Dude…Where’s My Luggage?

 New York LaGuardia International Airport

We had just arrived in Paris! Excitedly we hurried off the plane from Palermo discussing what to tackle first; the Eiffel Tower or Notre Dame? While waiting at the luggage turnstyle at Charles de Gaulle Airport I started to get nervous when the last bit of luggage was scooped up by a fellow traveler. Watching as the empty belt circled around a second time not carrying my luggage, it finally sunk in…the worst has happened my luggage was missing. Now what?  

Whether you are traveling internationally or domestic, when your luggage doesn’t make it to your final destination it is a huge inconvenience to say the least. But don’t worry – there are some preventative measures you can take to lessen the likelihood of this happening.

With the cost of travel so high, saving money on flights is always a huge plus but make sure to check all the details before booking that cheap flight. Minor inconveniences such as tight layovers between flights, flying on multiple airlines, or flights involving multiple stops may save you money now but your luggage may be affected if something goes wrong. According to the Aviation Consumer Protection Division, the safest option (for your luggage, that is) is to take a nonstop flight; and the riskiest is an interline connection meaning change of aircraft and airlines. It might be worth it to spend a little more money to take a non-stop flight on a reputable airline. One potential scenario is missing your connecting flight, this can mean bad news for your checked luggage especially if the flights are on multiple unrelated airlines; you may not have enough time to recheck your luggage between flights. Your luggage may get lost in transit when taking flights involving two or more stops-the more people handling your luggage, the higher risk you take in it getting delayed or lost.

Pack Smart for Travel

Of course the best guarantee against lost luggage is to carry-on, but this may not always be an option. Sometimes during boarding if the crew notices that the overhead space is getting tight they will ask the remaining boarding passengers to check their baggage. Some smaller planes used for domestic travel will have different baggage limits too forcing you to check it before getting on.

In the event that something delays your luggage it is always wise to take a small carry-on bag for your essentials and valuables. Items such as jewelry, camera equipment, lap top, phone/camera charger, medicines, and itinerary are not only hard to quickly replace but also are not covered by most airlines lost baggage policy. Don’t forget to carry your spare glasses and contacts as these items are hard to locate internationally or the prescriptions are not the same.

Camera chargers and extra batteries can be heavy but they can be hard to replace internationally especially if you have a DSLR camera. Often they need to be ordered online which is not feasible on vacation. Make sure to pack all camera equipment in your carry-on to avoid this potential problem.

Choose your Luggage Wisely

Choose your luggage wisely. I love designer bags and luggage but the only time my luggage was lost in Paris was coincidentally when I checked an expensive and stylish Guess upright. When we arrived in Paris, my bag was the only piece that was missing. Skip the super expensive-looking luggage and go with something a little bit more conservative.

To avoid having someone accidentally pick up your luggage at the baggage claim, make sure it stands out. One suggestion is to put a colorful tag or sticker on it so it is immediately recognizable to avoid this common occurrence.

Make sure to have a baggage labels that are clearly visible and durable enough so they cannot get easily ripped off. Clearly print your name and contact info including your email and phone number. It is a good idea to put a label inside the luggage as well.

Don’t lock your luggage. Airline security may need to inspect your luggage and if it is locked it may get delayed or detained.

Don’t Check in Late for a Flight

I found this rule out the hard way. While traveling to Texas to hike the Guadalupe Mountains, my friends and I had individual carry-on bags but we had to check the one bag with all the camping equipment; tent spikes and propane and all the dangerous items not allowed on a plane. We were running a little late but had more than enough time to board. But we did not look up the airline’s baggage check in deadline. This is often a shorter deadline then you have to make it onto the actual flight. Our luggage had to be put onto the next flight and we had to wait at the airport in Texas for our bag to arrive. We were all happy the luggage finally arrived but it put us behind a few hours. If we would have had a connecting flight it would have been a big mess!

I also found out that in some cases the airline will not assume liability for your bags if you miss this deadline. This is one mistake that can start the trip out on a bad note.

Purchase Travel Insurance

I have never been a proponent of travel insurance until my luggage was permanently lost. Purchasing travel insurance may provide the traveler with additional reimbursement of up to a standard of 1000.00 for lost luggage and an additional 500.00 for delayed luggage expenses. Travel agents and even Travelocity offer travel insurance for a small fee.

