Home » Travel Experiences » International Travel – Why NOT to Lock Bags, Use Tape, Labels, Write with Chalk?

International Travel – Why NOT to Lock Bags, Use Tape, Labels, Write with Chalk?

Every time, I go to an airline check-in counter for getting boarding pass, I see the check-in bags of Students, professionals, Parents, etc.,  traveling to US or any other country,  having at least one of these things :

  • Heavily taped with Name and address
  • Locked with a small padlock
  • Written all over with White Chalk
  • Tied around with a Nylon Strings, tape, etc

All kinds of crazy stuff… I still remember my first time travel to the US, I wrote my Check-in Bags with white chalk, I still see them after 9 years…those still stand as inedible marks of my funny acts…Let me share why NOT to do such things in this article.

Why NOT to write your bags with White Chalks or Paste your Destination Handouts with Tape ?

Our human tendency says that, if the airline tag that dictates destination is lost, there should be a backup option…So, in order to make sure that the bag has the final destination information we do all kinds of stuff like using white chalk to write all over the bag and also use tape to stick an address page on the bag, etc.  All I can tell you is that it is just going to make the bag look horrible and make it lose all the good look.  Personally, I have been traveling quite a bit for my job…I travel at least twice a month internationally… I check in a bag every time with NO information on it…Nothing with Chalk, nothing with tape or anything as such….I have never lost a bag. Many of my colleagues do that same thing, we have never lost a bag.  Let me explain you why…

If you look closely the Airline Baggage Tag, it is made of polythene material with paper on top of it. You cannot really tear it by hand…The glue to it is pretty good. They always put the baggage tag to that handle that is stable…They also affix another sticker to the bag, which stands along for the most part. Airline industry transports some hundreds and thousands of bags every day without any issues…I am sure they did all the ground work on the tags and made sure it works without losing them.  Overall, Do NOT worry about losing your bag, it will be home safely.  If you are still worried, have a small hanging address tag to the handle, it looks more professional.

Why NOT to lock your Back with small padlocks?  Use ONLY TSA Certified locks.

I also see many people locking their bags with every kind of small pad locks available out there…The fact is that, The airline authority and Transport Security Administration ( TSA ) has full authorization to break or cut your lock and examine the contents in the baggage.  TSA recommends that you use only TSA Certified locks for your baggage so that they can use their master key to open it, instead of cutting the lock and examine the contents.   You may be worried that someone would steal my stuff and take stuff out of the bag…the chances are very less…Personally, I never lock my bag, it is open all the time…thankfully, never lost a thing so far… If you are worried, always pick up a TSA certified lock.

Overall, you do NOT have to scribble over your baggage with white chalk and put up all kinds of ugly tape…your bags are safe, you can use a small professional address tag to the handle if you are worried.  Also, you Never have to lock your bag, if you are too worried, always use a TSA certified lock, so that your padlock is not cut by TSA.

What has been your experience ?

Do you remember how you took care of the baggage the very first time you traveled abroad  ?


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    • charmin pate,

      If you paste a sticker on your bag, I don’t think that will make it qualify for additional screening. Beside checked bags are screened after the drop-off. So even if they screen it multiple times, it should not impact you unless it contains something that it shouldn’t contain.

  1. Writing throughout with chalk is bad and that gives an ugly look to your luggage, I agree. But making your bag unique and putting some tags is most important.
    In my case, I lost my bag in couple of situations and in one case, I didn’t get my luggage (completely lost).

    Misplace of luggage can happen on both ends – airport staff or customers taking wrong bags looks alike.

    Specially for connecting flights where the layover time is short, there is a high possibility of having chance of misplacing. The airport tag sometimes not very clearly readable or damage happens to airport tag.

    To avoid this, use your personal tag – with Destination, your address and most important your contact number.

    And I do prefer to use color tapes, duck tapes wrapping all over the bag just to make it unique unless your bag has unique color just to make sure other guys won’t pickup my luggage with full honesty.

    • Sandip,
      Agree. Personal tags with your info are best. Also, one thing that we started to use is tie a decorative ribbon or a piece of cloth so that it is easy to recongnize. Also, there are many fancy luggage identification tags with colors, kitty shaped tags, etc that you can put to easily identify your bag.

  2. I would still advise to put TSA certified lock while coming to India. The reason I am going to mention is really bad to hear but it is true. There have been many incidents with my friends who didn’t had lock, their stuff gets stolen. Here modus of operandi is people who carry luggage from airplane to luggage counter, they open the zips and take out whatever comes to their hand. This has happened on Indian airports and only for electronic items. Thats why it is better to use TSA certified locks which will make sure that airline employee still can open the bags but people who carry bags from plane to luggage counter cannot open the the bags.

  3. Sometimes if the bag is picked up by the wrong person because they look the same. Having your name and address in a tag helps the person in getting it exchanged with the actual owner. Of course that is no excuse to put graffiti all over your bag! 🙂

    • True ! My bag was picked by someone else and I did not get it for couple of days. I have seen people tying a nice color ribbon or a piece of cloth that clearly differentiates.


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