Skip to content

Why I'll take photos and videos of my suitcase contents before my next trip

Sept. 07, 2022
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

It's safe to say I will change how I check my luggage for future trips after recently researching airline lost luggage policies.

Don't get me wrong, I'm on "team carry-on" whenever possible. I flew an around-the-world itinerary with just a carry-on bag not too long ago.

But sometimes, I need to check a bag.

There are times when certain kinds of activities with special equipment, such as scuba diving and snowboarding, require you to check a bag. And families regularly face challenges around packing — my sister certainly needs her hands free when she wrangles her kids into the correct seats on a plane.

So, why am I now taking the additional step of snapping photos and recording videos of my suitcase when I need to check a bag? Let me explain.

For more TPG news and deals delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Lost luggage is a growing concern

LU SHAO JI/GETTY IMAGES

Over 230,000 checked bags were mishandled (meaning lost or delayed) in the U.S. during May 2022, according to a recent report from the Department of Transportation. That translates to an average of 5.6 checked bags per 1,000 — or a lot of missing and delayed luggage.

You always assume it won't be your bag — until it is.

Related: Last one standing at the carousel: Here are the odds of your bag being delayed or lost

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Just consider senior credit cards editor Matt Moffitt, who recently had two baggage delays during the same trip.

If your suitcase doesn't arrive on time, there are steps you should take immediately.

Assuming your luggage isn't just delayed but is irrevocably lost, know that you have certain rights. Airlines are obligated to reimburse you (up to a certain amount) for the value of what was in your suitcase once it's deemed lost (though there is no value limit for mobility-assistance equipment, which must be reimbursed or replaced no matter how much it costs).

Let's say your bag is lost and you want to file a claim for reimbursement. One of the first steps in this process will be proving what was in your suitcase and its worth.

Can you name exactly what was in your suitcase the last time you checked a bag, and prove how much each item is worth? I know I wouldn't be able to off the top of my head.

Since airlines (and credit cards offering lost luggage protection) are only obligated to reimburse you for what you can prove was in your bag, simply relying on your memory may not be enough to receive adequate compensation.

Related: Which credit cards cover baggage delays?

Take pictures and videos of your checked bag contents

WILLIE B. THOMAS/GETTY IMAGES

Whether you take annual snowboarding and scuba diving trips like my wife and me or are just planning an epic trip to a destination such as the Galapagos Islands, odds are on some trips you want to pack some special, possibly expensive, items. However, if those belongings are lost by your airline, you could quickly find yourself spending a lot out of pocket to replace them if your claim is unsuccessful.

Even if your claim is approved, you could find yourself receiving significantly less than what you spent on your belongings. I'd certainly hate to file a claim for pricey items like snowboard gear only to receive a fraction of their value.

Related: Don’t check your bag until you read this — 7 tips to help keep an airline from losing your luggage

That's why I plan to take pictures and videos of the contents of my checked bags any time something valuable is inside. This is my best way to prove to the investigator handling my claim what was in my checked luggage.

When taking photos and videos, be sure to capture the brand names and labels for valuable items. If there are electronics, it wouldn't hurt to turn them on to prove that they work. I'll capture my items both individually and from a few angles once everything is packed; this will show both the details of the goods and the fact these things were inside my suitcase when it's all said and done.

What counts as proof of value? 

Does taking pictures and videos of your suitcase's contents really count as proof of what's inside? Would an airline accept this as proof? Or what about a travel insurance company, if you need to file a claim with it? The answer is "yes." In fact, Allianz lists this as a tip for making travel insurance claims smoother.

“Your cell phone is not only good for taking selfies during your travels but a handy tool in the event of luggage mishaps," says Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at Allianz Partners USA. "Pre-trip, remember to document the contents of your luggage — this way, if any big-ticket items go missing, you have a time-stamped record. And while you and the airline work to recover and deliver your belongings, if you have a travel insurance policy, you may be reimbursed for essential items needed while you wait for your bags to arrive.”

Spokespeople for United Airlines and American Airlines also confirmed that photos and videos can help during the claims process if your luggage is lost.

"When filing the claim, customers will be asked to provide details of the items in their bag. Photos and video are accepted to help identify the customer’s items" either to find the suitcase or to prove what was lost, according to a spokesperson from American Airlines.

A spokesperson for United Airlines also confirmed that photos and videos can help but said the airline may still ask for additional documents during the claims process: "Of course customers would still need to file a claim listing all the items that were in the bag and [their] corresponding value. [R]eceipts are vital means of resolving claims as they definitively show the value of the items."

Real-life examples

Judging by responses in the TPG Lounge on Facebook, having pictures has helped several members with their claims — and not having photos has been a problem for others who had lost suitcases.

Iara Palacios Johnson from Houston, Texas flew with Turkish Airlines and never received her suitcase. When filing a claim, "I had to give a detailed list of what was in the suitcase and a value, " she said. "I want to say the value was ~$2200 or so." The airline asked her for proof of what was in the suitcase and receipts to corroborate the value on her claim forms.

"Of course, I had few," she said, but "who keeps receipts for jeans and shirts!" The airline offered her $900, she said, after she was unable to provide photos or receipts for the suitcase contents. Iara says she questioned how the airline came up with this number and came away with a "take it or leave it" impression.

Kirsten Heder from Brush Prairie, Washington had a similar experience with Lufthansa when the airline misplaced her suitcase. When she filed a claim, she needed to provide a list of contents and their values for what was in the lost luggage. The airline asked for proof of value for the contents, which Heder didn't have. That made her concerned about whether she would receive fair compensation and prompted her to spend significant time calling every baggage department phone number she could find until she tracked down her missing suitcase. By the time she found it, it was slated to go to an unclaimed luggage sales center in Texas.

Len Giuliano from Allendale, New Jersey, had a better experience when his suitcase went on the wrong flight and disappeared at baggage claim. It contained suits and dress clothes worth a fair sum of money. During the claims process, he was able to provide photos of the items inside and proof of their value, so he received fair compensation for what he'd lost.

"If it weren’t for my wife who meticulously kept receipts dating back years," he said, "I would have been out of luck."

Bottom line

While you should do your best to avoid putting valuable items in your checked bags, there may be times when you have no other option. Should you find yourself absolutely needing to check a bag in the future, consider photographing and filming the contents inside.

Now that I better understand the lost luggage claims process, I plan on taking lots of photos and videos of my items from here on out. That way, if my bag does get lost, I can prove exactly what was inside and how much it was worth.

We previously recommended taking videos of rental cars to protect yourself against wrongful charges for damages. In the same way, taking photos and videos of what's in your suitcase can help you be properly reimbursed if your luggage is irrevocably lost.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023