The Unexpected And Potentially Dangerous Reason The Color Of Your Luggage Matters

Let's be honest: Travel can be exciting but also stressful in equal measure. Sure, you're about to step into an exotic, warm location where adventure awaits, but you're also at risk for pickpockets, scam artists, language barriers, and worst of all, luggage theft. The San Francisco Standard reported in 2022 that luggage theft rose to a rate of six out of 1,000 bags, and police advised the outlet that passengers should make a beeline for the luggage carousel as soon as they land, rather than getting a coffee or checking out the airport lounge, because lingering bags just circling the carousel make for excellent targets by thieves.

There are other luggage tips to ease your mind, and that comes with choosing something as simple as the color of your checked bag. Security expert Shahzad Ali spoke with the Express and talked about some people opting for a brightly colored suitcase so that it stands out and is less likely to be mistaken for someone else's bag. He revealed, however, that those bright colors might also attract thieves. Ali says choosing a beat-up-looking, regular bag (and adding a padlock) could "make a big difference in keeping your items safe. You can add an identifier, such as a ribbon or sticker, to avoid getting your luggage mistaken for someone else's whilst still remaining subtle." However, not everyone agrees with this. Is color the way to go, or should you stick to trusty ol' black?

Experts are divided on luggage color

According to ABC News, some travel experts warn about choosing a regular, common black suitcase. Bob Arno, author of "Travel Advisory: How to Avoid Thefts, Cons, and Street Scams While Traveling," told the outlet that thieves love a black bag because it's easy to feign ignorance or a simple mistake if caught. "He only has to say 'Sorry, it looks just like mine.' And he's out of there. Scot-free," Arno stated. While it may be difficult to know who to believe, and which color of luggage you should choose, perhaps going with police advice is best. The San Francisco Police Department told The San Francisco Standard that black bags are major targets, so choosing a bright color for your checked bag is best, or at least make it distinctive with ribbons or stickers.

One thing to keep in mind is that a single ribbon on a bag is something you see repeated over and over again on every luggage carousel, especially if it's black. A single red ribbon or a simple identifying luggage strap that can be cut off might not be enough. Using multiple and different stickers or even a paint pen or fabric marker to write or draw on luggage, making it very distinctive in more than one way (with a single color ribbon or single sticker), will help it stand out to you at baggage claim. It also makes it harder to shrug off as a mistake by someone trying to steal it. 

Other tips to keep your luggage as safe as it can be

It might not be the best idea to rely on identifying things that can be easily ripped or cut off, like a strap or colorful elastic band. A better idea is to sew a patch or multiple patches to it or sew the ribbons on. Make it fun. You can also give it a few scrapes and scratches to make it look a bit more worn in, to go along with security expert Shahzad Ali's advice. 

And if all else fails, there are other ways to keep your checked luggage safe that don't involve color. These days, electronic luggage tags have been making headlines for locating lost luggage when the airlines couldn't. An Ontario woman, Janet Greaves, placed AirTags on her luggage before jetting off to Cuba, but the electronic tracking devices showed that her luggage remained behind on the tarmac, per CP24. Sunwing Airlines told her they couldn't locate her bag for 17 days, per MobileSyrup, but only after local media reported on it did Greaves finally see the return of her bag. While they might not be able to stop theft from happening, AirTags might be the most effective way to track your luggage when flying.

Finally, make sure you hold on to your baggage claim slip and take a picture of you with your luggage at the airport before you check it. That includes any identifying scratches or scrapes and the baggage tag. The more information you have to give to airport luggage agents, the better.