Here's Why You Should Always Take A Photo Of Your Suitcase Before You Travel

What would you do if you found out your luggage was 6,200 miles away from your destination? It's a situation no one wants to find themselves in, but Jenn Choi and her family had to deal with lost luggage instead of fully enjoying a vacation in Cancun, Mexico. Speaking to The Guardian about their bags which were in Germany: "Our bags have still not even been found and we will be without them for at least a week. I feel like it's a part of traveling these days as it is becoming so common. Many people here in Mexico are on vacation without their bags. It's a mess and I've never seen anything like it."

According to the Department of Transportation, of the 42.6 million bags checked into planes in June 2022, more than 300,000 were mishandled. Mishandled bags include "bags that are lost, damaged, delayed, and pilfered, as reported by or on behalf of the passengers, that were in the airline's custody for its reportable domestic nonstop scheduled passenger flights."

Lost luggage can be a big headache to deal with, but there's one easy fix: take a photo of your suitcase — and its contents. Unfortunately, many travelers forget to do this and learn the lesson the hard way. If you're still unconvinced, here are the top reasons why you should always take a picture of your luggage before you board the plane.

How to claim compensation

How one airline treats lost luggage might vary from another, but "under DOT regulations (for domestic travel) and international treaties (for international travel), airlines are required to compensate passengers if their bags are damaged, delayed, or lost." The DOT mandates that airlines pay up to $3,800 and $1,780 for lost, delayed, or damaged baggage on domestic and international flights, respectively.

This is where images of your luggage and its contents will help you a lot. Note that airlines may differ in defining or classifying a bag as officially lost and will ask for proof of what was in your suitcase and its worth. So, without photos and receipts, you'll be hard pressed on convincing them to pay you the worth of your lost luggage when you file a claim.

Houston-based Iara Palacios Johnson told The Points Guy: "I had to give a detailed list of what was in the suitcase and a value. I want to say the value was ~$2,200 or so." However, without receipts and photos, she received an offer of $900. On the other hand, Len Giuliano from New Jersey fared better, thanks to the photos he had on hand to prove what items were inside his bag and receipts that his wife held on to for many years.

You'll need a crystal-clear description of your lost baggage

Trying to remember everything that's in your checked bag can be difficult ... unless you have an extremely photographic memory. So, taking a picture of the contents will be very helpful in case you lose your luggage. Not only will images provide a timestamp, they will clearly show exactly what items were in your lost baggage.

Sarvakhgyan Santhaunam, who flies frequently, advises: "Before every flight journey, just take a photo of your baggage from four different angles on your phone. ... [In the event of a missing bag], a photo gives a very clear description of the baggage and helps airport authorities narrow down their scope of searching."

In addition, AirHelp, a passenger advocate group, recommends taking a close up shot of any valuable or high-priced items in your checked bag — once by itself and another of packaged securely to ward off any potential reasons the airline might use to not fairly compensate you.