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What do you do if you arrive at your destination… but your bag doesn’t?

Reviewed by expert, Sarah Orr
4 min read
21 Aug 2023

Catriona Rowntree is Compare the Market’s expert for all things travel. As one of Australia’s most travelled women, she is the perfect planning companion for your next holiday.

Avid travellers know there’s a strange and wonderful feeling when you step off a plane. You’re jetlagged and craving a shower but oh so excited to start the adventure.

You wait impatiently at the luggage carousel. One load passes. A second load passes. A third and final load passes. You get the sinking feeling that your suitcase isn’t there.

If you’ve found yourself in that unfortunate situation, you’re in good company. Research from the team at Compare the Market found that almost one in three (31.7%) Australians have lost luggage in the past.

The good news is that half of those people said their belongings were located within a couple of days. And while many had to wait weeks or months to be reunited with their luggage, an unlucky 3% said their bags were never recovered.

So what should you do if you arrive at the airport and your bag doesn’t?

Lodge a report and find support for the basics

Your first point of call should be the airline service desk. Speak to the staff and report your missing bag as soon as possible.

The support staff should be able to advise on next steps, and if you’ll need to fill out a form online.

It’s worth asking to see if your airline can provide some cash compensation to help you purchase some basics, though they aren’t obliged to do so.

That’s where travel insurance comes in!

Check and see if your policy covers you for delayed luggage expenses. Depending on the policy, you may be able to claim a fresh change of clothes, underwear and toiletries like toothbrushes and face wash.

You might also be able to claim any transport expenses to collect your baggage if it is found and returned to the relevant airport.

Keep hold of your receipts to ensure your claim is successful.

If you’re in the unlucky 3%

If, after a few weeks your bag has not been located, your airline should compensate you for the loss. However, there are limits on how much compensation they will provide, which often isn’t enough to cover the cost of replacing a full suitcase full of clothes and valuables.

Check your insurance policy and make a claim to cover the gap.

Risk prevention and preparation are absolutely key to ensuring a smooth landing when things go awry.

Here are my top tips to help you avoid tears on your holiday.

Leave your favourites at home

Don’t take anything on holiday that you couldn’t live without. I used to travel with a photo of my grandmother which I would keep next to my bed to help with homesickness.

One day I left it behind in a hotel room and never got it back. That’s when I learned never to pack something you’re not prepared to lose.

Prepare for the unexpected

If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation of having your luggage lost or stolen, having photo evidence of your valuable belongings can help support your claim.

Take photos as you pack and take particular care with big ticket items like laptops, tablets and electronics like drones.

When you’re satisfied, share the photos with someone you trust, in case your phone is lost too. It could be the most important photo you take on your vacation!

Don’t be a show-off!

Expensive suitcases are a dubious investment as bags that look nice are usually the first to be stolen! Better to risk looking like a dag than losing your valuables.

Keep important medication on hand

While some insurers will cover you for non-prescription medications, most won’t cover you for any prescription medications that are lost or stolen so it’s especially important to keep these items close.

As an asthmatic, I carry my puffer on me at all times and would never risk leaving it in my checked luggage.

Have key contacts handy

Save a list of key contacts you could need in case of an emergency. This could include your travel insurer and the local Australian embassy. I have been mugged a couple of times during my travels and have had my passport stolen.

You never know when you might need support!

Compare your cover

When you’ve booked your tickets, visit Compare the Market to compare a range of travel insurance policies. You can customise your search, depending on your itinerary and cover requirements to look for policies that suit your needs and budget.

For more information visit

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avatar of author: Catriona Rowntree

Written by Catriona Rowntree

Catriona Rowntree is an Australian travel icon, having hosted Australia’s longest-running travel show, Getaway, for 25+ years. She has travelled extensively around the world and visited over 100 countries, with some incredible stories to tell along the way. Catriona is a wealth of knowledge and is always happy to share travel advice for any destination. When she’s not out on a whirlwind adventure, she loves to spend time with her family on their farm in rural Victoria.

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