Losing it Over Lost Luggage

A travel writer loses her luggage

A few weeks ago, someone I was traveling with lost her luggage…

…well, briefly so.

We arrived at our baggage carousel at Heathrow, and within five minutes, two out of three of us had our bags.

We waited and watched the conveyor belt empty out and as it ground to a halt, it became very clear. One bag was not there.

It is this very moment in travel that I think you can learn a great deal about yourself and about others.

Over the years, I have watched in horror as seemingly very sweet fellow travelers turn into raving maniacs when they are the last one standing alongside the empty carousel. I once observed a moments-ago very professional individual weep as if she’d just seen a mass killing. And I’ve been shooed away by the I’m-just-going-to-go-lick-my-wounds traveler who wanted to be left alone to suffer.

As a rite of passage into becoming a travel writer, I think there should be some sort of lost luggage test.

As for the smug travelers who do have their bags happily piled in front of them, more than once I’ve watched travelers team up and insist on abandoning the “victim” of lost luggage. “Can’t we just go on ahead to the hotel?

I’ve seen the self-righteous, “Well-I-never-check-baggage” type and I’ve seen one schoolmarm point her finger and scold, “Well…you should never have checked it on a connecting flight. What were you thinking?” Travel writers can be so cruel.

Of course, I’ve seen the flip side as well. The accompanying holier-than-thou traveler who insists on being there for the victim, even if it means the entire group has to miss a connecting flight.

I’ve also been the victim of lost luggage countless times myself. It almost always shows up—but twice, far too late for it to be of any use to me.

As a rite of passage into becoming a travel writer, I think there should be some sort of lost luggage test everyone has to go through. If you can’t pass, you really have no business in this business. While losing your “stuff” can be terribly inconvenient (nobody wants to wear corduroy in the Sahara), being able to forge ahead without it allows you to really embrace the travel experience.

The person I mentioned in the opening paragraph of this story actually didn’t lose her luggage. It turns out it was sitting on the floor next to the conveyor belt window, in a huge plastic bag. It had broken open in transit and the airline took care of it.

After quietly accepting the worse-case scenario with dignity and poise, she realized that that sad looking plastic bag was hers. Maybe that’s why it showed up. The airline (Not a plug, but they deserve credit. It was British Airways.) replaced the bag within moments of her reporting it.

As we wheeled our bags out of the airport, I sighed, grateful that I was in the company of true travelers.

~ Susan

How do you handle adversity while traveling? Share your advice!

About Susan Farewell 27 Articles

Susan Farewell is the editor-in-chief of FarewellTravels.com, a travel information and planning site drawing on the experiences and insights of passionate travelers all over the world. It features animations, videos, photography, artwork and of course, words, to showcase travel destinations, experiences and products.

A former travel editor and staff writer at The Condé Nast Publications in New York City, Susan is a widely known digital, print and broadcast travel journalist. Her work has appeared in numerous publications (and sibling websites) including  Condé Nast Traveler, Vogue, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Travel and Leisure, Outside, Metropolitan Home, McCall’s, Child and Bride’s. She also writes for newspapers such as The New York Times and The New York Post, newsletters (BottomLine Personal) and numerous in-flight and regional magazines as well as various websites.

In addition to writing, Farewell has also developed countless products both in digital and traditional media from travel guides to online magazines.

She is the  author of several books including "How To Make A Living As A Travel Writer", "Hidden New England" and "Quick Escapes from New York City" (the latter two have had multiple editions). She has also co-authored many books.

Susan is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers, the New York Travel Writers, the North American Snowsports Journalists and the Eastern Ski Writers Association.


  1. Knock on wood, I haven’t lost my luggage en route to my destination for any amount of time. It has been delayed and showed up on the next flight in. Coming home we have had it disappear for a few days, but has always shown up with free delivery too boot. So far we have remained calm but I would hate to have it lost at the beginning of my trip. Plus with all the new carry on rules and some companies weighing the carry on bags, we can’t bring a lot of extras to be prepared for a lost luggage situation. With our computers and camera gear we are already maxing out. Ah, sigh. Glad your friends luggage showed up.

  2. We’ve always taught our kids that luggage is useful to one’s travel but not crucial. We always carry whatever we truely need in our hand luggage and if and when the checked luggage does show up we consider it an added and unexpected bonus. As for handling adversity while travel, always have at least one contigency plan and don’t forget to pack your sense of humor.

  3. Passports, tickets and money.

    After this, anything is a bonus.

    I had all my luggage pinched while camping in Tanzania, twelve hours before our Kilimanjaro trek was about to begin.

    In the hotel at Moshi, they have a room full of lost and discarded items and an hour before the trek I rummaged through to find a pink pair of joggers, a wooly jumper from Donegal and an old pair of trainers and my overland driver lent me his raincoat. I made it to the crater rim four days later, but no further.

    I often wonder what happened to my brand new rucksack, fleeces, socks, thermals and hat as I never did find them on ebay.

    happy travelling


    • I agree entirely with your sentiments “Passports, tickets and money. After this, anything is a bonus.” While I may spend a couple hours going over what I should and shouldn’t bring, and another few hours, getting it together, and packing and repacking, as I’ve almost always jotted down too many unnecessary items to begin with. At the end, before heading off to the airport, the only three things that I’m concerned about, are the passport, the plane tickets, and cash.

  4. We have had our bags lost on quite a few occasions. Normally what happens is the airline will search for it for few days and when they find it (in our case, 100% of the time) then they have always driven it to us wherever we were staying. I’m not sure if we have been lucky with them always being found later or just had great customer service but the airline loosing luggage is just one of those eye-rolling moments.

  5. Wow Susan, you really pegged the various types of “travelers” there are, especially when a crisis occurs on the conveyor. I’d be interested to hear your ideas regarding a “travel test”.

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