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Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Timothy, whose luggage was mishandled on the way to Hawaii. Here’s what he had to say:

My family was on a trip from California non-stop to Kauai, and we checked our one large suitcase. When we got to the ticketing counter, there was an overworked agent who grabbed our bag, tagged it and handed me the baggage claim receipt. He was hustling as fast as he could, and calling passengers up before he was done with the one at the counter. I didn’t think much of it at the time, and we boarded our uneventful flight.

Upon arrival we went to baggage claim and waited for our luggage … and waited. At some point no more bags came out and the conveyor belt stopped. While I looked for a baggage agent, I pulled out my claim ticket and to my horror discovered that not only was the wrong name on it, but also the bag was checked through to Honolulu. The counter agent back in California was working so fast he had put the wrong tag on our luggage and handed me someone else’s claim ticket.

I immediately thought “there goes our vacation,” expecting it’d take days for this situation to get sorted out. A baggage agent eventually came out (at least 10 minutes after the conveyor belt stopped) to see if anyone needed any assistance. I told him our plight, and we found out that the Honolulu-bound flight with our bag wasn’t scheduled to depart for another 20 minutes. He got on his walkie-talkie and found a baggage handler who was able to grab our bag off that plane minutes before it departed.

It meant an extra delay for us at the airport, but in the end we were reunited with our luggage without too much trouble. Lesson learned: always check your baggage claim ticket before you leave the counter to make sure you got the right one and your baggage was tagged correctly. I did wonder what happened to the passenger headed to Honolulu who ended up with my luggage tag and claim ticket!

If you fly often enough, mishandled baggage is an inevitability. The US Department of Transportation reports that roughly 1 in 400 passengers had mishandled baggage on the 12 largest domestic airlines in 2017. That number is historically low, which is good news for travelers in general, but doesn’t help when your bag is the one missing.

There are a number of precautions you can take to avoid being among the 0.25% of unlucky flyers, and to minimize the damage when your bag is lost. As Timothy suggests, it’s worth the extra second it takes to inspect your claim ticket, and I recommend doing the same to your baggage tag before it goes behind the counter. Confirming that information not only protects you, but also benefits the unidentified passenger who might otherwise end up with your paperwork.

Beyond that, you might consider investing in a luggage tracker (though you should think twice about buying a smart bag). Ultimately, I think the best solution is to simply carry essentials and valuables with you on the plane whenever possible, and get a credit card with strong protections for delayed, lost and damaged bags. Losing your luggage will always be a hassle, but those steps can prevent a lost bag from spoiling your plans entirely.

I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Timothy for sharing his experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending him a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to info@thepointsguy.com, and put “Reader Mistake Story” in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.

Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!

Photo by fizkes/Getty Images

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