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Don't Lose Your Luggage

Never be left without your necessities again.

If you've ever suffered through an important meeting in another city dressed in the clothes you wore on the plane because an airline lost your luggage, listen up: Airlines lost or mishandled 23 percent more bags in 2005 than in 2004, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. That's about 3.5 million bags annually--or 10,000 per day!

To be fair, most mishandled bags are just delayed. Less than 2 percent of mishandled bags end up permanently lost or destroyed. But with cash-strapped airlines unable to invest in major baggage system improvements, don't expect the trend to reverse itself anytime soon. Here's how you can protect yourself from the baggage blues:

  • Don't check baggage at all. Pack a minimum amount of mix-and-match clothing in a small bag that meets the airline size requirements (usually 22-by-14-by-9 inches), so you can carry it onboard. Most airlines allow only one carry-on bag, plus a briefcase, purse or day pack--don't attempt to bring more.
  • Launder clothing at your destination. If you're on a weeklong trip with enough clean clothing for only three days, plan to do laundry at your destination. Most upscale hotels offer overnight laundry services, and many midprice or budget hotels provide coin-operated washers and dryers. (Inquire about this when making your reservation.)
  • Don't stress about packing everything you could possibly need. If you really need something at your destination, you can go out and buy it. (A little shopping might add some zest to an otherwise boring business trip.)
  • Many entrepreneurs and sales reps are used to shipping demos, sales materials or samples to their hotels several days prior to their arrival. Do the same with your clothing or other items that won't fit in a carry-on. (Tip: No box is required--just drop your suitcase at a FedEx Kinko's or UPS Store for delivery.)

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This article was originally published in the June 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Losing It?.

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