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Bag-locking question for international travelers


TrixieB
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A family member will be traveling from U.S.A. to Europe and was told to get a TSA-approved lock for the checked bag.

 

Someone told me that is all well and good for domestic flights (TSA opens the lock with their master key and then re-locks it) but that this person's experience when flying internationally within the past several years has been that the security agents in other countries simply cut the locks off.  I guess they wouldn't have the TSA master keys, not being in the U.S.A.?

 

So what do y'all do to secure your checked bags when flying internationally?

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We were told no locks.  We've flown internationally at least 20 times, both before and after 9/11.  Our most recent flight was in August 2013.  We've never had a problem with stuff being stolen.  There are services at the airport that will seal your bags in plastic, which TSA could cut off if they wanted/needed to, but it is pricey.  About a year and a half ago when we flew to Italy (from Germany), I didn't need Han Solo's carseat on the plane, but would need it in the rental car, I checked it, but wrapped the entire thing in plastic wrap to  make sure none of the straps got caught in the belts and it didn't get dirty.  That might be an option.  It would take a lot of plastic wrap to do a whole suitcase, but it would be WAY less expensive than paying to have it done.

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Exactly what regentrude said. There's really not much point in locking your bags because any lock is easy to cut off, and the only bad experiences we've had with luggage have come from TSA searching our bags in the US and breaking things. I don't check anything expensive. Ever.

 

We have used zip ties though sometimes. That at least alerts us that the bag was searched and to open it more carefully because it certainly wouldn't have been repacked well.

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I don't do anything to secure my bags.

-- I try, whenever possible, to practice one-bag travel, so that I have only a carry-on suitcase and a backpack.  It's possible more than you'd think, and it is very freeing to not be laden with a bunch of stuff.  If you don't check your suitcase, there's less risk of theft from it.

-- As much as possible, I don't put anything valuable in checked suitcases.  If I have something valuable (or fragile, or of sentimental value), I carry it on.  

-- Like a previous poster, the only issues I've ever had were domestically, when TSA searched my bags and ripped out and broke into pieces the entire plastic lining/stiffening part around the sides.  This has happened to me more than once.  They've also ripped apart luggage in other ways.  I now buy only inexpensive suitcases.

 

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We have small locks - they have never been cut off in ALL the international travel we have done in the last few year.

 

My mother gets her bags plastic wrapped at the airport (not sure if all international airports have this option - she flies out of JFK.)

 

 

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We usually use the plastic zip ties. It makes bags a little harder to open should someone want to try, and stops the bag accidently opening should the zip hook on something, but they're easy enough to cut off should security need to do so.

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We fly internationally once a year, on average. We always secure our suitcases with TSA locks. I'm not sure if overseas security folks can open them or not, but they've never cut them off. We've never voluntarily used a wrapping service, but we have been in airports where the standard procedure was to wrap the suitcases after the security inspection, at no cost to us. It was nice to see that no one would have any expectation of being able to get in there undetected, but it was a pain when we collected our bags and had to tear off enough of the wrap to free up the wheels and handle before we could move the bag.

 

If you choose not to lock your bag, I'd at least use a cable tie just to make sure the zipper doesn't accidentally open during transit. I used to use twist ties for that purpose, before I married and my husband insisted on cable ties so we could tell if they'd been opened.

 

We also never put valuables in our checked baggage. We carry all electronics, jewelry, cash, etc in our carryons.

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When I see those places in airports that you can pay, to have a lot of clear plastic wrapped around your suitcase, I think to myself, "If I were a Customs agent I would order the people who do that to open their bags for inspection".

 

Almost all of the traveling I have done in my lifetime is with hard sided luggage. I have wide luggage straps, to go around the bags, to keep them closed and to help me identify them when the luggage begins arriving after a flight. That proved to be a lifesaver, when I was on a trip to Venezuela, in 1991. The locking mechanism on one of my suitcases failed, completely. I went back to Caracas, and then to Miami, and then to Texas, with that bag held closed by the luggage strap.  After that trip, I bought a new suitcase to replace it...

 

With regard to soft sided luggage, once I was standing by the luggage thing in DFW Airport, Texas, waiting for my luggage to arrive. A soft sided bag had broken open and the photos and all contents of that bag were going round and round. I felt sorry for the owner of the bag. 

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A family member will be traveling from U.S.A. to Europe and was told to get a TSA-approved lock for the checked bag.

 

Someone told me that is all well and good for domestic flights (TSA opens the lock with their master key and then re-locks it) but that this person's experience when flying internationally within the past several years has been that the security agents in other countries simply cut the locks off.  I guess they wouldn't have the TSA master keys, not being in the U.S.A.?

 

So what do y'all do to secure your checked bags when flying internationally?

 

Even in the US, TSA-approved locks sometimes get cut off. (That happened to my husband 4 years ago)

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We don't use locks. But we never pack any jewelry (even if it's just costume stuff) or anything electronic, even cables. Also no sunglasses or anything that might be a high ticket item and draw interest (even if ours are not). We have never had anything stolen and we fly internationally all the time. A lock implies you have stuff worth taking.

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