Losing your luggage overseas

“It’ll never happen to me.” Yet there you stand - 3am in an exotic airport with just the clothes on your back, eyes glued to the baggage carousel in silent desperation.

It’s happened to you. You’ve lost your luggage.

Having your bags lost, damaged or stolen can be a worst-case travel scenario. Especially if you’re bound for a Berlin winter with just the light sweater you wore on the plane!

Unfortunately, it’s not only airport mishaps that can leave you stranded without your precious cargo.

So what should you do if you lose your luggage overseas?

There are immediate steps you should take if you’ve lost your bags, which will give you the best chance at either a happy reunion or a successful claim.

But before we get to those, let’s touch on the best ways to avoid a sticky situation like this altogether.

Man on plane 

How to keep your luggage safe

“Keep an eye on your bags, don’t leave them unattended, use hotel safes and lockers where provided” - you may have heard it all before, but keeping your valuables under control doesn’t have to be a burden. How so, you ask?

Savvy travellers know that safe luggage is everything. Thankfully, some of these globetrotters have put this knowledge to good use, designing specialised travel bags with some exciting tech features.

Anti-theft travel bags feature heavy-duty zips and slash-proof lining. However, in most cases a sturdy and durable suitcase will give you confidence that your treasures won’t be tarnished in turbulent transit.

Luggage tracking tags are also commonplace for today’s well-connected jet setters. Equipping your luggage with a tracking tag can give you real-time access to your bag’s GPS location via your smartphone, and also make it easier on airport baggage services should it become lost. If you're after some more tips on handy travel gadgets, have a look at our travel tech article.

When on board your flight, ensure you stow carry-on luggage where you are able to keep an eye on it. Generally, under the seat in front of you is a good place to keep your items, obviously you can see it, and you’ll also have easy access to items to entertain you during the flight!

If you are stowing items above you in the overhead locker, ensure you do this as close as possible to where you are sitting. Make sure you turn the zip of the bag towards the back of the locker, upside down. This makes it more difficult for an opportunistic thief to open the bag.

Also, don’t forget to check that airplane seat pocket in front of you before you leave the plane!


Airplane seats

Packing tips

Want some advice on how to organise your carry-on luggage like a pro?

Packing the right amount is the key to managing your luggage overseas. Pack too much and you may lose track of things, pack too little and you run the risk of being under prepared. At a glance, here are 5 simple tips to remember when preparing your luggage:

  1. Pack electronics and other valuables in carry-on luggage* - we can’t cover damage or loss of these items that occurs in checked baggage, or if you don’t keep them with you when using transport such as buses or trains.
  2. Retire the rings - jewellery may look great, but it’s an added distraction and can attract unwanted attention when travelling. If you do decide to take it, you may want to pay an additional premium to specify it under the policy if it’s worth $2,500 or more.
  3. Be equipped for an emergency - remember to pack a basic first-aid kit if you’re in for adventure. Packing a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage is another great safety net should there be any lost luggage at the airport.
  4. Sandwich bags and shower caps - Brooke from World of Wanderlust is an intrepid traveller with some handy packing hints. Worried your shoes will dirty up the rest of your clothes? Placing them inside a shower cap will do the trick. Need to protect your phone on the beach? A sandwich bag can be as good as an expensive case.


I’ve lost my bag, what comes next?

We know that accidents can happen, no matter how prepared you are. If your luggage does become lost, damaged or stolen overseas, keep your cool and ensure you gather all the necessary information should you need to make a claim with us.

Losing your luggage at the airport

If your luggage doesn’t appear on the baggage carousel, don’t panic. Chances are it’s on the next flight, or at the worst, the wrong airport.

File a claim at the Airport Baggage Services counter if the airline has misplaced your bags. An attendant will issue you with a case reference number and take down your contact information, so they can get in touch when it (hopefully) arrives.

Additional costs caused by the inconvenience, like additional clothing or food, will usually be covered by the airline. Check your carrier’s website for their mishandled luggage protocol.

Luggage at airport

If the airline is unable to help, there is Baggage Delay cover available under our International Comprehensive travel insurance policy.

Should you find that you do need to claim for delayed baggage under your policy, the items you purchase must be for essential clothing and personal effects, such as toiletries and clothing. Make sure you keep the baggage delay report and all original receipts as we will need to see these with your claim.

Should the worst happen, and your luggage not arrive at all at your destination, again, make sure you keep your lost baggage report from the airline or airport.

You will need to make a claim with the airline in the first instance. As your luggage was in their care, they do need to take some responsibility for it, especially if it goes missing!

Lost and found sign

Once you have made a claim through the airline, you can then make a claim through us. You’ll need to send us all documentation:

  • Proof of ownership/value
  • The lost baggage report
  • Documentation from the airline which explains whether they reimbursed you or not
  • How much they reimbursed you
  • Any and all receipts of the items that were in your luggage

A lot of stores can reprint receipts for you, but we do understand that you may not have a receipt for every single item, like your underwear and socks! Just send us as much receipts and documentation as you can, and our claims team will take a look at it all.

The best way to avoid lost luggage while flying is to make it easy on the airline. Avoid tight connections and pack valuables and necessities in carry-on luggage, just in case.

Losing your luggage while you’re travelling

Once you’ve collected your bags from the airport and settled into your accommodation, it’s no longer the airline’s responsibility to keep them safe.

That’s why having your bags lost or stolen once you’ve arrived at your destination can be a tricky predicament, and why there’s a good chance you may not see them again.

However, there are some immediate steps you should take to give you the best chance at making a successful claim, like notifying the police and obtaining a written report.

Lock safe

Do this as soon as you can after the discovery of loss or damage, because reporting it later than 24 hours after the discovery makes it difficult to process a claim. If you cannot find a police station or other appropriate authority to make a report with, then try asking your hotel concierge or manager. They may be able to make a phone call for you or point you in the right direction.

You could also try Googling for your nearest station. Or if the police station is too far away, give them a call and ask whether they can email you confirmation that you have reported the loss.

Also, make a habit of keeping your receipts for proof of purchase, because this will speed up the claim process. Keep in mind that your luggage will have depreciation applied so it’s worth considering only taking essential items with you when you travel.

Remember, before checking out of hotels or motels, do a thorough check of the room before leaving, especially inside cupboards and drawers. Don’t forget to check all the power points to make sure you have packed your power cord for your phone or electronic items!

Police station

We know that spending a stressful time at the police station, or waiting in the airport for lost luggage reports to be filed, isn’t how you imagined your holiday playing out. When the unexpected happens, we want you to know we’re here for support, which is why we offer 24/7 Emergency Assistance. Feel free to call the team anytime on +64 9 359 1600.

*Different rules apply if you have been affected by the electronic device ban.


The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of the articles.

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