Tips for Better Luggage Security

Security worldwide has become an enormous focus point for so many people who travel. We are super careful when keeping all our belongings safe, but then we travel and once you have checked in, it is time to say good bye to your bag & belongings; and then you really have no control over what happens next. Your luggage is left at the mercy of people whom you will never see.

I have often thought about how effective the safety systems of luggage really are and while I keep all of my electronics and anything of real value in my hand luggage, I would still be pretty upset if my clothes went missing.

The risk of things going missing is not the only risk, you are actually legally responsible for the contents of your luggage regardless of how it got there. So with that in mind, I felt it necessary to write this article to highlight some of the potential problems, risks and misconceptions of the luggage that we travel with and believe to be relatively secure.

 

~~Click Here to Learn More About Cabin Valuables Security ~~

 

There are 2 main types of luggage available to most travellers and those are the Zip-Lock Luggage and the Hard Shell Luggage. Here are some of the potential risks and vulnerabilities of these types:

 

Zip Lock Luggage:

 

Zip Lock Luggage

YouTube: Accessing Zip Lock Baggage

So you think that once you have zipped your luggage and locked the zip runners in the locks that your luggage is safe. WRONG! Zip luggage is definitely not as safe as many people believe them to be. While these are effective at sealing the bag relatively well, it is actually really simple to open and close them with no evidence to show that they were in fact tampered with.

I have found a video on YouTube made by airport customs officials that will illustrate how easy it is to open luggage and leave no trace of the break in.

It is incredible to think that one only needs a ballpoint pen to gain access to a persons belongings. With luggage often spending hours in storage before being transferred to the aircraft and the difficultly of policing the entire airport, this provides thieves with a perfect opportunity to rummage through your stuff.

 

~~Click Here to Learn More About International Travel Packing Basics~~

 

Hard Shell Luggage:

 

OK so now that you are thoroughly disappointed with the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of the zip lock luggage solution, you might be thinking that the only solution will be to opt for more expensive, hard shell luggage. Well I would suggest that if the seemingly better security is the real motivator for this decision that you watch this video first:

Ergo Hard Shell Luggage

YouTube: Accessing Hard Shell Baggage

So even the hard shell luggage options are not infallible to the crook that has a bit of time and some paper on his hands. This is not limited to the Ergo brand as there are videos on YouTube demonstrating that even top brands like Samsonite can easily succumb to the same issue.

 

Solutions:

 

So now that I have cast a dark cloud over what was seen previously as a very safe way to transport your stuff, lets look at what you can do to prevent some of the loss that occurs on a regular basis while in transit.

 

Criss Cross Luggage Straps

YouTube: Cross Strapping Tutorial

Luggage Straps:
These are a relatively inexpensive security solution that while not uncrackable, adds layers of security to your luggage and will deter the casual thief from taking a look inside. These straps are fully adjustable to fit all sizes of bags and have usually a combination lock to fasten them together.

If you are unsure of how best to strap your luggage together using this method, this video will show you how.

The Key here is adding security lays that takes longer to get through rather than looking for an uncrackable solution as these do not really exist for the average traveller.

 

Plastic Wrap:

This method performs 2 major roles, firstly it is an added security measure where you will be able to see if someone has tampered with your bag and secondly, it protects it from getting dirty or wet during transit. The drawback of this type of security measure is that these wrapping machines are usually available in the airport baggage handling area which means the criminal could just re-wrap your baggage after accessing it. 

In addition to this, this is not a particularly environmentally friendly method as this is quite a bit of single use plastic that is discarded after you have arrived at your destination.

 

Baggage Wrapping

Airport Baggage Wrapping Station

Fool proof Luggage:

 

If you are the super serious type that wants the best security possible then the answer lies with a product manufactured by Pelican. Pelican manufactures secure luggage for the military and law enforcement agencies in addition to those film companies and photographers that need to transport a lot of very expensive gear with them that cannot be taken as hand luggage.

These cases are manufactured from durable polyurethane materials that can be ordered to be pressure controlled, waterproof, dust proof and/or thermally insulated for the man who is serious about the contents of his luggage. These cases still maintain all the normal features of standard luggage so you will not be purchasing a system that is completely secure but impractical to travel with.

The best feature is the lack of zips or any other area where entry to the case is accessible. These cases are locked using 2 pad locks and the only way for someone to tamper with it would be to break those locks to gain access.

Pelican Travel Case

Pelican 1510 Protector Carry-On Case

Word to the Wise:

 

This article was intended to arm you with knowledge rather than to only highlight the defects in our luggage systems. I think at this point I should make it clear that to stop the really determined thief will not be possible. However, what one should be aiming for is to slow the ease of access down by improving security layers (defence in depth) or by making your luggage less appealing that someone elses’.

