How to avoid luggage theft

Never leave your luggage alone at the airport. (Shutterstock)

Never leave your luggage alone at the airport. (Shutterstock)

JULIA BRYAN, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Recently I read a news story about someone suspected of stealing nearly 1,000 bags from luggage carousels at one American airport. It reminded me of two traumatic travel events that have changed the way I pack.

The first was when I was 16 years old -the days when your only valuables were the designer labels you worked hard to buy for yourself. On a trip to San Francisco, my suitcase disappeared. So as you can imagine, I was devastated.

From that day forward I vowed to never fly that airline again. (Incidentally, I succeeded until my honeymoon, when once again a bag went missing. We did get it back the next day, but all is not forgiven.)

Fifteen years later, I let my guard down. After a winter getaway, I returned home to find that a coveted piece of jewelry was stolen from my bag. It was the locket I got for my 18th birthday and even had my niece's baby teeth marks on it!

These events have left with me with a phobia of luggage carousels. Now, when I get off the flight, I race to the correct conveyor belt, and stand where the bags come out. And then I begin to pray.

But these neurotic behaviours aside, I have learned a few things over the years, and I'd like to share these tips with you.

The easiest way to avoid luggage theft is to not check any bags. However, this is not always practical, so there are other ways to limit your risk such as flying non-stop to your destination, and not switching flights after you've checked your bags.

But after your flight, not only should you get to baggage claim as fast you can, you must never leave your luggage unattended. Thieves thrive on confusion and only need that second when you go to get a luggage cart.

And finally, the golden rules:

Keep valuables with you, or better yet, leave them at home.

Use cheap luggage. Some thieves are more concerned about your designer luggage than your belongings.

Make your bag stand out. Criminals go after the non-descript common bags so they won't draw attention to themselves.

So armed with these simple reminders, you too can face the fear of lost luggage. Because one thing I learned at 16, spending your holiday money to buy underwear and toiletries is a real drag!

Julia Bryan handles communications and public relations for DeNure Tours in Lindsay, Ont.