Although every airline has a lost baggage policy the key benefit of purchasing travel insurance is it is hassle–free to file a claim. Most airlines take a minimum of three months to cut a check for your lost items. When Easy Jet; a UK based airline, lost my luggage on a trip from Palermo, Sicily to Paris, France (a non-stop flight,) it took over six months, 3 claims forms, and 10 follow-up emails to get a check for my items. For a small airline they actually had a pretty good reimbursement policy and I got paid $1700.00, but I had to provide original receipts and an itemized list of everything in my bag

I highly suggest reviewing the lost luggage policy on the airline you will be taking to find out if you need travel insurance. I was surprised to learn that there are limits to how much an airline will compensate you for lost luggage. For example American Airline and United have a similar lost luggage policy. Maximum allowances for lost luggage on domestic flights (U.S.) is generous with a maximum of $3,300 per lost checked baggage, however, international travel will only be reimbursed up to $9.07 per pound with a maximum of 70 pounds per checked bag. That is hardly compensation at $634.00 per bag. Under the Montreal Convention 1999, International airline carriers in the EEU may be liable for damages up to $1500.00 depending on the exchange rates and airline policy.

Most travelers erroneously believe if their luggage is lost they will be compensated for all its contents. Unfortunately this is not the case. Almost all airlines share a common list of items that are not reimbursable such as jewelry, cameras, laptops, medicines and personal documents. It is also required when filing a claim with the airline that you must submit receipts and a detailed description for every item in your bag. Failure to accurately fill out the paperwork, not providing receipts or failure to file timely may result in a delay of your reimbursement check.

What to do if your Luggage does not Arrive?

You’re waiting at the baggage claim as others pick up their bags and leave you start to get nervous. The worst has happened. Your luggage has not shown up at your final destination. Now what? Go directly to the lost baggage department to file a report. Even if they assure you it will turn up make sure you have all the necessary information and understand it before you leave the airport. They will give you a lost baggage number; you will need this number for everything including tracking and later for filing a claim. Make sure you have your baggage tags claim tickets and boarding passes for outbound and return travel. Ask where your luggage will be sent when it finally arrives. Leave the dates and addresses of the hotels you will be at in case it arrives and they will ship it to your hotel. Clarify what number to call or web address to check to find out the status of your luggage.

Find out if they have a policy on purchases made for essential items. When my luggage was lost, Easy Jet airline reimbursed me up to $300.00 for the first three days my baggage was missing, but it ended up being incorporated into the total amount I could claim.

Most airlines do not consider luggage officially lost for 21 days, at that point you will have to file an official lost baggage claim with the airline.

To check or not to check…that is the question. I advise carry-on whenever possible. If you have to check your bag, always take the above precautions to minimize the inconveniences that will definitely follow when your luggage does not make it to your final destination.

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Famous Mask Makers of Venice

 “It’s a rule; one must buy a mask when visiting Venice! Whether you take part in the tradition of wearing a mask at Carnival, or are purchasing one for a souvenir, or piece of art, it is essential to understand what to look for and where to shop.”
Traditional Masks in Venice

As soon as visitors step off the vaporetto in front of the famous San Marco Square they are inundated with literally hundreds of mask choices; some are good quality, many are not. It can be initially hard to distinguish between what a good quality mask is and a cheaper one until you do some comparative shopping. For expert advice as well as to purchase handmade masks from reputable dealers visit one or all of these famous mask shops in Venice.

With the Venice Carnival rapidly approaching this February 26th through March 8th, masks are a central focus for both visitors and locals alike. Visitors travel from all over for the world to attend the masked balls, join the festivities, and to photograph the colorful masks and costumes worn throughout Venice. Although the tradition of Carnival and wearing masks dates back to the 1300s, both practices officially ended in Venice around 1797. For years it was long forgotten only to be read about in history books until 1979, when a small group of dedicated artists revived the ancient art of mask making and helped shape Carnival into the wonderful and theatrical tradition it is today.

Mask Shopping at La Bottega dei Mascareri

Sergio Boldrin at La Bottega dei Mascareri Venice

Mask Shopping at La Bottega dei Mascareri

Sergio and Massimo Boldrin are two talented brothers who played a huge role in the revival of the lost art of mask making in the late 70’s. You can meet the world-renowned artists and view their high-quality hand-made masks at their famous shop, La Bottega dei Mascareri, located in the heart of the Rialto market. Stepping into their colorful store feels as though you have been transported into an old-world shop in Venice. Many masks in the style of traditional characters from the Commedia dell’ arte such as Pantalone; the Venetian merchant, Arlecchino; the colorful Harlequin, and Zanni; the clown, peer down from the mask-filled walls.

