Archive for the Category »Packing «

  Travel Tip Tuesday: 7 Ways to Protect Your Luggage from Thieves


Disturbing news recently that isn’t all news at all – Police made arrests and announced that a ring of LAX baggage handlers stole thousands of dollars of valuables from travelers’ luggage.

According to law enforcement, airport workers quickly rifled through bags, looking for items to steal, and then pocketed the goods.

Unnerving? Yes. But we’ve heard these stories before throughout the world’s airports. Actually, in terms of rankings in the United States, Miami International Airport has fired the most TSA agents for theft.. then JFK in New York, and  Los Angeles International comes in third.

Police say stolen items from luggage has been increasing significantly, according to the Wall St Journal.

So what can we do about it? There is no way to absolutely prevent a dishonest worker from taking something from your checked bags – but there are ways to make it less likely.

1) Plain and simple: DO NOT pack anything of value in  your checked bags – electronics, money, jewelry are all NO-NOs. Put those in your carry on bags. What was Paris Hilton thinking when she packed a $100,000 watch in her checked bags? It was stolen.



2) If you have something of value you can’t carry on, ship it ahead of time so it is insured. Fed Ex  and Luggage Free are two companies to help.




3) Police said about this particular ring in Los Angeles that the thieves were looking for a quick steal, something they could pocket in seconds. Wrapping your bag in duct tape… or wrapping your bag in saran wrap are ways to deter the quick theft – Located at some airport terminals,  Secure Wrap engulfs your baggage with saran wrap for about $8-10. Note: If the TSA needs to look through your luggage for any reason, the wrap will be torn off.

4) DON”T use expensive designer luggage  – the Louis Vuitton logo is just a red flag that there may be something of value inside the bag too. Some people I know use their kids’ luggage as a decoy – men’s suits and belts are  items that have gone missing in some cases, and wouldn’t normally be found in a child’s bag.

5) Of course, you can always use a TSA approved lock – but TSA agents have access and some have a track record of stealing too. It is another layer, however, from the average thief.



6) If you opt for a pat down in the security line rather than go through the scanning machine – keep your eyes on your items, and don’t let any loose phones or ipods sit alone, easily available for anyone to take. Ask someone in your party to keep an eye on the items for you, or alert another agent at the other end of the security belt. Sometimes travelers are waiting a bit for an available TSA agent to do a pat down, and every second your stuff is out alone makes it more vulnerable.

7) If you are worried about your entire luggage being stolen, there are FCC approved GPS trackers out there to put in your luggage. Trakdot is one, which sends a text message to the luggage owner about it’s location.

It’s no fun to get something stolen – one feels violated, and loses something that could be meaningful. Be careful and smart about how you travel.

Photograph the items in your bag before you go so you can make your case if something does get stolen or your bag goes missing.

If you do notice something missing from your bag, report the stolen items as soon as possible – file a police report and go to the TSA website and fill out papers there. If you want to play sleuth and try to track down your items, some of the dishonest employees arrested at LAX were selling items on Craigs List. But if you find it, contact police instead of contacting the individual on your own.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: Save $$ On Baggage Fees This Holiday Season


Let’s face it – as often as we try to travel with only carry on bags to avoid checked bag fees, the holidays make that a tough feat. Frequently we have to pack heavier clothes, and oh yeah – the gifts! (Remember – don’t wrap them!)

One way to avoid baggage fees : Consider becoming a cardholder of an airline-aligned credit card. If you already hold an airline credit card, brush up on your perks! Many of these cards allow one (or more) free checked bag to cardholders…. some even extend that benefit to travel companions.

Even though the cards usually come with annual fees, if you travel and check bags frequently, the card will pay for itself in saved baggage fees.

Here are some cards and baggage bonuses I researched  - but please double check before becoming a card holder!!

United Mileage Plus Explorer  - First bag checked free, and one companion on the reservation also gets a bag checked for free.  Upgrade to a United Club card and you and a companion get two bags checked for free.

Platinum Select American Airlines AAdvantage – first bag checked for free, plus FOUR people on the reservation get bags checked for free – fantastic savings for a family.

Delta Gold Sky Miles – Eureka! Not only do you get one bag checked for free, so do up to NINE people on your reservation. Sounds great, but… I don’t really know anyone who books nine people on one reservation, but heck, if you do – that’s a $450 savings round trip at $25 a checked bag.

