valuable or fragile.
12 things you can do to protect your suitcase
As you can see it's far easier to just adequately protect your suitcase rather than risk it getting damaged. With this in mind, here are 12 tips to protect your suitcase from damage.
1. Mummify your suitcase in plastic
A cheap and effective method for protecting your suitcase is to wrap it in clingfilm. This helps protect both its exterior and your suitcase’s innards from any knocks it might experience in transit.
If you’re awful at wrapping gifts and don’t trust yourself to adequately wrap your suitcase there are alternatives. For instance, you could pay for one of the baggage wrapping services frequently available at airports.
2. Buy a luggage protector
An even simpler (and reusable) alternative to mummifying your suitcase in plastic. Luggage covers are primarily made of PVC or an elastic material. They cover the entirety of your suitcase and will help keep your suitcase safe from the most common threats.
Expect your suitcase to face down bad weather, scratches, and bumps. All while keeping your suitcase nice and clean. They’re also your best bet if you’re looking for a waterproof cover for a suitcase.
With this said, remember luggage covers are not indestructible and a hard enough knock will still damage your suitcase.
As a general rule luggage protectors are allowed as long as they can be easily removed if necessary by airport staff.
If you’re wondering “Where can I buy a luggage protector?” I’ve got you covered. Shop luggage protectors here.
3. Carry duct tape!
Duct tape is a quick fix if your suitcase is damaged while in transit.
If you discover a new hole that needs plugging up ASAP to prevent your possessions from tumbling out. Or, if your zipper stops working inexplicably you can seal your suitcase with duct tape to prevent its contents from spilling out.
Of course, this isn’t a permanent solution, but it should help ensure your suitcase and your possessions arrive safely at your destination.
4. Keep your toiletries in a zip-lock bag
The lids of all your body lotions, shampoos etc… can come loose en route. If this happens there’s a good chance they’ll make a royal mess of everything inside your suitcase as well as potentially staining it permanently.
Packing your toiletries into a zip-lock bag is an easy way to prevent disaster. Even if the lid to every toiletry you own comes loose they won’t be able to douse your belongings or stain your suitcase.
5. Pack carefully
Pay attention to where you’re putting your more fragile/valuable items when packing. Try to pack them in the middle of your suitcase amongst your clothes, keeping them away from the edges of your suitcase too. This is how I protect fragile items in my luggage.
While this won’t protect your suitcase per se, it will help protect your most prized possessions from any rough handling that your suitcase may be put through.
6. Send your luggage ahead of you
Sending luggage ahead through a delivery company is growing in popularity.
It’s easy to see why. Not only does it take away the stress of picking up and dropping off your luggage at the airport. It’s also a great way to prevent luggage from being stolen. Finally, it allows you to pack your luggage more securely in boxes
7. Use wheel protectors
The wheels of a suitcase are one of the more vulnerable areas that are most liable to break. Therefore, picking up luggage wheel protectors is a superb idea.
These are small covers, usually made of rubber or plastic, that go over your wheels. They’ll go a long way in mitigating the damage that can be done by the bumps that wheels go through on any given journey.
8. Pop a “FRAGILE” sticker on it
Asking for a fragile sticker when checking in your bags, will hopefully result in the baggage handlers treating it with a little more care than an ordinary bag.
Okay, there’s no guarantee that this will make any difference. You never know though, it could stop the baggage handlers from throwing your suitcase too aggressively onto the plane.
9. Utility over style
When buying your suitcase it’s far better to go for the boring, well-made suitcase than the gorgeous, expensive looking one.
While it can be tempting to pick up a chic suitcase that you feel matches your personal style. In reality, you’re better off just buying a plain utilitarian one that’s sturdy enough to handle all the trials and tribulations of travel.
10. Decorate your luggage
This is where you can make up for the fact that you bought a boring-looking suitcase.
Decorating your luggage can help protect it from damage by making it a less enticing target for potential vandals. Decorations can also make baggage handlers treat it with more care than they would a generic piece of luggage.
A final benefit of decorating your luggage is that it’s a brilliant way to prevent luggage theft. Thieves won’t want to steal an instantly recognisable piece of luggage!
11. Travel light
Travelling light has a couple of benefits. First, it puts less pressure on the wheels of your suitcase, which should in turn give your wheels a longer life.
Second, baggage handlers are far more likely to chuck heavier luggage all over the place as they’re so difficult to move around with ease. Lighter suitcases on the other hand are treated with more care.
12. Handle with care
I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen people charging around slamming their suitcases into kerbs, walls, and worst of all - every step on a long flight of stairs.
These thumps and bumps are easily done, and even easier to disregard. Especially when you’re in a hurry. Over time, however, an accumulation of them will seriously damage your suitcase.
How do I protect my luggage for air travel?
There are all kinds of ways to protect your luggage for air travel. Mostly though, common sense and maybe picking up a luggage protector will protect your luggage from the majority of potential hazards.
How do you prevent luggage scratches?
Wrapping your luggage in plastic or buying a luggage protector are two simple ways to avoid luggage scratches.
Can I cling film/wrap my luggage?
Yes! This is one of the cheapest methods for protecting your luggage.
How do I keep my suitcase dry?
Keeping a suitcase dry is best done with a waterproof suitcase cover.
Where can I buy a waterproof suitcase cover?
The easiest place to find the perfect waterproof cover for a suitcase is from online retailers such as Amazon.
Why do people wrap their suitcases?
People primarily wrap their suitcases to keep both the suitcase and its contents safe.
What is a TSA approved luggage lock?
This is a type of lock that has been approved by the TSA ( US border force). These locks enable security officials to inspect luggage without breaking the locks.
You might think you’ll never be that poor soul dragging a sorry excuse for a suitcase through an airport - odds, sods, and valuables leaking out of the gaping holes covering it.
But trust me, it can happen to anyone.
Practising just a few precautions can not only prevent a potential holiday disaster but also prolong the life of your suitcase immeasurably.
All these tips are cheap and easy to put into practice. Hopefully, they’ll give you some idea of what to do next time you’re pondering that perpetual question of “What can I use to protect my luggage?”
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