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Luggage Rules of Travel: Do You Know How to Pick a Lock?
Luggage Rules of Travel: Do You Know How to Pick a Lock?
by Courtney Caldwell

It's a natural instinct to want to lock your luggage when going on a trip. After all, you pack all sorts of things you wouldn't want stolen. Who knows who will handle your luggage or where it may end up? So, you wrap a $5.00 lock around the zipper pulls in an attempt to secure your stuff. You've just made three major mistakes.

Mistake #1: Airport security no longer accepts locked luggage at any airport. All baggage goes through x-ray screening devices these days, however, many pieces are still randomly searched manually. If your luggage is locked, it's an invitation for inspection. Security will break the lock off to search your bags so don't be surprised if they show up with locks missing. On the other hand, they will leave a nice little note inside that says they've been there. So be sure to pack clean underwear.

Security has also been pretty good at not disturbing neatly packed suitcases, but there are no guarantees that your things won't need some extra ironing when you arrive at your destination.

One trick to prevent them from rustling things up too much is to use see-through containers or bags for make-up, hair products, shaving items, and medications (although all important medication should be carried on, never checked -- see below). If you don't travel often or don't want to spend too much, Ziploc bags work very well. If security employees can't see through it, they will dig deep and open every little bag with a zipper.

Most security personnel will slap on their own version of a lock or a hard plastic twist-tie that's impossible to get off with your hands. The irony here is that you're not allowed to carry scissors or knives on board a plane, so when your luggage arrives with a foreign lock, how do you get it off? It's likely you'll have to ask for a pair of scissors at the front desk of your hotel to remove the plastic tie or a screwdriver for the cheap little lock, unless of course, you know how to pick one.

Mistake #2: Never pack any valuables in your luggage. Even if you could lock it this is an unwise move. Always keep anything valuable in your carry-on at all times including jewelry, checks, credit cards and cash. Airlines and security do not and will not take responsibility for items missing out of your bags. The only time they'll take full responsibility and reimburse you is when your luggage is lost. But even then, there's limited coverage on each bag unless you take out more insurance at your own expense.

Mistake #3: Do not pack medications in your luggage. Always keep them in your carry-on. You never know when you'll need your medicine. Don't assume that because you took your daily dosage of insulin or heart medication that you'll be all set until you land. Things can go wrong. Flights get delayed, or cancelled. Air pressure or oxygen deprivation can have an ill effect on you. Sometimes luggage misses your flight arriving a day or two later. And of course, the worst scenario, your luggage is lost altogether.

I've been on flights that have had to make an emergency landing because someone packed his or her medication in a checked suitcase. Out of the blue, he or she needed a shot or a pill. Not only can this add hours of delay to the flight, it can also cause additional harm to the person who has taken ill. By the time the pilot gets clearance to land at an unscheduled airport, the plane actually lands and gets to the gate, and the person's luggage is found, it could turn into a life-threatening endeavor and take hours if not all day to resolve. So always keep your medications on you.

Avoid these three common mistakes when traveling and you'll find your trip a much smoother ride.