The nation’s 15 largest carriers collected a combined $3.5 billion in bag fees in 2012, according to the Bureau of Transportation. Let’s beat them at their game.


  Travel Tip Tuesday: When You Lose Something on a Trip…. #lostluggage, #lostinrentalcar


Hotels, rental cars, and airlines find countless numbers of cell phone chargers, sunglasses, and other items left behind by travelers. And we aren’t the only ones losing important items.  According to the LA Times, U.S. airlines lose about 140,000 bags a month. That’s only about 3 bags for every 100,000 passengers, but if you are one of those three, it is not fun.

So what can we do to increase the odds we come home with the same items with which we left? It is obvious, but even if you think you have everything, you need to take a final, careful look in your hotel room, cars, airline seats, etc. Even if you think you have everything!! Remember to look in the shower, all the electrical outlets for those ubiquitous forgotten chargers, hotel safes, and under the seats of rental cars.

All of us still leave things behind anyway  - and airlines have millions of bags to tend, so here are some other ideas.

–RENTAL CARS:If you realize you’ve left something in your rental car, call the company right away. Call the local office from which you rented. And don’t stop there – some rental car companies have online lost and found pages which really streamline the process. In some cases you can see in general terms what has been turned in, what date, and the location. That can give you a pretty good idea if your item was found. Fill out the online info, and if your item has been found, you will get an email approving shipping costs, and a few days later it appears on your doorstep. Easy – no phone calls, waiting on hold, etc.


–AIRLINES: To make sure you get your luggage back if the airlines do mishandle it, label your bag on the outside AND the inside. If your luggage tag gets pulled off, then you will also have back up identification on the inside.

–Pull off old airline tags, and make sure the correct destination airport  is on the new luggage tag.  Remembner the airlines won’t  always reimburse you for everything so check your homeowner’s policy if you do lose items.

–It doesn’t hurt to photograph your bags on your smartphone quickly. That way if something does get lost, you can show the airlines what it looks like if an employee needs to look for it. (In addition, I always photograph where I parked in airport parking…because tend to get lost after a mind-cleansing trip :) )

Good news is that there are apps and other devices coming to the market to help you find any lost luggage.


A company called GlobalTrac has devised an item that once you put in your suticase, you can track your bag via the internet or smart phone app. It is called Trakdot and will sell for $50.

Also, Airbus announced last month it is coming out with luggage  with its own technology that allows passengers to track their bags. Also included is a novel feature I like: it also comes with a built in scale so you can know in advance how to avoid those excess baggage fees!

Now… have a great day.



  A Few Entertaining Things Parents Should Pack This Summer #summertravel

Now that airlines are charging extra for checking bags, we need to be smart about how we pack – and especially how much we pack.

Parents particularly have to put more thought into this – not only do we have to pack the necessities, but we have anticipate just the right things to keep the kids entertained whether it be on a plane, in a car, or during downtime in a hotel room.

Here are some items that have worked for me -

1) Sports equipment – but small sports equipment!

A soft football, a blow up beach ball, and even a skinny plastic bat that all fit into one bag we checked turned into hours of wiffle ball and volleyball on a patch of grass at our hotel. (Take out the bat and it can all fit in a carry on.)

We had kids from around our resort join our games. You may be surprised how kids can turn one ball into hours of fun.

2) A portable audio amplifier headphone bundle -

Portable amplifier and headphone bundler

This is key for a plane where you have mnore than one child and can’t turn up the volume on a lap top. With this gadget, up to three kids can all watch a movie from the same laptop with headsets.

The main device plugs into a laptop, and  headphones plug into device  to deliver audio to whomever wants to watch and listen. It costs around $20, the one I have  is by Bustaroo.

3) An electronic reader – if your kids are old enough to have their own reading device, make sure they download the books they want BEFORE the trip. Remind them, because they don’t always think of those things. If you don’t you’ll have to pay the WiFi fee at your hotel when they realize they don’t have the books downloaded.. Sometimes Starbucks and McDonalds, where you can get free WiFi, don’t work either – trust me, I’ve tried.

4) If you are staying at a beach resort, find out if they have boogie boards, or snorkeling gear on hand… and if so ask if it costs anything to rent them during your stay. I try to avoid surprises. One resort I just visited charged $30 a day for a boogie board – that’s about as much as one costs at Costco.  Not exactly family friendly pricing but they know they have you once you are there.

