Practical Pointers: Take this photo next time you check a bag

This past summer reminded us of the many reasons why checking a bag can be a struggle and why bringing carry-on bags may be a better option. But sometimes, it’s just not possible to pack light.

Long vacations, trips to multiple places with different climates, not to mention weddings and similar formal events can make for overstuffed suitcases. In these cases, you’ll often have to check a larger bag.

While we hope the luggage situation continues to improve from what we saw this summer — particularly with respect to travel overseas — it’s all about doing everything in your power to ensure your bag arrives with you at your destination. That also means continuing to prepare for what you’ll do in the event something goes wrong.

Here’s one thing you should always do.

Tip: Take a photo of your bag tag

Picture what happens when you check a bag: You show your ID, the staff weighs your bag and, if you don’t have elite status or baggage benefits through a cobranded credit card, you pay the fee. Then, before you get on your way, the agent hands your portion of the bag tag slip. It’s for your reference, and to help agents with finding your bag in the event something goes wrong.

What do you do with that little slip? In the past, I’ve found myself stowing it in my pocket; hardly a foolproof method for keeping it safe.

That’s why TPG senior reporter Zach Griff has a simple solution. He recommends always taking a photo of the slip right after you get it. Be sure to capture all of your personal information as well as the bag tag number; baggage claim staff will ask you for that number in the event something goes wrong.


Imagine waiting in line to talk with the staff, frustrated about your missing bag, only to realize you misplaced the slip and aren’t sure about your bag tag number. By taking that photo, you’ll automatically have a backup copy of it.


The app can help, too

You can also use the airline app to track your bag through the system. The app should show you where your bag was last scanned (but notably, it won’t provide you with a real-time glimpse of where your suitcase is).

With some airlines, the bag tag number will appear in the tracking data on the app; this is another way to ensure you have the number handy.

You may even get a push notification update on the bag’s status; I got one from Delta Air Lines after recently having to gate-check my bag to my final destination. The update included the bag tag number.


However, I have run into cases where — in order to access the bag tracking — I needed to punch in the bag tag number. (If you simply can’t seem to track down your bag number, ask if the agent can look it up using your trip confirmation number or frequent flyer number)

In the midst of the stress of a lost bag, it’s easiest to have your bag tag number right at your fingertips.

Bottom line

There are a few reasons why you might need your luggage information easily accessible after checking a bag. If something goes wrong, that bag tag slip you get at the counter can be an important lifeline for more easily locating your luggage. Since small pieces of paper easily go missing, snap a photo of it as soon as the agent hands it to you for some extra peace of mind and easy reference in the event something goes wrong.