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Tags and TMI

July 05, 2009|CATHARINE HAMM

Question: What's the recommended information to include (and not to include) on one's luggage tags? I know people say you should put your cellphone number on them, but I don't keep mine turned on.

Richard Wylie


Answer: Vacations are all about doing things you don't usually do, so maybe this is the time to think about turning on the cellphone.

And it's definitely time for travelers to rethink the luggage tag.We've all heard the bromide about not putting one's home address on the tag because crooks will dash right over and break into your house. OK, could happen.

But the bigger issue is that you expose information about yourself to prying eyes, said Kevin Coffey, president of the website Corporate Travel Safety. Do you really want the drunk from seat 15C to know your name and where you work? Or allow the corporate spy to take a chance that you have valuable documents?

So use a minimum of contact info -- a first initial, your last name, your cellphone number (or the phone at your destination or where someone will answer and tell the caller where you are) and perhaps an e-mail address.

Use a secure tag (a metal ring is better than leather, which can stretch and snap), and put it on before you leave home "so you don't expose the information at the airport or other departure point or wind up using less secure tags," said Chris Grniet, vice president with Kroll Security Group, the security services arm of global risk consulting company Kroll Inc.

Because baggage handles can snap off -- conveyor belts can be killers -- put your name and contact info on a slip of paper inside the bag too.

But luggage tags aren't just for checked baggage anymore. You should have one on your carry-on bag and every other separate article you carry. Fliers can get flustered and leave things behind, so tagging every item increases the chances you'll be reunited.

No matter whether you're checking or carrying, the tag can help differentiate your bag from every other black piece of luggage. The TudeTag comes with such expressions as "Don't even" and "Hanzzoff" and has a hidden place for your itinerary and your name and phone number. One big yellow tag says, "No, it's not yours!" and has a plastic pouch in which you can insert your contact info (with a note on the outside, Coffey suggests, that says, "Turn over for contact"). There's the neon-colored handle wrap that attaches with Velcro and contains your info facing inward so it's hidden in the handle. (Google "privacy luggage tags" or "funny bag tags" to find a retailer.)

The number of mishandled bags has decreased with passenger counts -- less than 4 per 1,000 passengers in April, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics says. Sounds small until you realize there were about 650 million domestic passengers last year.

Making it easy for the airline to contact you if yours goes astray? If you follow this advice, it should be in the bag.


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