If you have more than one child, and plan on being on the beach, it pays to pack your own boogie boards and snorkel gear. For three kids it would have cost $450 for five days – and only $50 round trip to check in the boards either in a big bag or duct taping them together depending on which airline you fly.

Hope you are all off to a great summer!!! Please let me know about your travels.

  Travel Tip Tuesday: How You Can Avoid Baggage Fees

The name of the game in travel these days is packing light to avoid checking bags and paying pesky fees. On most airlines, this can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of your trip if you are traveling with a family. It is easier to pack lightly in the summer, as most of us are going to warm weather places… but what if you are off to a trip where you need all kinds of clothes, and possibly gear?

One packing item that has worked well for many people – my friends included – are the air tight compression bags. After you pack your items you are able to squeeze out all the air through a valve system, and compress your clothes by 75% (a claim by the manufacturer.)

The bags are especially helpful for bulky items like jackets and sweaters.

Make sure you get the bags that don’t require a vacuum to suck the air out – that could be a problem on the way home if you don’t have a vacuum. Depending on the size, the bags cost anywhere from $12-$30… and many are reusable.

Warning: Don’t pack so much that although you avoid baggage check in fees, you go over the weight limit and are subjected to other fees.

Check out this YouTube video below on how to use them – it’s kinda cheesy but you get the point. You can find the bags on Amazon, among other places :

One last note: Please remain vigilant in your travels. Just because Osama bin Laden is gone, we haven’t ended terrorism. My reaction was a somber one at the news of his death, not only for the innocent lives he took, but because I have heard too many times that he will be viewed as a martyr, and inspire others to jihad. If the photos of his body are released, the evocative images could incite his followers.

  Don’t Let The Bed Bugs Bite

A busy travel season is upon us – kids out of school and taking family trips for the holidays. At the same time, hotels have been infested with bed bugs – Across the U.S. we’ve seen bedbugs in upscale hotels, movie theaters, churches, hospitals, even clothing stores. I don’t want to post photos of the bodily damage these bloodsuckers can create – certainly not pleasant – but you can find those all over the internet.

Not to frighten you – but just be aware. You don’t want to be meal for these annoying pests while you sleep. The LA Times had a good article yesterday on how to protect yourself from the little varmints while traveling. You don’t want to mess with them, or bring them into your own home – they can live one year without feeding. Gross.

The National Pest Management Association recommends:

–Take along large plastic bags to hold suitcases during hotel stays. (While leaving them in your room.)

–Vacuum suitcases after returning from a trip. These guys like to travel too!

–Don’t put your luggage on the floor or beds of a hotel- use a luggage rack

–Check bed sheets in hotel rooms or at home for telltale brown or red spots of dried excrement.

–Never bring second hand furniture, especially mattresses into a home unless they have been thoroughly examined.

–Inspect areas where pets sleep.

For more – and,0,3362775.story

Wishing you bug-free travels…

  Tuesday Travel Tip: At airports, size does matter.

Recently I traveled with some girl friends. As we were going through the layers of security lines, taking our shoes off and laptops out of their bags, one friend asked me about the TSA’s liquid restriction. Do you have to bring a 3.4 ounce bottle, or can you bring a bigger liquid container that is only half full? I’ve been asked that question before….

Since August of 2006 the TSA has curbed how much liquid we can pack in our carry on bags. When I say liquid, I am talking also gels, and aerosols. Each container has to be 3.4 ounces (100 ml) or less… you CAN’T bring a 6 ounce container of shampoo that is almost finished –  unless you pack it in your checked baggage. Here size does matter. It is the size of the container, not how much liquid is in it.

And don’t forget – you are supposed to put them in a Ziploc bag, and take it out of your baggage as you go through security lines to speed up the process.

There are a few liquids that ARE allowed in greater quantities…Some I find rather interesting…..They are the following:

–Baby formula, breast milk, and juice if a baby or small child is traveling

–All prescription and over the counter medications including eye drops

–Liquids for a passenger with a disability or medical condition

–Life sustaining liquids like bone marrow or blood

–Items to augment the body for medical or cosmetic reasons including bras that contain liquid or gel, mastectomy products, or prosthetic breasts.

–Frozen items are allowed as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they have to be less than 3.4 ounces and put in a Ziploc bag.

If you travel with any of the above items. you have to let security personnel know.

If anyone can give me an example of something frozen one might travel with that wouldn’t melt on the flight…I’d love to know. Talk about covering your bases…