When an opportunistic thief sees a bag with many layers of straps and wrapping, this can be seen as a risk profile increase for him as he will spend more time accessing the bag thus increasing the chances of being caught in the act. One makes luggage less appealing by increasing the difficulty of accessing the bag as compared to say someones’ luggage that is just a single layer zip lock bag that can be opened in seconds with a ballpoint pen.

So whatever method you choose, keep your valuables with you if at all possible and employ defence in depth tactics to keep what is yours, in your hands.

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10 Responses

  1. Leo says:

    I really didn’t know it was so easy to open a zipped and locked luggage. Now I understand that I really knew nothing about this issue. I don’t travel too often, maybe 4-5 times a year, generally for holidays and rarely for work purposes. When traveling, I try not to take expensive items with me, but anyway it’s always better to have the proper knowledge how to secure your luggage when traveling.

    • Richard says:

      Hi Leo,

      I think most people are blissfully unaware of this issue. Its important to remember that till now, you have most likely not had a problem because you have been smart about it and kept your valuables in your hand luggage. This shows that taking some basic practical steps goes a long way in minimizing your risk profile. 

      Thanks for the comment and I am glad to have helped someone out with improving personal security.

      Rich

  2. DaYanna says:

    hello, I want to show this to my mom she travels a lot and some how she is always losing something on or off the plane. Now I get why! I thought once you zipped something up you no longer need to worry about it. And this showed me that that is not true at all. you need to check an double check to make sure your belongings are safe! 

    • Richard says:

      Hello DaYanna,

      Thank you for your personal experience. I think many people are completely unaware of how easy it is to break into someones bags but I am very glad that I could help educate and bring this to peoples attention to help prevent people becoming needless victims of this type of theft.

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

      Rich

  3. Renton says:

    Great Post! In my country especially we all travel knowing that our good will be sampled by our trusty airport security workers. There is actually video proof of security officers rummaging through people luggage when they spot luxury items. The trick is a bit of reverse psychology. For domestic flights we don’t lock our bags.

    That is sort of our way of saying “No valuables in here!”. For international flights though this list is really useful. The lock pick video doesn’t surprise me because its like a puzzle for these guys to solve, so eventually someone will find a way to crack it.

    I have had bags wrapped and you are right. It is easy to wrap them again and isn’t great for the environment. The pad lock bag seems like a good idea, provided the padlock is a high quality one that is not easily picked. I will remember this post the next time I travel. Thanks for the info.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Renton,

      I love your experience of a little bit of reverse psychology. I must admit that sometimes I resent having to be so creative or spend so much money on protecting what should remain mine in the first place. I have seen some of the video footage of this type of rummaging on YouTube and it is disturbing to think that this happens on a regular basis.

      Ones risk profile also increases if one travels with expensive luggage i.e. Louis Vuitton. This screams to the baggage handlers “I have money and you will probably find something of value in my bag”. So there again its about minimizing the appeal of someone looking for an easy steal.

      Thanks for the personal experience. 

      Rich

  4. Emmanuel Buysse says:

    I liked this post very much.

    I think this information is of great importance, since usually at airports they usually open your luggage without you noticing and it is very easy for someone to take something from your belongings or to put something in your suitcase that doesn´t belong to you.

    I always thought that plastic was a good option, but then I began to think how much work it would be to remove it when I reached my destination.

    I have found very good advice except the plastic.

    Thanks for the info.

    • Richard says:

      Hello Emmanuel,

      Its true that removing the plastic tape can be a real headache at your destination but then again that nuances is exactly what you are aiming for to prevent people gaining access to your bags. In my personal opinion there are much better solutions that the plastic wrap so I completely agree with you.

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

      Rich

  5. KerryAnn says:

    Gosh, I didn’t realize that it was so easy to break the locks.  Thanks for showing us this.

    In Australia, we have the option at some of our international airports to purchase packing straps that go around the suitcase.  This is the type of strapping that secures goods on pallets for transport. 

    This became a fad after a drug bust when it was claimed drugs were put in the luggage after check-in.

     One can easily see if the straps have been cut when your luggage is collected at the other end.  Of course, like the cross strap you mention, it will not stop your items from going missing – just make it more difficult and you will know immediately that something is amiss.

    I personally use zip ties on the main zips and every pocket.  Again it will not stop a thief but I would hope that it makes my luggage more hassle.  Of course, it could have someone think that there was something in there worth stealing but as most airports have Xray screening I guess any competent thief would inspect after screening.

    Again, thanks for sharing this information.

    • Richard says:

      Hello KerryAnn,

      It was an interesting not from the customs officials that regardless of where the drugs were placed in the bags, you as the owner remain responsible for those bags. In a way it makes sense as anyone caught smuggling contraband could claim their bags were tampered with so one can understand why the authorities have made this decision independent of the right or wrong of it. 

      The zip ties are a great option and even better when they are a unique colour as these will not be available on hand by baggage tamperers and one can easily see the signs of such activity.

      Thanks for your personal input into you comment, I appreciate the time you took to post this.

      Rich

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