Sergio is personally available to explain the techniques and materials used to create the high-quality masks to visitors. Customers will also need his assistance in deciding between the many beautifully designed pieces that the shop features. Their theatrical quality masks have been featured in many festivals, fashion shows and films including the Stanley Kubrick thriller, Eyes Wide Shut. The shop has been featured in a wide variety of newspaper and magazine articles as well, including the New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Conde Nast Traveler. Don’t miss this colorful shop located at the base of Rialto Bridge.

Alberto Sarria’s Traditional Masks and Marionettes

Alberto SarriaÕs Traditional Masks and Marionettes

Alberto Sarria’s Traditional Masks and Marionettes

Alberto Sarria has been creating fine masks and Marionettes since 1980. Alberto’s shop in San Polo specializes in many traditional masks such as the Bauta, a pointed angular mask originally meant to cover the wearer’s face thus hiding their identity and social status from the masses. As the Bauta is the most popular and traditional mask in Venice, one might find it in various colors and styles. But Alberto offers more than just the traditional designs found in most stores; his shop showcases many original designs such as the red and gold abstract Picasso or masks featuring pieces of bills and tickets from the world-famous Fenice Opera House layered onto them. He also specializes in handmade Marionettes or puppets which hang lovingly from every available space on the walls, in the windows and from the ceiling of his tiny shop. His intricately designed characters include the colorful Marionetta Arlecchino and the Bauta Uomo, two traditional characters from the history of the Venice theater. This famous artist has participated in many local and international exhibits in Venice, Japan, Spain Germany, and recently in Hong Kong. Meeting Alberto is the highlight of any mask shopping excursion in Venice, as he happily offers personal assistance and advice individually to his customers.

Cavalier Fine Antiques and Masks

Located across the expansive San Marco Square in Santo Stefano is Gianni and Alberto Cavalier’s shop, Cavalier. This interesting little store is packed with fine antiques and artifacts for the home. This father and son partnership specialize in a very special-type of wooden mask that cannot be found in other shops. The hand-carved wooden masks are intricately-designed and hand-painted with a fine gold or silver overlay. These masks are works of art and not meant to be worn.

They also feature a unique antique-type lamp called a Moretti, a fine high-quality carved wooden lamp also covered with a gold or silver foil overlay. A great place to shop if your looking to purchase traditional art and antiques.

Ca’ Macana Mask Shop and Workshop

Ca’ Macana opened its doors in 1980 and since then has been a one-stop shop for all things Carnival, featuring a wide selection of costumes, masks and garments. They offer a large variety of wearable leather, character, and animal masks. Visitors who would like to learn about the fine art of mask making can take a two-and-a-half hour workshop at Ca’macana. This class is a fun way to connect with a local artist and at the end of the lesson, students will get to take home their very own creation: a fun reminder of their time in Venice. Shorter workshops are available for participants to learn about the history of masks in Venice, the Carnival, and in the theater. The workshops are conveniently available in many languages such as English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish.

Ivan Minio Traditional Masks and Photography

Ivan Minio is a local mask maker and photographer whose colorful store and workshop is located in the Cannaregio district. Unique mask designs and photographs of iconic Venice (taken by Ivan himself) line the walls of this small shop. He features a variety of unique masks decorated with playing cards or photographs not typically found in other stores. Among the many traditional-style masks that Ivan carries is the disturbing character of the Plague Doctor. The doctor’s white mask is immediately recognizable by its long beak-like nose and may or may not have on glasses. This creepy character is based on a real mask that doctors who treated the plague back in the 1300s would wear; the long beak was meant to hold aromatic herbs that (they thought) protected them from the plague. Overall, a unique shop to visit and a great place to purchase moderately-priced masks and high-quality photographs of Venice.

Look beyond the typical souvenir shop prevalent in Venice with a visit to one or all of these famous mask shops. Mask shopping is a fun way to meet the local artists, learn about the history of mask making, as well as to purchase one or more high-quality and handmade masks.

 

 Ivan Minio Traditional Masks and Photography Venice