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These are the most common lost luggage items

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Losing luggage is a nightmare scenario for many travelers. It could mean having to buy a whole new wardrobe or even parting with something near and dear to them.

But those lost items are sometimes given a second chapter thanks to Unclaimed Baggage, a store and e-commerce site that resells many items that vanish during travel.

“Airlines really are great in reuniting lost luggage,” Sonni Hood, public relations manager at Unclaimed Baggage, told me. But, she said, “a fraction of a percent adds up quickly when you consider that millions of people fly every day.” 

The store in Scottsboro, Alabama, said it introduces about 7,000 items to its shelves every day, and the online shopping portal sees about 5,000 new items each week. 

In a new report that Unclaimed Baggage plans to release annually, the store details the most common items in lost bags for the year.

“The different things that are happening in our culture eventually find their way into what people are packing in their suitcase,” Hood said. 

According to the Found Report, some of the most common items in 2023 were underwear, shoes and tablets/e-readers. (Sonni swore an oath that the store sells only unused underwear, so go forth with your shopping in peace.)

She also said lost luggage can teach you a lot about consumer trends. Lululemon is clearly having a moment – it’s one of the most popular brands in the store right now. Stanley cups also saw a spike in appearances in 2023, edging out Yetis and other thermos brands that were more popular in the past. Even electronics come and go in waves.

“Last year we found hardly any DSs, (but) we found so many Nintendo Switches,” Hood said.

The report also details some of the more novel finds of 2023, including two live snakes, 19 Rolex watches, a jar full of shark teeth, and a Halloween card from the 1980s signed by President Richard Nixon.

How to avoid losing your bags when you travel

Hood said there are simple steps travelers can take to make it less likely they lose their stuff in the first place – or more likely they’re reunited with it if something goes wrong.

Here are her essential tips:

  • Label your bag inside and out with your name and up-to-date contact information.
  • Remove old stickers and bag tags from your checked luggage.
  • Make your suitcase stand out on the carousel so someone doesn’t accidentally take it.
  • Pack all your essentials, like medicines, in your carry-on bag.
  • And finally, don’t rush.

“Whenever you’re getting off the plane, it’s so easy to leave your Kindle or a cellphone or your glasses in the seat,” Hood said. So take a second to really make sure you have everything with you before you depart.

As someone who once left his jacket in the overhead bin and then spent hours trying to find it at the lost and found in London Heathrow Airport, I agree.

As Hood said earlier, airlines are generally pretty good about reuniting passengers with lost items. I did get that jacket back, for example. Here’s the process at the four largest U.S. airlines if you lose something on your trip.

American Airlines’ lost luggage process

American recommends filing a report with the airport or with the Transportation Security Administration if you know you lost your stuff on the ground. But if you lost it on an aircraft or in a lounge, or you’re not sure where along your journey you may have left your things, there’s a process for filing a claim through AA.

According to American, once you file a claim, the airline will search for your items for up to 30 days. For lost baggage specifically, American requires you to make a report in person at the Baggage Services Office within four hours of landing. You’ll also need to submit an online claim form and a checklist of the items when reporting a lost bag and requesting reimbursement for any of its contents. 

For all other individual items, AA has an online claim form, accessible by clicking here

Delta Air Lines’ lost luggage process

Delta has online forms for lost, delayed or damaged bags and missing, nonchecked items that were lost on board, in a Delta lounge or in the gate area.

According to the airline, it will search for lost bags for about 21 days, and 30 days for lost nonchecked items after receiving a report. The airline recommends being as detailed as possible in your missing-items report and filing the report within seven days of noticing the items are missing. 

United Airlines’ lost luggage process

United has an online claims process for lost luggage that hasn’t been found within five days of your arrival. The airline recommends going to the Baggage Service Airport if your luggage hasn’t arrived when you land or calling the Baggage Recovery Center if you’ve already left the airport. United requires passengers to report missing bags within 24 hours within the U.S., U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico and within seven days at international destinations.

For missing nonchecked items, United also has an online form

Southwest Airlines’ lost luggage process

Southwest requires passengers to file a report in person at the airport’s Baggage Service Offices if their bag does not arrive or to file an online report if they have already left the airport. 

Southwest requires passengers to make their claim within four hours of arrival for a domestic flight and within seven days for an international itinerary.

The missing-bag claim form also has an option for missing nonchecked items. 

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at

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