We lock everything in our lives: cars, homes, offices, even phones. But do you use luggage locks on your suitcase when you travel? There are plenty of reasons why you should, and — surprisingly — even a couple you shouldn’t.
A recent article on Smarter Travel said there were almost 8,00 annual claims against TSA for lost items. These included jewelry, electronics and clothing. To make matters worse, there’s a good chance TSA won’t reimburse you as it denied more than half the claims.
So let’s look at the benefits of securing your bags.
First, and most obviously, luggage locks make it more difficult for someone to go through you stuff. This applies not only to baggage handlers, hotel bellmen, and even strangers if you’re on crowded busses or trains, it will also make co-lodgers at hostels think twice.
Luggage locks won’t stop a determined thief, but they’ll stop the spur-of-the-moment impulse thief from seizing upon an unexpected opportunity.
Second, something as simple as luggage locks prevent zippers from moving and opening, allowing your unmentionables to scatter on conveyor belts and baggage claim carousels.
Are there limitations to luggage locks? Of course.
First, they’re not a guarantee. It may deter a casual thief, but it might not stop the pros. You know, those MacGyver-types folks who can pick a combination lock with a rubber band and some chewing gum.
Second, you need to consider the material of the suitcase itself. Even if it’s locked, a soft-sided bag can be slashed open.
Third, remember that even though you locked your bag, the TSA is unlikely to compensate you for stolen items from checked baggage. And airlines typically don’t accept liability for expensive items, either. That means you should keep valuables on your person or in your carry-on. The same is true for fragile souvenirs: carry them on for their safety.
Use TSA-Approved Luggage Locks
Having considered the pros and cons of locks — the pros far outweigh the cons — there are several TSA-approved luggage locks you can choose from. For example, you should never use a combination lock that doesn’t have a key to it. The TSA can open any bag it decides to, in order to inspect the interior. And they’ll cut any lock that they can’t open with a key.
The TSA has master keys that allow agents access to all TSA-approved locks. Additionally, international travel may warrant cutting off your locks, TSA-approved or not, because not all security officers outside the US have the same master keys.
That means TSA-approved locks will have key slots to be opened by the master key. And they’ll be labeled as TSA-approved locks when you purchase them. It also means the tiny keys can easily be misplaced (and also replaced) if need be. Alternatively, some suitcases have built-in TSA-approved locks.In fact, Travelpro offers TSA-approved locks on all its bags in the Platinum® Elite, Crew™ VersaPack™, and MaxLite® 5 luggage lines.
Finally, if you want to secure your bags, but you don’t want to use luggage locks, is there an alternative?
Zip ties are one solution. These cheap plastic strips are effective and won’t hurt your wallet if they have to be replaced. Be sure to pack a small pair of scissors in an outside pocket though, so you can cut them off later. (Just don’t carry them in your carry-on.)
Another option is plastic wrapping which offers several advantages. First it makes bags more difficult to break into. It also protects your bag from dings and better still, should your zipper fail, the plastic keeps your possessions from spilling out. Several airports offer this service and some will even rewrap your bag if security needs to make a closer inspection.
Keep in mind that you cannot recycle flexible plastic like this, so this is not a very environmentally-friendly solution.
How do you keep your suitcases secure when you travel? Do you use a lock, zip tie, or plastic? Or do you just leave it unlocked and hope for the best? Tell us about your luggage locking method on our Facebook page, or on our Twitter stream. You can also find us on our Instagram page at @TravelproIntl.