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Cautionary tales of locked luggage dramas and how to dodge baggage glitches

A view of Seville

Can you open my luggage please? I tried to make my meaning clear dancing around, miming my request. After arriving on a dark street corner in Seville, my potential saviour came in the form of our taxi driver.

Would he understand? Did he carry suitable tools and feel in an obliging mood? Perhaps he suspected me of picking up someone else’s luggage and feared becoming an accessory to my theft?

Your luggage becomes a constant and valued companion when travelling. It holds all your treasured possessions, items critical to your functioning as you traverse foreign terrain.

luggage security strategies

But what of the security of this valuable luggage? At the airport, I watch perplexedly as travellers plastic wrap their suitcases. Had they previously languished in a dank, dark and menacing tropical jail after the insertion of contraband into their unsecured luggage? Perhaps their old luggage appeared likely to fall apart without the plastic tightly wrapping their bag? Or maybe, their strategy involved alerting robbers to the valuable contents so the owners could then claim on insurance?

I have never used the plastic wrap method. Apart from the attention it brings to your bag, I don’t travel with valuables that I can’t keep on my person. Think about what happens to all that plastic wrap after reaching the destination. Probably dumped in a convenient airport rubbish bin with no further thought. But it must go somewhere – and won’t break down in our lifetime.

No, I’ve typically resorted to the luggage lock on those infrequent occasions when concerned about the security of my luggage. Serious luggage generally comes with a built-in locking system. Initially set to some standard combination like 000, the expectation of the purchaser is to change the setting to something random. How many people do?


I once bought a bag that the sales assistant assured me contained the instructions for changing and resetting the lock combination. Only the instructions were missing. So whenever using that bag, the lock used the factory-set combination that anyone could guess. Only, no one ever tried to get into my luggage. See where I’m going here?

There’s a much greater chance of your luggage going missing because it was forgotten during loading, falling off a conveyor belt, arriving at the wrong destination or someone else mistakenly picking it up from the luggage carousel. Now you should use one of those recently released Air Tags to enable tracking of your luggage.

This must be why people choose to decorate their luggage with a variety of coloured ribbons and luggage straps. I love the way that serious looking, smartly suited businessmen and women, busily chatting on their mobile phone, collect suitcases with lovely flowery ribbons attached. Or the people who think insufficient just one personalised piece of ribbon. I’ve seen an absolute haberdashery shop attached to some suitcases.

Locked luggage dramas

Whatever your choice of luggage security, I hope your journey ends smoother than my experience arriving in Seville. Zipping through the streets towards our accommodation, I confided softly “You know when we were leaving, and I had to get my journal out of my suitcase?” “Mmmm,” my travel buddy exhaled, his attention fixed on the darkening streets, the sights of a new city and thoughts of dinner. “Well, I’m pretty sure that my suitcase lock accidentally closed,” I finished, my voice trailing off to leave the obvious question hanging in the air.

“Can’t you open it?” he queried, finally understanding. So then I confessed that I didn’t know the combination (unfortunately not the factory setting) and that the lock had not been employed ever since leaving home. But I had a plan – asking the taxi driver if he could break the lock. While not such a bad plan, my non-existent mastery of the Spanish language made this somewhat problematic.

On the streets of Seville

Our taxi driver taxi performed what seemed like a 50-point turn. He reversed carefully into streets designed for pedestrians and perhaps donkeys, but definitely not cars. About to be deposited on a tight corner in the old part of Seville, I readied myself for my performance.

Thankfully, after my enthusiastic mime of breaking open my bag, the driver gleefully produced, with an overly dramatic flourish I thought, a lever from his boot. Easily he prised the lock right off my bag – all within one minute!

breaking into your own luggage

So, you see, locking up your luggage brings all sorts of dangers. You might misplace the key or forget the combination. Even if locked, an obliging taxi driver can open it in less than a minute with tools on hand. Imagine what a serious robber could do?

Later that same night, my partner sheepishly said, “Guess what? I can’t unlock my luggage strap!”. One of those removable straps encircled his luggage. A strap complete with a locking mechanism. But unfortunately, the lock failed to unlock upon insertion of the key. “Hmmm,” I said looking at the suitcase. I simply pulled the strap off one end of the bag, slipped the strap off the other end and thus, problem fixed. Not even the slightest challenge for a dedicated thief.

Thankfully luggage locks now come fitted with a quick release designed to allow Customs inspectors do their job. So if caught like me with an uncooperative lock, you can easily break into your own luggage.
Now, how will you secure your luggage on your next trip?

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